Although voters rejected an effort to maintain rent control by 121 votes, supporters of rent control said they are reviewing their options and will seek to put the question back on the ballot if legal options do not prevail.
With nearly all of the votes counted from Nov. 6, the effort to retain rent control was narrowly defeated with 51 percent to 49 percent of the vote.
County elections officials certified the vote on Nov. 17, and this allows the city to gradually phase out rent control in Bayonne.
The council approved changes to rent control in November 2011 that would allow landlords to opt out of rent control once current tenants move out.
Rent control supporters tried twice earlier this year to have the matter put up as a referendum, and then when those attempts failed, they used another approached the imitative which successfully allowed the matter to be put on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Ed Gilligan, spokesperson for the Bayonne Tenants’ Association, said he was disappointed by the result, but that the group has not given up.
“We’re reviewing our legal options,” he said. “If we have to, we will go out and get more signatures and put it on the ballot again. In Hoboken, they did it twice. The first time they were swamped, but they got organized and won. We weren’t organized and we only got 49 percent of the vote.”
“I think maintaining rent control is where the sympathies of Bayonne people lie.” – Ed Gilligan
The Bayonne Tenants’ Association was seeking to preserve rent control in the city after the council voted to do away with it in November 2011, as part of an effort to spur redevelopment in the city.
“I think we were fair in what we did,” said Councilman Ray Greaves. “I didn’t like the first ordinance that we saw [in July 2011], which didn’t protect the people living there. But the changes we voted for do, I think are fair to both landlords and tenants and will help landlords reinvest in their properties, knowing that they will get a fair return on their property.”
The vote results from Nov. 6, which were delayed because of Hurricane Sandy, lets the city council changes remain. These would allow properties to drop rent control once the residents living in them currently leave.
“I don’t think this lost because of the hurricane,” Gilligan said. “Outside groups and the city spent a lot of money to defeat our ordinance that would have kept the old rent control in place. We spent very little and we still got 49 percent of the vote. I think maintaining rent control is where the sympathies of Bayonne people lie. They do not sympathize with out-of-town political operatives who came in here to get rid of it.”
Unlike traditional referendums which would have not allowed the Bayonne Tenants’ Organization to seek another election on the measure for three years, the method they used has no limitation.
“We can put it back on the ballot as soon as we get enough signatures again,” he said.
Gillian said he and his group will likely start a public education campaign ahead of the next round in this battle to preserve rent control.
“I think the next time we can win this,” he said.