Jersey City Council votes 8-1 to implement new inclusionary zoning ordinance


The Jersey City Council voted 8-1 to a implement a new inclusionary zoning ordinance (IZO) that will call for 10 to 15 percent affordable housing in most new developments.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Specifically, developments with variances in Tier I are low, moderate, and middle-income areas of Jersey City will be required to include 10 percent affordable housing.

Meanwhile, developers in Tier II are upper-income areas of the city will be required to do 15 percent affordable housing.

Meanwhile, developments with variances in Tier II low, moderate, and middle-income areas of Jersey City will be required to include 10 percent affordable housing.

The initial IZO was approved last October, but a lawsuit filed by Fair Share Housing Center led a judge to toss the ordinance for allowing a “buyout clause” where developers could offer infrastructure incentives instead of affordable housing.

The new ordinance was subsequently agreed upon after negotiations between Mayor Steven Fulop, Fair Share, and the city council.

“We have to start on one and two-family homes again and people that can’t afford to pay their taxes,” Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano said.

“I think this is a good compromise, and I think where we go from here is we’ll see how it works, and if we have to tighten it and make requirements tougher, quicker, then we should do that. And if we do this and we can’t get affordable housing built … we loosen them. I think this provides a really good framework for us to build on,” noted Ward E Councilman James Solomon.

Jersey City Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson and Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro agreed, with the latter praising the buyout clause being removed.

He asked for “20 percent on-site affordable housing throughout Jersey City,” noting such a measure passed in Newark.

“Jersey City is one of the most lucrative real estate markets in the state. We should be able to do 20 percent,” he added, noting that downtown developments could certainly afford to do so.

He reiterated his arguments from the caucus meeting that certain areas like Bates Avenue at the edge of downtown should be included as a Tier I area and the area in the Heights where Fulop recently bought a new home that sold for $2.4 million.

“Most people would be incredulous, as am I, that areas like these are not designated as upper income areas. This is the best we can get for now,” Lavarro continued.

“Elections have consequences, I being one as a casualty. And to the victors go the spoils. This is what they have put forward and probably the best the Fair Share Housing Center could get.”

Council President Joyce Watterman, who was re-elected on the mayor’s ticket last month, noted this ordinance didn’t come to be overnight.

“We started this journey really in 2016 when it comes to affordable housing. When you’re dealing with the public, there’s always people for an ordinance, and there’s always people against an ordinance.”

She also said they needed to find a middle ground to make residents happy.

“How much affordable housing we will get, we really don’t know. This is just a framework, to be perfectly honest. This is just a framework to start the process. Everything is expensive now that we’re going to have challenges trying to produce affordable housing.”

Watterman explained the administration added tax abatements back as an incentive for developers, but then attached it to 20 percent affordable housing.

“Each side really didn’t like the ordinance that much. So this is the compromise.”

During public portion, resident Kate Molina agreed with a 20 percent housing mandate in Ward E.

“This would diversify the neighborhood and include affordable housing for more people of color,” she said.

“We need 20 percent affordable housing across the city. There were always working class people living here. Downtown has become extremely expensive, and the type of resident has changed dramatically. You don’t find working class people here anymore,” added regular public speaker Jeanne Daly.

Furthermore, recent Ward D Council candidate Danielle Freire asked Councilman Yousef Saleh why the Heights was settling for less.

“Property prices are soaring here, and affordable options are needed now more than ever,” she said.

The vote on the measure was never in doubt, passing 8-1, with only Lavarro voting now.

Additionally, the resolution supporting Medicare for All, which was introduced at Monday’s caucus, passed unanimously.

Municipalities such as Hoboken, Trenton, Dover, West Orange, and Highland Park have passed similar non-binding resolutions.

“It’s past time that the entire New Jersey congressional delegation heard the demands of their constituents by supporting a guaranteed, national healthcare system that decouples healthcare from employment and provides medical care for everyone,” Our Revolution Northeast Regional Organizer Anna Marta Visky said in a statement this morning.

“The people of Jersey City, our state, and the country deserve nothing less.”

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