Well at long last, the final missing piece of the end-stage gentrification process of the once working-class, gritty, waterfront city known as Hoboken is in place-it is the season of the reval and all the accoutrements of its after effects will soon be known to all.
When I moved here in 1987 I had no idea how ‘market forces’ were initiating a metamorphosis of the town’s landscape which was already unfolding in the way of gentrification for my new hometown. I’ve always hated the concept of ‘market forces.’ These are empty words, without any humanity, beauty, or decency attached to them. Their purpose and power fuels any momentary exuberance that accelerates the unfounded worth of some commodity without any reason or rationale. (Think of the 2008 financial crisis.)
In 1988, the last evaluation of real estate in Hoboken had been done in 1970, so eighteen years later I experienced and survived the fallout from the dramatic impact of the new valuations and higher taxes that resulted. Although I did not fully understand the process, I knew its results were earth-shattering to owners and tenants alike.
I received a $30 monthly tax surcharge added to my rent that year and called up my landlady fearfully complaining, “Why?” to which she said, “Hey, I could have passed onto my tenants an additional $90, but I am going to pay half of the increase and split the other half between the three units.” I gulped with gratitude, shut up and gratefully said no more to her generosity. Years later I realized how little the $30 seemed after I found out a friend had the whole tax surcharge of $130 added to her rent each month. This was a shocking increase for 1988.
On Monday, May 13, 2013, Appraisal Systems, Inc. began the three month process of revaluating all the properties in Hoboken. No, they will not be able to go into each and every unit, so many assessments will be estimated. Hoboken has become a very different place since the last revaluation 25 years ago. Each and every piece of property will be given a higher value—especially the older properties even if they are flop houses. The growing trend has been to buy, demolish, and then build a floor or two higher. The long-time tenants from the 1980’s will finally face their toughest test yet. Will they be able to withstand the tax surcharges that will be passed onto them? I am estimating at least $300 surcharges to some tenants. Pummeled by huge tax surcharges, many tenants, unable to absorb the increases to their rents, will lose their homes. As in 1988, the unaffordable increase in taxes will force many small homeowners to finally call it a day and sell their properties to the big developers. The final push is in play. Hoboken’s gentrification will be complete. By then, a majority of the residents will be well-heeled citizens that walk the streets of this mile square city. Maybe not right away, but eventually they will be the norm.