Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon wants to expand the city’s proposed rent freeze during the current COVID-19 pandemic to include more units and for such a measure to kick in automatically should a similar event ever occur again.
By Marc Bussanich/Hudson County View
The city is proposing to impose a rent freeze on all units subject to rent control through August 1 and prohibiting any collection of a penalty for late payment of rent as a result of the current public health emergency, they announced at today’s caucus meeting.
During the Monday session, which was again conducted via Zoom, Solomon said he agrees with the city’s ordinance but strongly believes it should be expanded.
“I agree with the direction that the administration is heading in, but I think that there are two big things missing from the current draft,” said Solomon.
For starters, he thinks the city’s ordinance should include an automatic rent freeze should there be a public health emergency in the future.
“This draft only talks about this public health emergency. God forbid there’s a second round of infections in the fall or winter and a public health emergency is declared this rent freeze would automatically kick in,” Solomon said.
The second amendment the Downtown councilman is proposing is to apply the rent freeze beyond rent control units to also include one- to four-family units.
“There are literally tens of thousands of housing units that are not covered, but we do have the authority to regulate, so I’d like to propose that in a public health emergency we have the ability to regulate,” exclaimed Solomon.
However, Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano isn’t in favor of expanding the rent freeze to one- to four-family homes because he believes landlords aren’t going to raise people’s rents during a crisis.
“We should stay away from one- to four-family homes … there’s enough guarantees from the governor and everybody else. You are going to tick off a lot of people and most people are not going to raise most people’s rents right now,” said Boggiano.
But Solomon disagreed, saying that while most landlords probably won’t be raising rents, he nonetheless was hearing from his constituents.
“I think that 95 percent of landlords are going to do that, but I can assure you that I have had constituents reach out … one of them produced a viral video that their landlord was going to raise their rent by $200.”
In turn, Boggiano said that was just one instance, and if there are more, then tenants just need to talk to their landlords.
“You pick up the phone and tell the landlord that you can’t do that. You can’t raise people’s rents right now,” Boggiano said.
Council President Joyce Watterman asked city attorney Nick Strasser if he would work with Solomon to try to come up with an ordinance that met both sides in the middle, which he agreed to do.
However, he also noted that, to Boggiano’s point, by the time the council votes on a second reading of the Council’s draft, on Wednesday, May 9, the current pandemic may have subsided and therefore Solomon’s amendment to include one- to four-family units may not be necessary.
The city council will again meet remotely for their regularly scheduled public session on Wednesday at 6 p.m.