Hoboken Fair Housing Association (HFHA) releases statement on proposed amendments to Hoboken’s Rent Control Laws

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An ordinance introducing comprehensive changes to Hoboken’s rent protections is up for 1st reading on Wednesday’s city council agenda. The proposed legislation is intended to settle an interpretation disagreement between the rent leveling officer and head of housing, and the rent leveling and stabilization board. The mayor has, literally, shut down administration of our rent control laws and all rent board meetings (since October 2022) until passage of the amended law. All decisions or rulings on legal rents, capital improvement surcharges, hardship increases, requests for rent reductions or appeals to the rent board have ceased.

The proposed changes are fairly comprehensive and cannot be characterized as ‘fair to both tenants and landlords’ which is a frequent talking point that historically accompanies proposed changes to the ordinance regardless of whether it is a factually accurate statement.

Hoboken’s rent control laws are decidedly nuanced, and our local rent control history is rife with a tangled web of fires, displacements, referendums, court challenges, accusations, and contentious ballot questions. Over the 50 years that Hoboken has had rent control in place, it has gone from a centerpiece on the platform of aspiring local political candidates to a topic that candidates and elected officials do their best to avoid, ignore, and misconstrue.

In general, changes being proposed on Wednesday make the following amendments to the ordinance:

Folds surcharges into the rent. Tax, sewer and water surcharges are now paid on top of, and in addition to the rent. Folding surcharges into the rent will raise the yearly increases, which are a percentage added to the existing rent. In the past, the increase was calculated as a percentage of the rent amount without surcharges. If the proposed changes go forward, the yearly percentage increase will be calculated using to the rent + any surcharges.

Clarifies that new buildings with 4 or more units are exempt from the ordinance for 30 years only if they 1) file the required paperwork before the building receives a certificate of occupancy and 2) notify potential renters at the time they take occupancy that the property is not rent controlled.

Hoboken’s subsidized buildings such as Marine View and Clock Towers currently have affordability controls from agreements that will soon expire. Our currents laws mandate a transition to rent control and the proposed law does not and would leave the tenants without rent control.

Codifies (legalizes) all rent updates done by the rent leveling officer to date. including hundreds of calculations done in contradiction to the plain language of the existing Code and which denied all appellants (in these cases a renter) their right to challenge the rent calculation within 20-days of the decision.

Continues to permit landlords to submit alternative proofs of rent increases and vacancy decontrols in perpetuity thereby incentivizing lack of compliance with the ordinance’s filing requirements.

Reduces the cap on the maximum yearly increase from 7.5% to 5% or the consumer price index (CPI) whichever is the lesser number.

Requires the rent leveling and stabilization board to get the permission of the administration in advance of promulgating any rules.

Increases the annual filing and application fee for yearly registrations, capital improvements, legal rent calculations and appeals to the board.

Removes the penalty for not filing a registration form and substitutes a requirement to pay a double registration fee, incentivizing landlord’s non-compliance to file

No outreach was done to Hoboken renters, rent control activists or the rent leveling board members in connection with crafting the proposal. Staff in the Housing Division did consult with investor/developer real estate lobbyist representatives and sources have stated that the administration, including the mayor and his chief of staff, met with and/or spoke with a representative from the Mile Square Taxpayers Association (MSTA), an organization that lobbies for the abolishment of rent control in Hoboken.

At a recent city council meeting, the administration proposed, and the city council approved, a contract to engage retired Judge Sarkisian to review Hoboken’s rent control laws. Despite members of the public requesting an answer to what the directive of the contract was, no answers were provided. However, based on these outcomes, it is clear that the contractor was directed to modify the ordinance in order to codify any and all administration, practices and processes that contradicted the existing language of the Code and to codify administration, practices and processes that ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that the rent control files list legal rents so exorbitant that it would be impossible to secure tenants willing to pay those amounts thereby nullifying key consumer and community protections that ironically remain in the ordinance.

Watch Wednesday’s city council meeting. Let us know what you think.

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