Bayonne City Council Refuses to Overturn Vacancy Decontrol Law: Issue Now Goes to Referendum

Bayonne council doesn’t pass rent control ordinance, officials say voters should decide

By Rafal Rogoza 

Bayonne resident Ed Gilligan, addressed the City Council this afternoon during a special hearing on the Keep Rent Control Ordinance held at City Hall.

 

The Bayonne City Council decided not to vote on an ordinance that would reinstate rent control provisions in the city during a special hearing held this afternoon at City Hall, officials say they want the ordinance to be put up to a vote during the November general election.

Roughly 25 people attended the 4:30 p.m. hearing at the council chamber and heard eight speakers who made the case for and against the Keep Rent Control Ordinance that was introduced to the Council by rent control advocates during the August 15 council meeting.
If enacted into law the measure would overturn a vacancy decontrol ordinance passed by the Council in November.
The November law allows landlords to remove units from rent control guidelines if a tenant willingly moves or is legally evicted. Since its implementation 149 units have been permanently decontrolled out of the more than 2,600 total rent control units in the city, officials said.
Toward the end of the hour long hearing, none of the five council members who were in attendance made the motion to vote on the ordinance. The matter will now be decided by voters.
“The Bayonne Municipal Council agrees that the people should decide this important issue,” said Council President Terry Ruane during the closing of the hearing.
Ruane added that the Council took an extensive look at rent control during the November proceedings and concluded that it “leads to substandard living conditions” because landlords can’t afford to invest in their property and it unfairly distributes the tax burden among property owners.
“The rental income causes lower assessed values, unfairly shifting property tax burdens on one, two, three, and four family homes,” he said.
Douglas Wasama, president of Keep Bayonne Rent Control, the advocacy group responsible for organizing the petition drive that let to the hearing, spoke and asked the Council to pass the ordinance but to no result.
“I think they made up their minds back in November,” said Wasama after the hearing. “I’m not surprised.”
Siblings Robert Willard and Lorma Wepner, who own a 10-family brick building on West 23rd Street with two other relatives, spoke against the ordinance. They said all ten units at the property are under rent control provisions with tenants paying an average of $250 in monthly rent.
“It’s unfair for people to be paying $250 in this day and age,”said Wepner, who was pushing for a minimum rent requirement of $450 to be added to the ordinance.
“In this day and age $450 is reasonable rent,” she said, citing rising property taxes and the recently announced rate hike on water. “It would help many, many home owners.”
However, the debate among speakers was split down the middle.
Ed Gilligan, a rent control advocate who helped collect signatures of registered voters during the petition drive, said “Abolishment of rent control was never on the public agenda during the mayoral and council campaign.”
“For some it would seem that the decision to abolish rent control was a result of Tammany Hall-style meetings of our present city government,” he added.
A resident of 51st Street said “There is no way a property owner can make it”, adding “vacancy decontrol is the way to go.”
A case for the Keep Rent Control Ordinance followed from a West 34th Street supporter.
“The reason the buildings are deteriorating is because the owners are pocketing the profits,” she said. “Tenants pay for all improvements.”
Source: NJ.com

Third Attempt by Tenant Advocates to Reinstate Rent Controls In Bayonne, NJ

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Bayonne rent control petition is one step closer to being on November ballot

 

Published: Thursday, August 09, 2012, 4:48 PM
By Rafal Rogoza / The Jersey Journal 
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(Rafal Rogoza/Jersey Journal ) Keep Bayonne Rent Control volunteers collecting signatures outside the Avenue C ShopRite in Bayonne.

The petition, which proposes an ordinance entitled “Keep Rent Control Ordinance,” has met the statutory requirement of a minimum of 563 valid registered voter signatures and was cleared yesterday for introduction to the city council, said Bayonne City Clerk Robert F. Sloan.

 

The petition is an effort to overturn an ordinance passed by the city in November 2011 allowing landlords to remove an apartment from rent control restrictions if the tenant willingly moves or is legally evicted. Prior to the change, the apartment would remain under rent control guidelines forever.
Douglas Wasama, chairman of Keep Bayonne Rent Control, a local rent control advocacy group, said if the petition initiative is successful it would remove any changes that the city council made in November.

 

“The purpose of this act is to establish a method to protect tenants in rent controlled apartments,” reads the proposed ordinance’s declaration of purpose, “which is deemed necessary and proper for the good government of the municipality.”

 

Officials at the Office of the City Clerk have verified 713 valid petition signatures out of the 911 that were submitted on July 25 by Keep Bayonne Rent Control.

 

Bayonne rent control advocates try for third time to overturn city’s vacancy decontrol law

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Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012, 12:26 PM | By Rafal Rogoza / The Jersey Journal 

 

Rafal Rogoza/The Jersey Journal Keep Bayonne Rent Control volunteers standing by the Avenue C ShopRite Wednesday afternoon collecting petition signatures.

BAYONNE — Bayonne rent control advocates are hoping third time’s a charm as they mount another effort to overturn a city ordinance that allows landlords to move some units out from under rent-control protections.

“We are currently circulating petitions asking registered voters in town to agree to allow all of the people of Bayonne to make the final decision on this matter,” Douglas Wasama, chairman of Keep Bayonne Rent Control, said in a press release. “That’s the democratic way.”

The dispute began in November 2011, when the city passed a vacancy decontrol ordinance that allows landlords to remove an apartment from rent control restrictions if the tenant willingly moves or is legally evicted. Prior to the change, the units would remain under rent-control guidelines forever.

The first petition to repeal the ordinance was submitted on Dec. 5 but was declared invalid by City Clerk Robert Sloan because the petitions did not have each name of the five-member committee listed on every page of the petition. Continue reading

Some buildings may come off rent control

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Proposal will either go to City Council or voters

by Stephen LaMarca | Reporter Staff Writer | 07.15.12 – 12:05 am

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A property owners’ group has petitioned for a measure lifting rent control from certain Hoboken apartments, and the City Council must decide whether to hold a special meeting to schedule a public hearing on the proposal or let the voters cast their ballots on a referendum question this November.

City Clerk James Farina informed the council on Wednesday night that a petition circulated by the Mile Square Taxpayers Association (MSTA), a nonprofit alliance of property owners, has acquired enough signatures to force the council to take action on it.

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If approved, the proposed changes would remove certain rent control restrictions that have been a mainstay of Hoboken apartments since the early 1970s.

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“Obviously, nobody is playing fair.” – Ron Simoncini
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The amendment would remove rent control completely for new tenants moving into condos or buildings with four or fewer rental units. For all other buildings, the amendment would allow landlords to raise the rent by any amount when a current tenant moves out. However, the new rent would be subject to rent control laws after that. Currently, landlords can apply for a “vacancy decontrol” of 25 percent every three years or longer, when a tenant moves out.

The city’s longstanding Rent Control Ordinance, passed originally in 1973 and slightly amended several times since then, limits annual rent increases to a few percent a year, depending on federally decided cost of living increases. There are exceptions to allow landlords to make a profit if they upgrade the building, but any major changes to the law have been fought by tenant advocates in the last 40 years. Continue reading

Cherry Hill tenants fear rent control is at risk

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CHERRY HILL — Township council has taken a first step toward changing Cherry Hill’s approach to rent control.

Council members last week gave initial approval to a measure that would amend the existing rent-control ordinance. The change, if approved on second reading, would institute “permanent vacancy decontrol,” as opposed to the current “vacancy decontrol.”

Township officials say the move is not intended to abolish rent control, but tenants fear that will happen.

Under the current provision, a landlord can increase the rent to market rate on a unit that became vacant. However, any future increases would fall within the rent-control ordinance.

With the proposed change, future rents on a vacated unit would no longer be subject to rent control and the landlord would be free to adjust the rent annually.

“While considering this amendment, it was important to the township administration that current tenants under rent control remain protected by the rent-control ordinance,” said Erin Gill, Cherry Hill’s director of policy, planning and programs.

“Rent control has been a contentious issue in Cherry Hill for years,” Gill said. “Tenants cite dilapidated building and lack of proper maintenance, while landlords plead for increases to cover the costs to run and properly maintain their buildings.”
Continue reading