On behalf of the Mile Square Taxpayers Association, we commend your recent article debating the merits of Hoboken's current rent control system. It is truly a concept that is in need of review and amendment. We would like to preface this letter by stating that MSTA is not in favor of abolishing rent control. We do, however, seek to reform certain portions of the city's ordinance which fail to accomplish the goal of rent control -- to assist low-income, elderly and disabled tenants. The current law is being abused by those who do not need financial assistance.
Times were significantly different in 1973 when the local rent control laws were enacted, and even more pronounced is the difference between Hoboken's demography and economy since 1981 when most of the base rents have been established. For instance, the per capita income in Hoboken in 1989 was $20,020. The per capita income in 1999 has risen to $43,195. This represents an increase of 116 percent, while the statewide and Hudson county increase over the same time period was under 50 percent. This clearly indicates a demographic which is not in need of housing assistance.
Hoboken also has the largest percentage of affordable housing units in Hudson County. 25 percent of all rental units (not including those regulated by rent control) are set aside for affordable housing. The county average is 10 percent. Yet, for some reason, there are still families on the waiting list for affordable housing in Hoboken. Perhaps because the rent-controlled apartments they could be using are occupied by those not needing assistance.
Almost every other town in Hudson county -- and even Manhattan itself -- has made adjustments to account for the changing economies and demographics. It is time that Hoboken looks closely at its current plan, and in turn, adjust with the times. I would in closing like to enumerate the problems associated with the current rent control policy.
1) Rent controlled units are being occupied by tenants who do not need financial assistance.
2) The tax base is significantly reduced. By having lower rent rolls, buildings therefore have a lower assessed value and thus pay lower taxes.
3) Owners are not able to make needed improvements to units due to reduced rent, so a cycle of low rent and low-quality housing emerges.
4) The current system does not allow for the pass-through of certain operating expenses which have nearly doubled, such as insurance and fuel costs.
5) Opponents to vacancy decontrol suggest that owners would "harass" or threaten tenants to move out if there were vacancy decontrol. We believe that this falls under the jurisdiction of criminal law not the rent control policy.
Anyone who violates tenants' rights through criminal behavior should be prosecuted under the full extent of existing criminal laws. Tenants moving out of an apartment under their own free will can sign a waiver or disclaimer documenting that they were not harassed.
The Mile Square Taxpayers Association looks forward to working with the current administration, as well as with tenant advocacy groups, in order to seek a fair and equitable solution to a problem that can no longer be ignored. We think a joint effort will result in a revised law that benefits taxpayers, property owners, and the tenants who truly need assistance. Please contact us at 201-659-MSTA or info@HobokenMSTA.com to discuss this and any other issues facing property owners in Hoboken today.
Mile Square Taxpayers Association Board Members