MSTA unveils rent control referendum proposal at Hoboken City Council meeting


The Mile Square Taxpayers Association (MSTA) unexpectedly unveiled a rent control referendum proposal at last night’s Hoboken City Council meeting.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Rent control currently doesn’t give anybody whose new to Hoboken an affordable apartment and we’ve had a lot of conversations here about this band of affordability that rent control does protect,” said MSTA Executive Director Ron Simoncini.

“It does keep apartment prices low, but it doesn’t take the person who needs that apartment at that low price and put them in the apartment. Our view of this is that there aren’t any victims in this, there’s an opportunity to not have to rehash the complex issues that we rehashed all last spring with one simple question …”

The Petition for Referendum proposes an amendment to the existing rent control ordinance giving property owners the added option to pay a $2,500 fee to Hoboken’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund for the exclusive use of building new, affordable housing units.

The committee is required to obtain 1,341 signatures in its petition campaign and when certified, the amendment will go to the public for a special election unless the council can compromise with the committee of petitioners.

Tony Soares, a former councilman and current real state agent who is on the housing initiative committee, said that while rent advocates will insist this will lead to tenants being displaced, that is not factual.

“I’ve lived in Hoboken for 32 years now, anything we do with affordable housing and rent control is gonna be these evil landlords who set buildings on fire. We haven’t had a case of that in 35 years. And it’s like saying if a car can go 120 mile an hour, everyone’s going to be speeding all over the place so why lower the speed limit from 25 to 20,” he explained.

“There’s enforcement mechanisms, people who are following the laws are being penalized. Right now, I have landlords that want to give a voucher, will take a tenant voucher, but the problem is for them to take a tenant voucher, they have to have an apartment available.”

He continued that the vouchers are worth between $2,000 and $2,500 each and requires the landlord to bring their home up to an improved standard.

Additionally, the $2,500 per-unit contribution to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund would allow property owners to reset rents following a voluntary vacancy.

This was something that was proposed last year and approved by the city council, but the measure was ultimately vetoed by Mayor Ravi Bhalla despite tenant and landlord advocates reaching a rare consensus.

Justin Calabrese, a Hoboken resident and homeowner who is also a part of the housing initiative committee, said he has previously lived in apartment units far below market value.

“While paying less rent each month was great situation for me personally, I don’t believe that I was the intended beneficiary of these rent control ordinances. Rather, my tenancy was an example of the nepotism that governs who is able to reside in rent controlled units,” he began.

“When an apartment has a unit that is fixed far below market, it becomes a sought after commodity. This commodity is then handled carefully by it’s two controlling parties: the landlords and the tenants that reside in them. It’s in the landlords best interests to rent to individuals who will voluntarily move out more quickly and therefore allow for a partial rent decontrol and increase to 25 percent.”

He further stated that it’s currently in the tenants best interests to hang onto the unit for as long as possible and neither method helps people secure quality affordable housing.

Rose Marie Markle also asked for support of the MSTA proposal, stating that it does not away rent controls of involve mass displacement, but rather gives “mom and pop landlords” like herself “a fighting chance to save our homes.”

In the proposed amendment, after a tenant voluntarily vacates a unit and the property owner voluntarily contributes $2,500 to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the rent for a new tenant is agreed on at a freely negotiated rate.

After that point, the unit is thereafter subject to all existing provisions of Hoboken’s Rent Control Ordinance.

“While Hoboken has an existing Affordable Housing Trust Fund and passed an Ordinance that anticipates new affordable housing being constructed, but it acknowledges that it does not have the money to build it,” Simoncini added in a statement.

“With this amendment, those $2,500 contributions combined with matching grants and municipal financing, would create funds for hundreds of affordable housing units over the next five years. By providing a dedicated source of income for the construction of new affordable housing – it will allow Hoboken’s Police Officers, Municipal Workers, and other City Employees the opportunity to live where they actually work.”

The Hoboken City Council took no formal action on the measure and did not comment on it either.

This afternoon, Mayor Ravi Bhalla came out against the referendum.

“The Mile Square Tax Association has been trying, unsuccessfully, for years to gut rent control in Hoboken and the latest attempt is offensive and unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

” … I strongly encourage everyone to come out against this referendum which will unfairly burden future tenants, undermine the fundamental principles of social equity and economic justice, and contribute to housing insecurity for those least able to bear the burden. ”

In response, Simoncini said this would not be happening if Bhalla did not veto the compromise ordinance from last year.

“MSTA’s greatest success was when Mayor Bhalla collaborated with us on amendments to cure inequities in the ordinance — and our successful defense against a tenant-led initiative to reverse them,” he said.

“This generation of property owners is suffering just as substantially, but now includes condominium owners who find themselves subject to rent control as a result of a rent control board that has done its best to subject the city to lawsuits that could bankrupt it. We are trying to cure not only that, but the city’s failure to provide funding for affordable housing. We think Mayor Bhalla has not had sufficient time to examine the benefits at hand but, as when he worked with us before, his thinking may change.”


Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Mayor Ravi Bhalla and then an additional comment from MSTA Executive Director Ron Simoncini.

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  1. Good reporting and quick. Now the next step is, it’s important to point out where they are clearly not telling the whole truth. There are many tenants being intimidated in Hoboken in ways. These are not new people who just got here and are earning 100k. Please see 1:50:00 of the May 3 2023 council meeting to see why all the council members were shocked. A clear case and in my opinion easy to find and give as a perfect example. The city advocate sobel got involved so you can ask him why the landlord tried to d this. Then ask who else is being intimidated by these landlords and are afraid to go public? In my opinion it’s probably many.

  2. This attempt to circumvent the existing Rent Control laws will fail if it comes to a vote.

    The City needs to get its Rent Control office up and running on calculation of rents. There was too much change with the office moving from Human Services to Community Development, the layoffs, training new staff as well as the physical move out of City Hall to the Multi-Service Center.

    The City should also shake up the Rent Board by adding new members instead of reappointing the same people. The laws that are on the books work if people don’t get greedy and try to get over.

    The Board members need to understand that they do not run the Rent Control office. Plain and simple, just like the rent calculations, if one follows the law and works with the office, there will be a fair and just outcome.

    • Until a shady com job activist posing as a realtor puts a pal in an overcharged rent, then coaches tenant on screwing the landlord after they move out and gets triple damages

  3. So, this would not encourage landlords to burn tenants out, just do everything else short of murder to get them out?

    Allowing owners to reset rent following a “voluntary” vacancy is a Rx for murder.
    Do we really need a Hoboken Fires, Act II?

    • There already is an incentive with low rents dumbass, Landlords arent all evil.
      The new flood ordinance has displaced more tenants in the past than the current rent ordinance

      • Now if we could only get the millions and millions of dollars of Federal Grant money spent and prevent another Super Storm Sandy flood event.

        Mayor Fulop may be blocking that from happening but Mayor Bhalla let him get away with it.

  4. There already is an incentive with low rents dumbass, Landlords arent all evil.
    The new flood ordinance has displaced more tenants in the past than the current rent ordinance

  5. They’re not all evil but some are and not just the one calling people a dumbass. Saw the council meeting above and want to know why iron state is allowed to do that to people. Is it legal? Watch and tell me, irs a yes or no.