"It's been a wonderful, rewarding experience for me," said McLaughlin, who is leaving to spend more time with her family, particularly her son, who has special needs.
She added, "I've made so many good friends and have learned so much from so many different people. I would do it all over again if given the chance."
Having worked in several departments in the city before settling into her current position, McLaughlin's leaving had an impact on municipal employees throughout City Hall.
"She has been an invaluable asset for the city of Hoboken over the years, and she will be greatly missed here at City Hall, both professionally and personally," said Joann Buonarota, secretary to the mayor and a friend of McLaughlin's since 1980. "I have seen her take on and master every task she has been given and handle it all with professionalism, dedication and compassion."
Mayor David Roberts echoed Buonarota's sentiment, describing McLaughlin as an "exemplary public servant, [who] served her community with grace and dignity for her entire 27 years."
Having been director since 1995, McLaughlin played an important role in several major tenant rights issues affecting Hoboken residents.
In 2000, McLaughlin worked with members of the City Council and residents to amend the pre-existing rent-control ordinance, protecting tenants of Clock Towers, a downtown apartment complex constructed for low and moderate income residents, who were facing a likely rent increase pending the sale of the building.
Not just rent control
Prior to becoming the destination for tenants in need of assistance, McLaughlin had worked for the city's Community Development Agency, under current Director of Community Development Fred Bado, from 1980 through 1995.
From 1985 through 1995, McLaughlin became the acting director of community services for Hoboken, where she monitored and oversaw funding for programs that included the senior citizen program, recreation program, and family planning, as well as four separate daycare programs: Day Care 100, Mile Square, Hopes Head Start and Nuestro Nino Day Care.
During this time, McLaughlin was instrumental in the creation of the first Waterfront Arts Festival, which began in '85 and would later evolve into the Hoboken Arts and Music Festival, which is now held twice a year and overseen by Director of Cultural Affairs Geri Fallo.
As a result of McLaughlin's departure, Business Administrator Richard England has been named as the temporary rent control officer, according to Mayor David Roberts.
A permanent successor will be appointed by the mayor, who said a decision will ultimately be made after he discusses the issue with both the City Council and city attorney.
Michael Mullins can be reached at email@example.com. What is rent control?
The city's 1973 Rent Control Ordinance states that rents on an estimated 8,500 older units in the city may only be increased annually by the amount of the increase in the Consumer Price Index, which is at 2.5 percent as of last September according to Rent Control Officer Diane Nieves.
In addition, after a tenant has vacated a unit voluntarily, property owners can apply to the Rent Leveling and Stabilization Board for a vacancy decontrol to increase the rent on a unit by 25 percent, but only once in a three-year period.
Most residential property, with the exception of certain new residential rental construction built after 1987 and government-controlled affordable housing, is covered under rent control.
According to Carole McLaughlin, condominiums, regardless of when they were constructed, are subject to rent control when rented out. But the beginning, or base, rent depends on the occupancy and rental history of the unit after the conversion to condominium.
One way property owners can seek an increase in the base rent is to apply for a "hardship increase." This is only approved if the landlord is able to substantiate that he has made a "prudent investment" and yet is not making a return of 6 percent above the highest interest rate available locally on a regular savings account.
Units can also sometimes come off rent control if a landlord "substantially renovates" the building and applies to the city. Landlords can also pass along tax and water surcharges.
Even those who live in new construction that's exempt from rent control and who are handed what they feel to be an overwhelming rental increase may challenge it in court.
Tenants cannot go to the local Rent Leveling and Stabilization Board in this case, but they are entitled to seek legal counsel and challenge the rent increase in court under the state's anti-eviction law, NJSA 2A:61.1, which states that rental increases are allowed "provided that the increase is not unconscionable."
There have been numerous challenges to the rent control ordinance over the past two decades, but several changes were overturned by tenant activists. - Reporter staff