Hoboken council to consider preventing Airbnb rentals at rent-controlled buildings

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The Hoboken City Council will consider the first reading of an ordinance preventing short-term rentals such as Airbnb at rent-controlled buildings at tomorrow night’s meeting.

Photo via airbnb.com.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The local legislation would explicitly prohibit owners of rent-controlled units from profiting over and above the permitted base rent currently allowed by the Rent Control Office  through the use of Airbnb and other short-term rental applications.

Additionally, the proposal would assess a $500 fine for a first offense, $1,250 for a second offense, and $2,000 for a third offense, with the collected fines ultimately being transferred on an annual basis to the City of Hoboken’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

“The point of rent control is to protect housing that is affordable for Hoboken residents – not to allow people to make excessive income off rent controlled units,” Council-at-Large members Emily Jabbour and Jim Doyle, the two ordinance sponsors, said in a joint statement.

“This was highlighted most recently when Councilman Mike DeFusco rented out his apartment 23 times on Airbnb during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is common sense legislation that seeks to address a specific loophole that has been exposed to ensure that the city’s affordable housing units are preserved for residents who need it most, as opposed to visiting tourists.”

According to city municipal code, most properties in Hoboken are considered rent controlled, with exceptions for commercial, industrial and government-controlled entities.

Speaking to hMag, who first reported the story last night, Jabbour said she felt their needed to be short-term rental reforms in the Mile Square City ever since Jersey City’s Airbnb referendum was approved decisively in 2019.

The victory didn’t come easily though, as over $5 million was spent on campaigning, making it the third most money ever spent on a New Jersey ballot question, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

“This ordinance is woefully inadequate and fails to address the real issue of protected and subsidized rental units being misused as for profit short term rentals in Hoboken and being kept from those needing affordable housing. I am fully supportive of thoughtful legislation that creates oversight on short-term rentals, similarly to what Jersey City has enacted, but that’s not what we’re being asked to vote on,” DeFusco said in a statement.

“By my colleagues own statements, this is nothing more than a political attack in an election year that only seeks to benefit a small group of individuals running for office in November, not the residents of Hoboken. If the Councilmembers who sponsored this measure truly cared about the affordability crisis Hoboken is facing, they would not have voted against a budget that properly funded our rent control office.”

Council President Ruben Ramos, the 4th Ward representative, also wrote the ordinance off as a “political attack” that does nothing to address any of the larger issues at hand.

“The ordinance doesn’t address the bigger issue of warehousing low rent properties that reduces affordable options. I’ve been a vocal advocate for affordable housing my entire career and it’s personally offensive that my colleagues are spending time on a political attack while people are struggling.”

Jabbour, Doyle, and 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen had all previously denounced DeFusco for renting his home on Airbnb, with the latter claiming that he was “exploiting” the loophole this ordinance seeks to close, citing the hMag report.

As a result, he’s calling on DeFusco to recuse him from matter tomorrow night.

“We now know that he profited by serving as an AirBnb ‘Superhost’ renting out his rent-controlled apartment as recently as June of this year – including a ‘5-star’ April 2021 review following a month-long rental. We deserve more from our elected officials,” Cohen added.

However, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher exclaiming that this ordinance is either the result of “predatory politics” or a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue at hand.

“When predatory politics results in bad policy, it is time to put the pencil down,” she began.

“If Councilmembers Jabbour and Doyle were really concerned with the exploitation for profit of affordable units, which is actually not the case of Councilman DeFusco’s home, their ordinance would include all affordable and subsidized housing types and they would support restoring Hoboken’s rent control office that the Bhalla administration gutted so our existing anti-warehousing Rent Control laws could be better enforced.”

6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino, the council vice president a well as a member of the affordable housing subcommittee, noted that DeFusco listed his owner occupied condo on Airbnb and that it’s “sad” some of her colleagues are putting politics ahead of policy.

“If the sponsors are serious about affordable housing, they shouldn’t have voted against a budget amendment to fund the understaffed rent control office and include subsidized buildings to a revised short-term rental ordinance.”

The Hoboken council convenes tomorrow at 7 p.m. via Zoom and the meeting will stream on the city’s official Facebook page.

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