Rent control referendum goes to ballot Tuesday
Opposing sides square off in live debate
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Nov 03, 2013 | 3694 views | 5 5 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
rent control
TENANT ADVOCATES – Dan Tumpson (left) of the Hoboken Fair Housing Association and Matt Shapiro (right) of the New Jersey Tenants Organization, have claimed that passing a measure to partially decontrol rents in Hoboken would invite harassment of tenants by landlords who want to make more money.
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Representatives on opposing sides of a referendum on Nov. 5 to alter Hoboken’s rent control laws engaged in public debate on the issue on Monday.

The Hoboken Public Question would permanently remove rent control from buildings with four units of housing or fewer when a current tenant moves out, and add a one-time decontrol for buildings with five or more units.

Currently, landlords of many apartments in Hoboken built through 1987 are limited to raising the rents to a few percentage points each year, although they can apply to the city to increase the amount if they do renovations, and they can increase the rent by 25 percent every three years if a tenant voluntarily leaves. Some landlords believe they can’t make a fair return on their investment because their rents have been controlled for so long, while tenant advocates say that rent control keeps housing affordable in Hoboken.

About 8,000 rental units will be affected by the measure.

Two sides

On one side of Monday’s debate, Dan Tumpson of the Hoboken Fair Housing Association (HFHA) and Matt Shapiro of the New Jersey Tenants Organization (NJTO) argued against the measure. They said that if the law passes, landlords will have good reason to harass tenants to the point where they move out of their homes.

On the other side, Ron Simoncini of the Mile Square Taxpayer’s Association, and Charles Gormally, the association’s attorney, argued in favor of the measure. They said it will not encourage harassment because no landlord would risk jail time to increase profits. They also said the goal of the referendum is not to harm tenants but to guarantee property owners a reasonable return on their investments.
This is the second consecutive year that rent control will appear on the November ballot.
This is the second consecutive year that the measure is set to appear on the November ballot. Last year, it was narrowly defeated at the polls by a close vote of 8,248 to 8,196, but will reappear on this November’s ballot. A court decision in September ended a period of year-long litigation over the original outcome.

The debate was hosted by the Hoboken Quality of Life Coalition. An audio podcast of the entire evening is available on the coalition’s website,

Position persuasion

Much of the rhetoric used by HFHA on Monday focused on the potential for tenant harassment.

“Hoboken is the hottest rent market in the state right now,” said Shapiro. “Many people are going to be forced out if this passes, and anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves.”

Gormally and Simoncini pressed Shapiro to support his claim with evidence of harassment in Hoboken thus far. Shapiro said he could not give evidence of formal cases because harassment is exceedingly difficult to prove.

MSTA, on the other hand, has consistently portrayed itself as being on the side of small homeowners of two and three unit buildings that “need relief from threats to their family assets.”

“Most of the two and three unit building owners in this town have historically rented to their family members, and they charged them a low rent,” said Simoncini. “Now you’ve got a situation where those family members are moving out and these owners aren’t able to charge people that aren’t in their family rent at market rate.”

HFHA has alleged that MSTA is funded largely by corporate developers, and have said that the measure’s passage will damage the “fabric” of Hoboken.

Politicians take sides

The candidates running for mayor this coming Tuesday have different opinions of the question. Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Assemblyman Ruben Ramos are both against the referendum question.

Candidate Tim Occhipinti, a councilman, is in favor of the question, but says his administration would be very tough on any tenant harassment.

The polls are open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at

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November 25, 2013
November 03, 2013
Tommy delivers what sounds like the rant of someone who knows their side is going to lose - so personal going after the reporter, editor, paper owners. It's nauseating. I'll be voting YES, and I'm a renter, and I voted NO last year.

I think people should pay what an apartment is worth and it shouldn't be controlled by the government. I don't understand why people think certain renters should have to pay a lot less for an apartment just because it's older. Like, what's the logic? Doesn't seem fair to everyone else.
November 03, 2013
Okay. But what did I write about the paper, the reporter, or the editor that is not true? Is the Reporter a bunch of ads, mainly real estate, wrapped around a few stories? That's hardly an original idea. Did the editor of the paper live in a rent controlled apt for years? Yes. Do you think most of the new reporters (which is all the paper's reporters - they never last) can afford to live here? If they have generous parents they can.

Sorry if my pointing out reality nauseates you.

November 03, 2013
Wow, the msta bias is overwhelming.

First of all, "They also said the goal of the referendum is not to harm tenants but to guarantee property owners a reasonable return on their investments." Actually that is NOT the goal of the referendum. Why would anyone spend over $100K to do what state law already guarantees? The goal of this referendum is too get rid of anyone who isn't paying $2000 .

Also, do you, Dean DeChiaro really believe no one, in the entire state of NJ, has ever been harassed out of their apartment? The point was made that harassment is very hard to prove and can be very subtle. It's expensive to fight and most tenants will just move to get away from it. But it happens all the time. You could have asked some tenants in Bayonne. It's definitely happening there.

Did you really fall for that stuff msta said about "the threats to their family assets"? That is utter BS. Yesterday, I talked to a woman who has lived in her families house for 53 years - all her life. They have a tenant they have had for 20 years. They charge a reasonable rent because they like their tenant and want to keep them. She is voting NO. She is not the first small home owner to tell me that.

See here's the thing: tenants are not ATM machines to be squeezed so the landlord can get rich. Homeowners get a tenant to help pay the mortgage off. But recent philosophy, that msta supports, is that the tenants should be there to

help the owner get rich.

Also, how come no mention of Simoncini's problems in Neptune NJ? It was brought up in the debates. He has been accused of forging hundreds of signatures on a referendum similar to Hoboken's. Out of 1400 signatures, 100 (so far) were found to be faked. Simoncini, being the responsible, stand-up guy that he is, put the blame on the 3rd party firm he hired to collect the signatures. But why would you need to hire a 3rd party anyway? If the point of rent control is how expensive it is for landlords, why would the landlords waste money on paying a 3rd party to do what they can do themselves: knock on your neighbors doors, present your position, and ask them if they would be willing to sign the petition? This is what the tenants did with their petition for Z-88. Yes, it's a lot harder than using the voter rolls to just write people's names down, but that's the point of petitions. If msta is willing to buy signatures for their petitions, I wonder if they would be willing to buy votes? Since they're working with Raia's One Hoboken, and Raia is notorious for vote buying, I'm going with they have bought a boatload of VBM's. That's why they are so positive they will win.

Of course, msta uses 3rd party firms to do their dirty work all the time. And you'll see that on Election Day when their $10-an hour teenage workers stand on every single corner and tell voters to vote yes because voting yes will keep rent control. They are liars.

So an article in the Reporter is biased against the tenants. What do you expect from a paper that makes most of it's money from real estate listings. Well, Lucha and Dave, if the rent control question goes to msta, you'll be getting a lot more listings. Ca-ching!!! Of course, no one who works there will be able to afford to live here. This paper's editor has lived in Hoboken for awhile. I'm guessing the rent controlled apartment that she lived in for years was helpful in allowing her live to live in the same town she worked in.
November 11, 2013
The vote will be certified on November 12th 2013. The "NO" votes have won.