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Info on NEWARK TENANTS UNITED is in the right column, scroll down a bit
Info on NEWARK TENANTS UNITED is in the right column, scroll down a bit
NEWARK TENANT NEWS BLOG
CALL TO ACTION ITEMS: Gathering a list of volunteers to petition for the Rent Control Ordinance ballot initiative
June 22, 2017: ON AMBITION AND POLITICS: There is a role for ambition in our society. We need people with integrity who want to run the government, and we need people serving in government jobs who truly care more about the needs of the City of Newark and it’s people.
To this extent, there’s nothing wrong with community leaders striving to get elected. And there’s nothing wrong with that person amassing a group of loyal followers who want employment afterwards. The problem comes when these ambitions rise above the public policy goals, and betray the very cause.
Let’s stop for a moment and look at the last Newark election. Three years ago, Ras Baraka ran for Mayor. “When I become mayor, WE become mayor” was his slogan. He ran an independent ticket against the Democratic machine. Early in the election process, I didn’t understand the nature of the beast we call “machine politics”. I thought the Democratic Party stood for the people, and the Republican Party stood for economic gain. Then it was repeatedly explained to me by Mitch Kahn and others that the Democratic machine is only a variation of the Republican machine. Both parties are totally beholden to business interests and under the sway of lobbyists. The Democratic Party is all about collecting campaign donations from business interests, including landlords, and using that money to fund election campaigns on all levels from local and County to State and National. The revelation hit that Ras Baraka was running against that system, and that he might actually do some good things for the people of Newark. He got my vote.
It seemed like only days after the election, Ras met with Joey D and sold out his soul. The very reason for electing him was gone. He became part of the very machine that he ran against. And now he’s running for reelection on a slate with those very same Councilmen who are part of the machine that he so strongly opposed in 2014.
How can the people of Newark assure that we don’t repeat the same mistake in 2018?
The answer is to look at the people who are vying for office, and examine their personal integrity. By this, I don’t mean to take a microscope and evaluate their past. I’m not interested in “He did this 10 years ago”, or “She said this 20 years ago”, or even worse “His father wrote this 40 years ago”. Even if those allegations were true, people have the right to change, to improve. What counts is people’s actions and their advocacy that is true to the cause. Look at the public policy changes they advocate, and look at the successes that they have.
Any sign of corruption or lack of integrity should stand out as a red flag.
Ask yourself: are the needs of the people being sacrificed now just to position someone to run for public office? “Lets get a simple win now in 2017 to show the people we can get something done.”. When the course of action to get the “win” sells out the needs of the people, that cuts short the changes that are needed.
Imagine, for instance, that a group of activists were fighting to keep a local hospital up and running. I’m just giving an example of a hypothetical activist cause. And their leader had the ambition to be a Councilman or even the Mayor. There would be nothing wrong with that ambition, but what if that budding politician started advocating that the hospital be converted into collection of doctor’s offices instead of a hospital with a functioning emergency room? And then many of the followers of that activist supported that position, and demanded that the rest of the hospital activist community fall into line. Imagine that the whole plan of saving the hospital was hijacked, and the new plan became: “Let me get an easy win this year, next year I’ll run for office and be elected, and I’ll give my inner circle of activist followers some good jobs”
What would that say of that person’s integrity? Or the integrity of the core followers who have each personally made the decision to reduce their expectations regarding “the cause” in the hopes of getting a higher paying job, plus a nice pension plan? And they justify it to themselves by saying ‘well, I’m a good person, I’ll do good things for Newark when I get the job”.
And what if those followers eager for a city job made the difference in the group decision to change the course of direction, and sell out the original plan to save the hospital?
Should all the activists fall in line with the group decision in a conservative decision-making fashion, or would the true activists be justified in defying that group decision, and continuing to lobby to save the hospital ? Should the group decision be considered tainted? Should there be widespread contempt of that group decision, or should everyone be loyal to the leader who wants to run for public office ? Tough questions, and entirely relevant to what is happening now.
Ambition should never ever come at the price of selling out true public policy reforms. Ambition is good, but selling out the cause is to make a deal with the devil.
Remember, the causes themselves may be true and pure, but the people advocating for them might become the next Ras Baraka who will sell out and join the political machine.
June 18, 2017: Shifting standards from the group loosely defined as "the Newark Housing Coalition" continues. First, even the slightest criticism (of them) was defined as a "personal attack", and that was intolerable. Now one of their leaders has launched tremendous personal attacks against my character, to the point of slander. But now the standards have changed, and personal attacks are considered perfectly fine to make. I have responded, but only to defend myself.
The changing standards is similar to the pattern of decision-making that was the reason for the split among the tenant groups. First, decisions had to be by consensus. Then it was majority rules, and then it was back to consensus. There was always a majority within the group that wanted the strong ordinance version, but the leaders were so skilled and adept at changing the decision process, even at a moments notice or between meetings, that the short ordinance version was pushed forwards.
When it came to writing the text of the proposed ordinance, input from Newark Tenants United had to be scrutinized and edited, but input from "their side" needed no review at all, and it could be sent over to the legal team without group discussion or review. And if someone (me) objected to that, or found serious problems with what was sent to the legal team, that was considered to be "a personal attack".
