Since the council has introduced an ordinance that could drastically scale back current rent controls on apartments throughout the city, some residents have been speaking out, saying that the law should not be changed.
The ordinance would allow landlords to opt out of rent control in many cases, if they make certain upgrades to their property, said City Attorney Charles D’Amico.
Some residents said they intend to speak out against the ordinance at the public hearing on March 16 at the regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council at 7 p.m.
According to the ordinance, a landlord would have to notify all residents of a property within 15 days of applying for the option, and residents would have 90 days to appeal after an opt-out is approved.
“I’m going to be 56 and I’ve lived in the same building for 43 years.” – Maureen Nason
Landlords will be required to meet certain criteria before they are allowed to participate in the “opt out” program.
D’Amico said the ordinance is designed to encourage property owners to upgrade existing buildings, especially in parts of the city where the housing stock has been deteriorating for years.
Bayonne has a significant amount of aging buildings, many of which exist in officially designated redevelopment zones. The improvements would increase the city’s tax revenues, as well as improve the property values, D’Amico said.
Programs already exist for deteriorating buildings
Among those questioning the proposed change is former 3rd Ward Councilman Gary La Pelusa, who said the city already has incentive programs in place to upgrade aging facilities, so there is no need to do away with rent control.
La Pelusa said during his four-year term in office, the city established a five-year abatement program that would give landlords and homeowners a break on taxes if they upgraded their facilities.
“I do not see why the city needs to abolish rent control.” -- Gary La Pelusa
“I do not see why the city needs to abolish rent control,” La Pelusa said.
Rent control tied to Civil Rights movement
While rent control has its roots in the early 1900s, its modern roots come out of a rent freeze imposed nationwide during World War II. When the freeze was lifted, New York City and a few other cities enacted their own rent control laws. Contemporary rent control evolved out of the Civil Rights movement, as New Jersey joined a handful of other states to give communities a local option to pass rent control laws.
Bayonne is one of about 100 towns nationwide that still have rent control in place, and has what is called “moderate rent control,” which allows landlords to raise rents if operating and maintenance costs rise, and allows rents to rise to match the rate of inflation.
Rent control residents will attend meeting
Maureen Nason, who lives in a rent control building, said that if the ordinance passes as proposed, landlords will have free reign to raise rents, putting an increased burden on people like her who – while not totally on a fixed income – won’t be able to afford the large jump.
“I’m going to be 56 and I’ve lived in the same building for 43 years,” she said. “Where does a single person go if they abolish rent control? In my building alone, there are five mothers with children. What are they going to do?”
A woman named Tracy, who did not want to give her last name, said as a single person, she doesn’t know how she will get along if the city does away with rent control.
“I’m a working person,” she said. “The city is getting all these new businesses along the highway. Doesn’t that improve the tax base?”
She believes the move to do away with rent control will gentrify the city and drive out residents who live in Bayonne now for future residents who can afford to live here.
“What we’ll get are landlords who will fix up these places and throw the rest of us out,” she said. “We are good, law-abiding people.”
Richard Barba, who spoke against the change at the last council meeting, said the city needs to rethink this.
Other residents said they were concerned that the ordinance to do away with rent control is being instituted to benefit several large landlords in the city, and note that several of them have contributed heavily to last year’s campaign coffers for the current administration.