Jersey City voters will soon have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to implement changes regarding Airbnb short-term rentals, which is why Airbnb hosts launched the ‘Keep Our Homes’ campaign on the steps of City Hall yesterday.
Two Airbnb hosts spoke to the media during the rally about why they disagree with the ballot question that was passed by the Jersey City Council at its last meeting on September 11, and why they are asking residents to vote no on November 5th.
Nadia Sexton and her husband own a flat in the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood and she took issue with Mayor Steven Fulop opposing their effort to repeal the new local legislation.
“The other interest that is dwarfing all these tens of millions of dollars is the hotel industry, or at least some other influencers around the mayor and the council,” Sexton exclaimed.
“Just this week, hotel lobby folks were explaining the matter to our Democratic committee leaders … and I’m simply not willing to allow somebody else to decide what’s happening to small business, entrepreneurs and families and communities in our city.”
But the Mayor, in turn, on Thursday tweeted that Airbnb’s campaign is full of lies and misinformation because the company’s real goal is not short-term rental property owners’ livelihoods but is all about its campaign to launch an Initial Public Offering on Wall Street so as to tap into the public markets to raise more capital.
Following Sexton was Jeffrey Hauta, who owns a short-term rental property Downtown, where 70 percent of rentals take place.
He said, incredulously, that the city council’s argument that it needs to regulate short-term rentals to restrict Airbnb guests so as to reduce “quality of life” issues falls flat because investors will simply shiftÂ to the neighborhoods outside Downtown, thus exacerbating quality of life issues such as the late night bar/party scene and discarded trash in the streets.
“The ordinance would basically ban what I am doing. It’ll ban me, and put most of the people downtown basically out because the majority of the Airbnb hosts are in the high-rise buildings in the Downtown and they rent their second bedroom as Airbnb,” began Hauta.
“Basically, [the ordinance] pushes Airbnb to the residential areas with the four-, three-bedroom row homes, and that’s not what the [Ward E] Councilman [James Solomon] said. He said that the problem was with the big high-rises. This ordinance is going to push out Airbnb owners from the Downtown.”
At the September 11 Council Meeting, the council passed an ordinance to authorize the specific language of the ballot question, the interpretive statement, which Airbnb representatives and hosts say is “misleading, incomplete and biased.”
They believe that it “conveniently leaves out two of the most controversial pieces of the ordinance â€” the fact that it entirely repeals the 2015 legalization of short-term rentals and that it bars tenants.”
The interpretive statement’s language follows:
“This ordinance regulates the operation of short-term residential property rentals in Jersey City. Property owners in Jersey City who wish to make their residential units available for short-term leases, including through any Internet-based platform shall obtain a permit for their use as short-term rentals based on the ordinance’s regulatory requirements.
“These regulations include, but are not limited to, limitations on the size/number of units in residential buildings that may be used as short-term rentals, compliance with City noise, garbage/sanitation and parking laws, requiring all short-term rentals to be operated by an on-site property owner, and periodic safety inspections.
“Violations of the regulations presented herein, in addition to substantiated violations of the City Code and/or State law, may result in temporary or permanent suspension of a property owner’s permit to offer property for short-term rental purposes, as well as fines and penalties. The terms of this ordinance shall become effective on January 1, 2020.”
The ballot question is the result of the roughly 20,000 signatures that Airbnb hosts have collected to put the issue before the voters since the Council voted on a new ordinance to restrict short-term rentals at its June 26 meeting.
In addition, the short-term rentals community, which claims to have 3,100 Jersey City listings, hosted nearly 94,000 guests “along with the income they create for their hosts, these tourists are generating exponential economic activity within Jersey City communities by spending money at local shops and other attractions.”
Also, the company says that the short-term rentals community has generated $16.7 million for hosts, which has been necessary to compensate for the cost of living that escalated due to last year’s tax revaluation.
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said this rally was the latest example of Airbnb “pushing lies and misinformation” ahead of the referendum.
“This is another example of Airbnb pushing lies and misinformation to the public to push their agenda while in reality Airbnbâ€™s only agenda is corporate greed – it is as simple as that,” she said.
“This is not a ban and is virtually the same exact legislation that Airbnb recently agreed to in Boston with regards to responsible regulations. There is no reason Airbnb hosts should be permitted to buy 10 properties on a street and create an unregulated hotel industry that creates less housing availability for regular people. This legislation allows Airbnb in Jersey City while putting reasonable regulations in place such as requiring owner occupancy while renting.”
We live streamed most of the rally to our Facebook Page, which can be viewed below: