Jersey City Council votes against repealing Airbnb regulations, November 5th referendum likely

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The Jersey City Council voted against overturning an ordinance they passed in June placing new regulations on short-term rentals, paving the way for voters to decide the issue at the ballot box on November 5th, barring any action by the council in the next 20 days.

During today’s meeting, some council members explained why they weren’t changing their tune after voting 7-2 to approve new regulations at a marathon meeting on June 25th.

“For those of us who have voted in favor of the original ordinance, we feel like we have struck a reasonable balance, put in place reasonable regulations that protect neighborhoods that will lower rents and that will ensure homeowners can use their property for short-term rentals but prevent investors from taking thousands of units out of the housing stock,” explained Ward E Councilman James Solomon, co-sponsor of the ordinance.

Council President Rolando Lavarro also explained why he was voting against repealing the reforms.

“I don’t see any reason to consider repeal. We went through long discussions and debates and the June ordinance approved certain restrictions to short-term rentals. My concerns have to do with affordable housing, the idea that long-term rental units would come off of the market for short-term rentals … that ultimately was my concern,” said Lavarro.

While the Council says that the new regulations will provide a proper balance between preserving the city’s housing stock and short-term rentals, Airbnb Northeast Press Secretary Liz DeBold Fusco characterized the local legislation as what would be the death knell of Airbnb in Jersey City.

“All along we have said that what our community wants is fair and reasonable regulation that doesn’t ban short-term rentals, which is what the current ordinance would do,” began DeBold Fusco.

“We’re very eager to work together to find a solution over the next 20 days; if that doesn’t happen our community looks forward to going to a referendum.”

Solomon had previously explained that the new regulations would limit the number of buildings investors could set aside for short-term rentals, while still allowing homeowners to rent out their rooms to Airbnb guests.

“Some of the changes are largely related to the owner-occupied rentals where the owner is still allowed to engage in short-term rentals moving forward. A couple of changes … someone who’s renting their own unit, a unit that they live in, had been limited to two rooms has now been increased to three,” Solomon said at the June 10th caucus meeting.

“Someone who had lived in an owner-occupied building with multiple units, there had been a cap of no more than three short-term rentals, has now been increased to four. [Hosts of an owner-occupied rental] who have more than one unit can now rent up to two units if they have a four-family or a three-family residence.”

Soon after the June vote to place limits on short-term rentals, the Airbnb host community sprang into action, collecting the necessary signatures to present to the city clerk in order for the question to restrict or not to restrict short-term rentals be put to the voters.

On July 18, an Airbnb host committee made up of five people submitted 2,406 petitions containing approximately 20,000 signatures to City Clerk Robert Byrne.

According to state statute, a “sufficient petition” must be signed by the number of the legal voters of the municipality equal to at least 15 percent of the total votes cast in the municipality at the most recent election.

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