Hoboken 1st Ward council candidate Rafi Cordova has revealed his housing justice platform, which includes exempting mom and pop landlords from the business alliance tax levy, supporting right-to-counsel, and preventing “unconscionable” rent increases.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Housing justice applies to all of us. I believe everyone deserves a suitable and reliable place to call home; however, our society places far too many barriers up for all of us to make that a reality,” Cordova said in a statement.
“A commitment to housing justice means a commitment to everyone who wishes to call Hoboken home, from the most vulnerable to the most privileged; housing justice is a commitment to uphold and strengthen laws that promote equity, accessibility, and predictability in housing.”
As far as landlords are concerned, Cordova, the chair of the city’s rent leveling and stabilization board, vows to ensure they receive “their due and fair earnings and protections.”
He also commits to proposing an ordinance to exempt multi-family rent controlled properties that aren’t corporate owned, and also did not have a 30-year tax exemption due to rent control, from the business alliance tax levy.
Additionally, Cordova calls rent control protections one of his top priorities, pledging to introduce local legislation to push back against “unconscionable” rent increases.
“I propose to clearly define legal and illegal rent increases through legislation similar to that which was adopted recently by the city of Newark. The legislation I will introduce the first year I am in office will cap all rental increases in non-rent controlled buildings at 7.5% per year, codifying an interpretation of ‘unconscionable’ as any rent increase above 7.5%,” he continued.
“While this is above Newark’s 5% rate, it is an amount which measures the stability needs of tenants with the increasing costs faced by landlords. I also intend to promote the inclusion of this same 7.5% cap for residential rentals in any of our redevelopment agreements. I believe in the long run such caps will create a greater sense of predictability and a stronger sense of community with less transience.”
In August, the city’s tenant advocate filed a lawsuit for five tenants of Hoboken’s AvalonBay, alleging rental increases of up to 28.2 percent. That case is scheduled to be heard before the rent leveling board this evening at 6:30 p.m.
As far as the rent control changes approved by the city council in February (and then amendments in April) and later vetoed by Mayor Ravi Bhalla (who has endorsed Cordova), he said the five percent cap on yearly increases was positive, but more must be done.
“Tenants face surcharges that can amount to hundreds of dollars per month, and the Ordinance needs to be amended to control and cap these surcharges in a way that enables landlords to collect their due without overburdening tenants,” Cordova asserted.
“And we need to make sure that the rent control office and board are resourced and supported in upholding and enforcing our laws.”
Furthermore, he supports right-to-counsel legislation that has been adopted in communities such as Jersey City and New York City, calling for an ordinance that will cover these costs by charging a two percent fee on new developments that goes into a trust fund.
In this scenario, he aims to initially subsidize, and eventually replace the costs, associated with the city’s tenant advocate.
He also mentions the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement set to expire at the 432-unit Marine View Plaza in 2027, vowing to either renew this or introduce a new proposal to protect these residents.
“Unfortunately, Hoboken has a history of sitting on the sidelines as vulnerable residents are displaced and pushed out of their homes. I will not sit by feeling bad but will fight to protect MVP renters and their rents,” Cordova stated.
“Likewise, residents of several buildings in our ward have been exploring questions about the validity of ‘new construction’ exemptions to rent control under which many buildings in Hoboken operate, three of which have been found in the last two years to be doing so fraudulently.”
Beyond that, the downtown council candidate says he will introduce legislation to increase affordable housing requirements at new developments to 20 percent (currently at 10 to 12 percent), supporting senior-only housing, implement a community land trust, and further regulate when rent controlled units can be torn down.
The non-partisan Hoboken ward council races are on November 7th and Cordova is in a three-way dance with Paul Presinzano and Leo Pellegrini, an open seat since 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco is not seeking re-election.