Thus the initial proclamation of "personal attacks" started as a way to deflect attention away from defects in the proposed ordinance. Any serious discussions on the wording of the ordinance was simply ignored, and the subject of discussion was changed to "why are you guys attacking us".
Collectively, this is all toxic.
When the personal interactions of people in an organization fall to a toxic level, the ties have to be cut. The supporters and the public are not going to tolerate it. And that's a "behind the scenes" analysis of why the tenants movement has split.
Newark Tenants United is pursuing strong reforms to the rent control ordinance that will protect the public. We have pledged to move forwards without making personal attacks. We were tested within the last 12 hours, and we held true to our promise. We are focussing on the facts. We want reforms to rent control.
As "the dream ordinance" pushes forwards, we expect the attacks against us to continue, and to worsen. Remember, when THE FACTS can't be argued, the only option is a personal attack.
June 17, 2017: THINK NATIONAL, ACT LOCAL. Newark Tenants United's dream rent control ordinance is under review. We are no longer under the burden of a few local tenant leaders who want a short and simple Rent Control Ordinance placed on the ballot. Some saw chaos and disunity in the split, but it is quickly becoming apparent that the split was the best thing that ever happened to the tenants movement of Newark. This truly opens us up to far greater possibilities. The bottle has been uncorked, and the genie is out of the bottle. There's nobody to hold us back, and no hidden agendas that might place limits on what issues to pursue in the dream ordinance.
We have combined the best ideas from the last 3 versions submitted to the former alliance, plus some surprising new ideas. The first true "dream ordinance" is under review.
We are doing this for the tenants of America. The working people of America are suffering, and rent control is going to part of the solution.
Everything we do here in Newark with this "dream ordinance" will have national implications. Newark already has a model Rent Control Ordinance worthy of national consideration, but as Carl Hill pointed out on Saturday evening, "We are now creating the gold standard."
Nobody in our movement is ever going to grandstand at the microphone with a thunderous and fast-talking speech. A lot of people are amused by that kind of politician. I admit that it's funny to listen, but that's all it is --- funny. I laugh and I snicker along with everyone else, and I know that I could never match that kind of performance even if I tired. Our cause is not about style, theatrical performance or personal ambition, it's about substance. It's about THE FACTS.
Going "national" means a few things.
1. The true leaders and the true activists of Newark are going to support our version. Remember the phrase: "think global, act local". In this case, it's "think national, act local".
2. Because we are doing this for America, a lot of people in Newark are going to petition for our version and collect signatures. We are going to get the legal resources that we need because of the national implications. Newark residents who see and understand the big picture are going to vote "yes" for our version, and "no" on the other version. There's a good chance that both versions will get on the ballot, so there are lots of crazy legal scenarios on what will happen if both pass. Has this ever happened before ?
2. We know this will be litigated, because it affects landlords all over Newark, and it has national implications. We have strong reason to believe that funding will come in from various sources nationwide to defend the dream ordinance.
June 16, 2017: Update on the Rent Control Ballot Initiative. Going forwards Newark Tenants United will be taking the high ground. Our emails, posts, and arguments will be about THE FACTS. We will ignore attacks against us, and not respond in kind. No matter how upsetting the facts may be, we will issue measured statements.
Some explaining to do >>> after securing a copy of the draft rent control ordinance (which has now begun legal review), I was upset about extremely significant clauses that were added without any process or discussion of the group. Some of these brand new clauses undermine critical rent control protections, and ripple throughout the document. Withholding details for now. It was shocking and very upsetting. I apologize to John and Victor and anyone else for any statements that offended anyone in the discussions or emails. Someone has to step up and apologize, even if the conflict is unresolvable.
I want to thank my colleague, Carl Hill, for his perspective and advice, as well his natural intelligence that few people appreciate. People say he's my right hand, but is that true? Maybe I'm his right hand? While I do write this blog, I rely heavily on the insights of others, as well as materials they have gathered. We will soon be adding at least one more Executive Board member to Newark Tenants United. Every person added is a valuable team member. The real activists of Newark are going to organize around our nucleus.
I also want to thank Janise Afolo and Avi Richardson. Both worked hard to try and resolve the impasse and keep the group united. The problem was just too divisive to resolve.
In the end, the facts are what really matters, not the personalities of people involved on either side. What I read yesterday is still shocking and upsetting, that's not going to change. Well, that might not be true either, as the other group may change their proposed ordinance to reflect the concerns raised. We'll see. But lets stick with the facts, and lets start with some consensus items.
Here's two facts that everyone close to the matter will agree upon:
Fact #1: There is an irreconcilable difference in direction for the ballot initiative, and very strong feelings on both sides that "the decision process" has been violated and disrespected.
Fact #2: Each side is going to move forward with their plans and agenda, and with significant numbers of followers and participants.
