The state chapter of the ACLU, the New Jersey Working Families Party, and the Fair Share Housing Center are among nine endorsing the right to counsel proposal in Jersey City.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The other groups lending their endorsement to the cause are the Latino Action Network (LAN), Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), Make the Road New Jersey (MRNJ), Our Revolution New Jersey, North New Jersey Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (NNJDSA), the New Jersey Working Families Party, and the New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP).
“Tenants shouldn’t be forced to choose between paying exorbitant fees or navigating complex legal matters alone. With Right to Counsel, tenants will have the guidance and support they need to defend their rights and achieve fair outcomes,” HRI Founder and Executive Director Aaron Carr said in a statement.
“As a Jersey City resident, tenant, and single mom, I couldn’t afford a lawyer when my landlord tried to evict me. The Right to Counsel during eviction proceedings will give working families like mine the right to fight to stay in our homes and avoid homelessness,” added Make the Road NJ member Noemi Ruiz.
The ordinance, sponsored by Councilman Yousef Saleh, James Solomon, and Frank “Educational” Gilmore, cleared first reading unanimously (9-0) at the city council’s April 12th meeting, days after Mayor Steven Fulop came out in favor of it.
“The costs of eviction, including increased homelessness and decreased access to career and educational opportunities for many, are far too great, especially in communities of color. We commend Mayor Fulop and the entire Jersey City Municipal Council for undertaking this effort,” added ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Joe Johnson.
“RTC is a major step in helping thousands of families stay in their homes and stay a part of the Jersey City community. The funds generated will be an important tool in the fight to keep Jersey City affordable, bringing millions to the affordable housing trust fund that can create new affordable units and help maintain what we already have,” said NJWF State Director Sue Altman.
The cause had previously received the backing of local advocacy group Jersey City Together.
Additionally, the Jersey City Planning Board unanimously approved (5-0) development fees to fund the right to counsel on Tuesday, as only HCV reported.
The local legislation highlights that the city would collect about $20 million a year in development revenues, leaving an annual RTC budget of about $4 million annually.
Specifically, the he developer’s fee would be broken down into three tiers: half a percent (0.5), one percent, or one-and-a-half (1.5) percent “of the equalized assessed value of the land and improvements for all new residential development.”
The lowest tier is for developers who obtain final site approval between July 9th, 2023 and June 30th, 2024, the middle tier is for developers who receive final site approval between July 1st, 2024 and June 30th, 2025, and the highest tier is for developers who receive final approve from July 1st, 2025 onward.
“I am honored that we have the support of these powerful organizations in our efforts to pass the Right to Counsel and Development Impact Fee ordinances in Jersey City,” noted Solomon.
“This legislation is a crucial step towards addressing the housing insecurity that disproportionately affects communities of color, while ensuring everyone gets the right to the resources they need to remain housed. It is time for developers to contribute their fair share to our community, and for us to ensure that no one faces eviction without proper representation.”
The Jersey City Council will convene again at City Hall, 280 Grove St., on Wednesday, May 10th, at 6 p.m.