JERSEY CITY, NJ - A long-running dispute over rent control regulations in Jersey City became more heated this week as the Liberty Board of Realtors sent out a flyer criticizing Ward E Councilman James Solomon.
Solomon has been one of the leading voices on the Jersey City Council for stricter rent control, advocating this position even prior to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
The flyer accused Solomon of spending too much time advocating for increased regulations and not enough time working with the landlords to find an equitable solution, noting that the rent control program implemented three decades ago has reduced the number of available affordable units in the city.
Even in plush times, rent control has been controversial because it imposes strict regulations on landlords that some have claimed make it unaffordable to do business. Solomon and others, meanwhile, have argued that Jersey City has become unaffordable for people with moderate incomes.
The conflict between Solomon and Liberty Board comes at a time when the city announced it would provide rent relief to more than 1,600 households in Jersey City in an effort to keep both tenants and landlords financially secure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last May, Solomon led the call to implement a rent freeze due to the pandemic and to expand rent control to buildings with fewer than four residential units, if the building is not owner-occupied.
In a statement responding to the flyer, Solomon argued that Jersey City needs strong tenant protections, and that the poorly written laws that exist lead to eviction of long-term residents. The city needs to create and enforce rent control while at the same time making sure that more affordable units are being built, he said.
In 2019 Solomon issued a report that revealed problems for people who live in rent-controlled buildings. Not only are they being pushed out of their homes to allow property owners to convert those units to market rate, his report said, but many residents do not even know they are living under rent control.
The report also showed that many residents do not know what their rights are or how to protect themselves, a failing, Solomon said, that falls on the shoulders of local government.
While the report focused on the downtown area, Solomon said these are issues residents in other parts of Jersey City will face as development moves off the waterfront area and to previously underdeveloped areas.
“Just because we focused on downtown, we see this may be a problem in other parts of the city, as landlords see the incentive to turn property over to market rate,” Solomon said at the time.
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