Horse Sense: Proposed Rent control ordinance so 20th century


Hoboken is decades removed from the days of “On the Waterfront,” but the psychology and expectations dominant among some subsidy seeking residents suggests although the calendar shows it’s the 21st century, Hoboken’s rent control ordinance will retain its 20th century character.

Outside of removing the most heinous penalty to owners inheriting buildings where ticking time bombs lie dormant over decades with outdated regulations and city operations leave them at risk of huge rent liabilities, the proposed rent control ordinance does little more than add a wrinkle around the edges while removing that lone bomb.

Rent control ordinances borne of an economic era long gone by hardly warrant the support local officials give it in reactionary fear of hitting “the third rail.”  The need to pander and be all things to all people has kept the current ordinance on the books far past the motives in its intended creation.  Worse, it’s fostered an unfair burden on the people who should be given fair consideration as much as anyone – the small homeowners who pay the bulk of the freight in taxes for the whole town.

If the City wishes to be serious about this issue, the debate needs to go to the central point of its usefulness and application overall.  Is there intellectual strength sufficient in government for that to occur?  Well obviously not.  The issue sat in subcommittee over months and months before emerging with hardly any change at all.  Then where does the leadership need to come from to tackle the numerous discriminatory aspects of the proposed outdated ordinance?

Like much of the impetus to update ideas long overdue, answers clearly need to come from the Zimmer Administration.  Notwithstanding the heavy burden of political capital needed to further correct problems in the ordinance, there’s no other officials remotely willing to fully engage this issue.  The City Council is now overtaken by the political pandering class in the form of Beth Mason, a group happy to ignore the rights of taxpayers who seek a modicum of efficiency in city government.

MSV requested a position statement on the Administration’s willingness to sign off on the existing proposal on the rent control ordinance and was told the mayor would be addressing the matter this week.  The mayor should consider further action tackling deeper the inherent problems in an ordinance several decades old and apply the same consistency for all of Hoboken as it’s philosophically positioned with the reval.

Failure to do so means the continued tinkering at the edges will retain the vast discriminatory impact to residents who bear the brunt of a burden unfairly because they lack the political clout of big developers who typically escape the onerous rent control provisions.   The winners in the proposed ordinance are new residents who by luck score a good deal because they were looking for new digs in the mile square.  Why create another entrenched favored class?

It’s time for Hoboken to stop pretending its decades old rent control laws are helping existing residents here.  It stopped doing that a long time ago but for a select group who retain the eternal benefit in their existing tenant agreement.  Outside of those who merit such protection, it’s mostly aiding people who luck into it by chance who move into Hoboken while placing an undue burden on the small owners who are not politically connected.  If the mayor tackles the issue, it has a chance to be at least slightly better than mediocre.  If not, it’s just more of the same with one less onerous bomb removed.

Regardless, the buck stops at the mayor’s office.  It’s long past time that one group of owners no longer be forced to carry the weight of social engineering by local government. Fairness as in the reval itself requires at a minimum simply that.

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