Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop joined several council members and community leaders to tout the passage of the city’s right to counsel law at last night’s council meeting.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“The two bills that passed the city council were historic. We now have a right for tenants across the city to have a level playing field, to have legal repression when they face an eviction, an illegal rent increase, and a failure to maintain the hat and habitability of their homes,” Ward E Councilman James Solomon explained.
“In addition, we passed the developer’s fee ordinance that will provide tens of millions of dollars to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. That’s going to include money for emergency rental assistance, money for housing rehabilitation, money for the production maintenance of affordable housing.”
Solomon thanked Fulop for endorsing the RTC proposal before turning the podium over to him.
“I do want to thank the city council for their leadership around the affordable housing crisis in this region and for making Jersey City a true leader in attacking it,” Fulop said.
He argued that affordability issues stem from low housing supply, a lack of construction, and a lack of effective, affordable housing policies.
“We are doing everything possible to confront that. We are attacking it,” he reiterated, also pointing to the construction of the Bayfront project, which will have 35 percent affordable housing, and the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance as initiatives to address the issue.
As he did last night, Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh expressed enthusiasm about addressing the affordability crisis, noting that the development fees will see 80 percent go into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, with the additional 20 percent going towards the RTC office.
“Wee’ve seen time and time again where there are no resources to help them. This will address that. This Right to Counsel legislation is historic,” Saleh exclaimed.
“This legislation will level the playing field for so many residents in Jersey City that are scared when they receive an eviction notice. It’s not perfect. But it’s a step in the right direction,” Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore said.
Saleh, Solomon, and Gilmore, were the original ordinance sponsors and were later joined by Councilman-at-Large Daniel Rivera after first reading.
Last week, Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise said she would vote for the measure, giving the council the needed five votes, though ultimately both ordinances passed unanimously (9-0).
“This is an incredible step in the right direction for Jersey City, housing equality and housing stability. Escalating rental costs in Jersey City are adversely our residents in every ward and neighborhood,” she said.
Solomon acknowledged that this couldn’t have been possible without their community partners, like the Hudson County Democratic Socialists of America, the Waterfront Project, and the We Cares Movement.
“In an economy where wages have stagnated, and corporate profits are skyrocketing, it’s no wonder that 40 percent of Jersey City residents are house burdened, paying almost a third of more of their income to rent alone,” DSA organizer Jake Ephros declared.
“Housing is a human right, not just a tool for investment for the rich.
Waterfront Project Executive Director Carol Sainthilaire said this legislation was essential for Jersey City tenants.
“This is vital. Every day my staff and I have conversations with people who are desperate, who are going to lose their homes. We can’t build our way out of this. These families are on the brink of homelessness. Jersey City has taken proactive steps to mitigating this crisis,” she stated, also claiming that about 400,000 households in New Jersey are behind on rent.
Solomon said the next step would be for the Affordable Housing Trust Committee to develop a spending plan to determine the allocation of the funds.
The plan must be approved by the Superior Court, he said, along with that the council and other city officials are eager to launch emergency rental assistance soon.
During a question and answer session, Fulop was asked if he would support RTC statewide since he is running for governor.
“This is something that could be replicated statewide. We would look to do that. A lot of the policies we have had here that have been successful are things that could be replicated,” he began.
“The Affordable Housing Overlay Zone, the way we approach tax abatement reform on the economic development front. Some of the incentive programs currently at the EDA … could be totally reworked.”