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.”