I am writing this letter anonymously because I am a tenant and if the effort to abolish rent control in November is successful, I don’t want to be vulnerable to reprisals by my landlord, who is part of MSTA, the group funded mostly by developers and real estate speculators who are targeting rent control and may yet be able to destroy it even though they lost their election last November.
The bottom line of the struggle over rent control is that there are fortunes to be made, huge amounts of money that make people’s eyes spin like slot machines, the kind of money that will motivate all kinds of behavior, some not so savory. You don’t have to be a math whiz to understand that removing the limits on what landlords can charge for rents will cause prices to skyrocket and create millions of dollars profit for some owners of multiple buildings. Every unit that can be taken out of rent control represents a substantial amount of potential income every month to landlords. The giant landlords who own many buildings have the most to gain by removing the restraints. That’s why there is so much money available to fund this fight for MSTA. It is an investment that if it succeeds will pay off many times over for a small handful of people.
If it succeeds Hoboken will be turned into a speculative playground for developers and big wheeler dealers. It will be a gold rush, and if you have read the histories of gold rush cities, you may understand why you don’t necessarily want the city you live in to become one.
MSTA ran two-page ads expressing indignation that anyone could accuse any landlord of harassing tenants to get them to move out so they can raise the rent. But their behavior in driving for the repeal of rent stabilization regulation shows that they will stop at nothing to achieve their objectives. They have succeeded to the extent that they have because they have virtually unlimited funding and are not restrained by principles of fairness or moderation. They want to win at all costs.
And big money can go a long way to achieve objectives. MSTA has filed an incessant series of lawsuits against the city to tear down rent control. In their most recent lawsuits they managed to overturn last year’s election on rent control based on a list of 114 voters who they claimed were disenfranchised by Sandy. Some were duplicates. The largest number did not live in Hoboken anymore and were not entitled to vote. In the end there were only 36 on the list whose legitimacy as voters was not discredited, not enough to overturn the election. But MSTA does not care that its case had no merit. It achieved its objective, to nullify an election. Now Hoboken has to vote again on rent control. Anyone who is a tenant had better pay attention. There is a target on your back.