Jersey City officials, activists rally to protest Airbnb listings in rent-controlled building


With less than two weeks to go before Jersey City voters decide if they are for or against new short-term rental regulations, elected officials, residents and activists rallied in favor of the yes movement this morning.

The organizers, which included representatives from the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, Jersey City Together and the Community and Housing Development Network of New Jersey, they chose to rally in front of an apartment building at 278 Barrow St.

They selected this location because it is rent-controlled and the owner of the two units is a New York City landlord who has listed them as full-time, short-term rentals.

“Those laws are put in place to preserve affordable housing, and to prevent rents from skyrocketing. However, we know that at least two of the units in this building are not being rented to people at affordable rents, but have been turned into full-time Airbnb hotels by a multi-state operator,” said Ward E Councilman James Solomon.

That operator, according to Solomon, is a company called Howard that has hundreds of listings for short-term rentals across the state, including 24 in Jersey City, and recently sent emails out requesting over 100 new leases to be signed.

“The company is the reality of Airbnb in Jersey City: Big investors coming in and trying to snatch up dozens to hundreds of housing units and turn them into full-time, 365-day a year hotel rooms in the middle of residential neighborhoods,” Solomon said.

Solomon crafted the ordinance, along with Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey, that the council passed in June. The new measure places regulations on the ability for residents, owners and outside investors to rent their properties to Airbnb guests.

For example, renters are no longer able to utilize short-term rental services like Airbnb to make income.

The Keep Our Homes campaign, which is backed by Airbnb, has been leading their own vigorous campaign claiming that the city is essentially enforcing a ban on short-term rentals, and therefore voters should vote no on Municipal Question 1 on November 5.

In a statement, the Keep Our Homes Campaign reiterated what they have been saying throughout their campaign: that it is in favor of regulations, but not a ban.

“Jersey City has had regulations for short-term rentals in place since 2015. Jersey City’s short-term rental community absolutely supports expanding the law to add reasonable safeguards like preventing short-term rentals in affordable housing units,” said campaign manager Graeme Zielinski.

“But working families cannot support a ban on short-term rentals that would completely block their right to share their homes and devastate them financially. We need the people of Jersey City to Vote NO on November 5th to stop this ban and implement real, enforceable regulations.”

The Airbnb host community was able to trigger the referendum question by collecting the necessary signatures for a petition, handing off 20,000 signatures to the City Clerk’s Office back in July.

Additionally, Beverly Brown Ruggia, of NJ Citizen Action, said in an interview that she believes that the Airbnb host community purposely deceived the petitioners by telling them that the city is seeking an outright ban of short-term rentals, as opposed to regulations.

Some of those petitioners included her friends, neighbors and family members who signed the petition believing that the ordinance was an outright ban, but then when they learned of the ordinance’s provisions they became very upset.

“The petitions were collected in a dishonest manner, through deception. There’s been videos on social media where you hear the canvassers telling untruths about the ordinance. So, in fact, the petition process, and now this referendum, are completely legitimate,” said Brown Ruggia.

Members of the Keep Our Homes campaign have previously stated that by banning short-term rentals in any buildings with four of more units would eliminate the vast majority of the city’s housing stock, as well as taking umbrage with the registration and licensing process that would require city inspections.

We broadcasted most of the rally to our Facebook Page, see below:

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  1. What’s better than rent control? A tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings. While rent control makes it less attractive to supply accommodation, a vacant-property tax makes it less attractive NOT to!  A vacant-property tax of $X/week makes it $X/week more expensive to fail to get a tenant, and thereby REDUCES, by $X/week, the minimum rent that will persuade the owner to accept a tenant.

    Such a tax, although sometimes called a “vacancy tax”, is not limited to what real-estate agents call “vacancies” — that is, properties available for rent. It also applies to vacant lots and other properties that are not on the rental market, and is designed to push them onto the market and get them tenanted.

    A vacant-property tax is intended to be avoided; if it’s properly designed, nobody actually has to pay it. And the *avoidance* of it would initiate economic activity, which would expand the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced, so that the rest of us would pay LESS tax!

  2. That is the Van Vorst Park neighborhood where taxes run as high as $40,000 a year, what about their rights to get rental in order to pay their sky high taxes? You are hearing only one side of the fight. I have a friend who is 90 years old and her taxes went to $30,000 a year in Van Vorst Park. Affordable housing? What about affordable taxes?