Recently, the mayoral candidates for Jersey City outlined their affordable housing positions in solving the concerns of many Jersey City residents.
However, there was not an in-depth description of how these candidates intend to calm the fears that gentrification brings to longtime residents of Jersey City. Mayor Fulop talked about creating additional affordable housing for the middle income residents in Jersey City and candidate Bill Matsikoudis’s solution is to create more rent control laws.
There was a time when only downtown Jersey City residents experienced gentrification, but now it is in the early stages of traveling throughout the rest of the city. As a former resident born and raised in Hoboken, I know the emotions that are running through the veins of long time Jersey City residents. I witnessed it with my neighbors and relatives that lived in Hoboken for generations. In the mid 1980’s, candidates in Hoboken gave the same solution as Bill Matsikoudis is now giving to Jersey City residents. In 1983, as a two-family homeowner in Hoboken I spoke before the city council and I predicted that their new rent control solution might in the short run help longtime families, but that in the long run those apartments they presently resided in would be converted to condos, forcing the same longtime residents to move out of Hoboken. It is sad that my prediction has come true, with more than 60 percent of those buildings being converted to condos.
In the 1970's Hoboken used the new tax dollars they collected because of gentrification and provided affordable housing for its long time middle income residents, but in the 1980’s the programs ended when the new candidates were successful in persuading the voters that tougher rent control laws were the solution. It was a novel idea of spending the increase in taxes received from the new residents on longtime residents that were directly affected by gentrification.
Mayor Fulop’s proposal lacks details to relieve the fears of gentrification for many middle income families. Today, almost 1/3 of the real estate taxes collected in Jersey City are collected from tax abated properties (a.k.a. P.I.L.O.T). This would make one think there is enough new tax dollars being collected to provide the much needed middle income housing that will prevent longtime residents from being displaced from their neighborhoods.
In the coming weeks both candidates will be expanding their thoughts of what their administration’s policies will accomplish. Hopefully, that will help relieve the fears which presently consume many families in Jersey City. However, to date both candidates have not given enough details of how they will solve the problems that gentrification will bring to longtime residents of Jersey City. They need not look that far. Hoboken is their next door neighbor and hopefully they will look to their history to see why they failed in order for history not to repeat itself again in Hudson County.
Joseph W. Hottendorf