Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon is calling for legislative action throughout the city after conducting a six-month study that identified a “rent-control crisis” among the roughly 1,152 Downtown affordable housing units.
Solomon and his council aides, along with other volunteers, spent six months compiling data regarding the 120 buildings with rent-controlled units and came up with findings that indicated tenants repeatedly being taken advantage of by their landlords.
“Tenants are unaware that the live in rent control, over 50 percent did not know [this about] their unit … [There is also] a frequent and flagrant violation of the rules. Significant rules, petty rules. One, the landlords must provide tenants with a rental statement,” Solomon explained during a presser on the steps of City Hall last night.
“That details the previous tenants rent, as well as their rights under the rent control ordinance. 90 percent of tenants we spoke to reported not receiving that statement. That is a crucial check against illegal rent increases.”
The 43-page report says other findings include repeated circumstances with landlords raising rents illegally, in one instance tenants were charged $5,850 a month, that 50 percent of rent-controlled tenants moved into their unit in the past seven years and a “demolition loophole” makes it possible for any rent-controlled building to be taken down.
“We’re seeing mass turnover and you shouldn’t expect that: this is one of the most valuable commodities you can have in Jersey City, so we started to ask why,” Solomon continued, showing photos of various building violations across Ward E.
Another chart showing a building comparison from 2013 to 2015 said that over 80 percent of the buildings tenants had changes in that two-year span.
When asked by HCV what the council could do to curtail things such as “rent rolling” and vacancy loopholes,” Solomon said significant action could be taken by the governing body and beyond.
“There is significant council action. It’s a two-front work, right? The administration has to aggressively enforce what’s on the books, but the council has to work,” he explained.
“So we have the two loopholes I mentioned: the vacancy loophole, where if a landlord pushes you out, either legally or illegally, they can then renovate their unit in this sort of gray area where there’s no oversight from the city.”
The councilman further stated that both this and the demolition loophole can be closed via local legislation, predicting that “a unified council” would work quickly to make that happen.
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said that many of the concerns raised by Solomon are what prompted Mayor Steven Fulop to create the Division of Housing and Preservation and that they are glad to be on the same page on this issue.
“The rent control system has been inadequate in the past, which is why Mayor Fulop pushed to create the new Division of Housing Preservation – combining Tenant/Landlord Relations and Housing Code Enforcement under one umbrella to streamline the processes and services these offices provide and create more oversight. Under this new direction, enforcement has been more strict and strategic,” she said.
” … The Councilman acknowledged we are moving in the right direction. The Mayor is glad to have a partner in the city’s efforts to combat this issue and continue to work to improve quality of life for residents of all wards citywide.”