The issues regarding the situation at the Metropolis Towers Apartments (formerly Gregory Park Apartments) are not as clear cut as some would like them. The problems faced by the residents have developed over a period of many years.
If any blame for these conditions is to be assigned, in my opinion, it falls on the Federal Government. Specifically the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Their handling of this matter, from its inception, was negligent to say the least. But, we waste time looking for someone to assess blame. We must address the current situation to correct the long-standing inequities regarding owner and renters at the Metropolis Towers.
During the City Council meetings in September and October, where this issue was discussed, the response was to adopt an ordinance that exempted the new ownership from rent control and allowed for a one time unlimited rental increase.
This increase was to make up for years of rents that were not increased and looked to bring some equity in the difference of what owners were paying for their properties versus what renters were paying for their units. Unfortunately the ordinance was adopted amidst rancorous debate and legal maneuvering.
The City Council and property owners favored the ordinance as the solution to the problem. Their belief was that this ordinance was not a rent control issue and that its impact would be minimal or limited to this site. Unfortunately, this is not accurate. The ordinance would affect all housing in Jersey City under the control of HUD.
In the future any HUD owned or controlled sites would be eligible for unlimited increases. There is no formula for establishing the level of the increase and other serious flaws. As a result of the adoption of this ordinance a petition has been filed to place this question to the public. This further exasperates the problems for all of the residents of this site.
The rent control law is not something that can be amended in a piece meal fashion; it must be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. My recommendation was for the formulation of a 15 member Rent Control Study Commission.
This commission would represent the concerned parties including the city council, mayor's office, owner and renter representatives from the Metropolis Apartments, the Office of Rent Control, the Corporation Counsel, Hudson County Legal Services and home owners.
Their charge would be to look at the rent control law and make recommendations to the city council for changes at the end of a 90 day period. At the time, this would have brought recommendations before the city council at the end of December or the beginning of January.
Unfortunately my suggestion fell upon deaf ears. It was more expeditious to pass the ordinance. Today, at the end of January we find ourselves embroiled in a legal and soon the political battle over this issue.
Nonetheless, I stand by my original suggestion of establishing the commission. It is the only way to resolve the problems at the Metropolis Apartments in a fair and equitable manner and correct any other problems in the Rent Control Law. Rent Control must be maintained, less we further the already existing affordable housing emergency in Jersey City.