What does this mean for City Hall? They'll have to deal with two energetic tenant organizations, not one. Two groups with two whole sets of leaders and two agendas. I wouldn't be happy about that if I were an elected official. Here's a lesson from science: An amoeba divided is weak only for a moment. It soon grows into two amoebas, each the size and strength of its former undivided self. Two tenant movements means twice the pressure on City Hall. Divided we are, weakened we are not. We anticipate supporting important city-wide housing matters, including Inclusionary Zoning and Terrill Homes.
Our position is for a very strong rent control ordinance, with increased protections. People who want REAL CHANGE NOW should support Newark Tenants United. Our plans going forward are yet to be announced.
June 15, 2016: Article on the Krueger-Scott Mansion in Jersey Digs. Interesting fusion of development, historic preservation, and even a small garden plot.
June 14, 2017: TERRIBLE NEWS ON THE RENT CONTROL BALLOT INITIATIVE. Newark Tenants United is withdrawing from the Rent Control Ballot Initiative process, because we were sold out. John Goldstein, facilitator of the adhoc group organizing the effort, advised a representative of Newark Tenants United this morning that the proposed ordinance is "back to 4 basic items". What they want is 1/10 of the protections that we want to see enacted into law with this ballot initiative. It's not even worth the effort, except to be used for campaign purposes by it's authors. They have refused to release the document to us, and they have forwarded it to the legal team to be finalized. They have unilaterally voided the agreement reached at the last meeting.
Goldstein and Victor Monterrosa have apparently assumed the role of "contacts" with the legal team, which includes a key attorney secured by Newark Tenants United. This was done without any decision of the adhoc group, or even any discussion about it.
Newark Tenants United will consider options. One thing for sure, our hard work in developing the dream ordinance WILL see the light of day.
Another thing for sure, instead of healing the rift between housing advocates in the Ironbound versus the rest of Newark, our great facilitator, John Goldstein, has widened it into the Grand Canyon. It was his advise to keep the ballot initiative effort very limited, and he pursuaded Victor to abandon what Victor himself called "the dream ordinance". This is all about politics, and next year's city election. We will have much more to say about this.
June 13, 2017: Any attempts by anyone to SELL OUT the Newark Housing movement for personal political gain (and/or employment) will be exposed and resisted. The result will be zero political gain. We want REAL CHANGE NOW.
June 12, 2017: BALLOT INITIATIVE IS NOT ABOUT SENDING A MESSAGE. Folks need to understand that we are NOT doing the ballot initiative on rent control "to send a message to the city council". We are way beyond that.
We are empowering the community, and we are using the legal process for ballot initiatives to directly bring about REAL AND DETAILED SYSTEMIC CHANGE, NOW.
We aim to put on the ballot in November a Rent Control Ordinance that will be the envy of the tenant movement from coast to coast. It will be detailed and have teeth. This is about making real progress, and not just in Newark. Everything we do will have an impact on a statewide and nationwide level. As people said so many decades ago “Keep your eye on the prize”.
We need to end the chaos and apathy that we know as Newark. These changes to Rent Control are a big step in that direction. Our recent post about Code Enforcement outlines other aspects of ending the chaos. It’s time to actually change the system, and help the people of Newark. And we, the activists of Newark, are doing it.
Everything we are doing is not, or shouldn’t be, about politics or the political personalities of anyone involved. Real solutions should never, ever, be portrayed as “sending a message” or “lodging a protest”.
If this was about a simple protest, we wouldn’t need detailed Rent Control Ordinance changes. We could just pick 3 or 4 simple things, get them voted into law through a ballot initiative, and that would send a message that future change is coming by way of politics. Perhaps some people would go this route, but a clear majority of the tenant leaders and community activists involved instead want REAL CHANGE NOW. We’re not going through this gigantic process of gathering signatures, and probably facing down legal challenges, just “to send a message” or get a few little changes made to the Rent Control Ordinance.
Next, there is something fundamental about protesting and “message-sending” that becomes counterintuitive upon a deeper analysis of the dynamics involved. When we look at people protesting on the steps of City Hall or along the highway holding signs, most people think “those protestors are against the government”. I say that’s a false paradigm.
The whole notion of protesting rests upon the presumption that government respects the public, and that the public policy decisions of the elected officials can be changed if elected officials listen to the protesting. The protestors believe in the basic dynamic that the public can influence public policy through sending messages and protesting. If the protestors didn’t believe it, they wouldn’t waste their time protesting. They are not against government, they believe in government. I’m sorry, but I have a much more cynical view of our government and our elected officials. That’s why I don’t protest.
That whole notion of elected officials listening to protestors is a false dynamic, at least in Newark. The elected officials in City Hall sit in the chairs in total contempt of the public. They dread when members of the public come to microphone at the Hearing of Citizens. And I'm proud to say that the very last person in Newark that they want to hear is myself.
They don’t want public input, and they don’t respect the public. That’s my accusation. How do we know this is true? The proof was their vote on March 7, 2017 to weaken the Newark Rent Control Ordinance in direct defiance of what they knew was an overwhelming mandate to keep a strong ordinance. They did it, and then they congratulated each other afterwards for defeating the public. There were some high fives, and a “we did it". There is no doubt some political boss who ordered those changes was very happy. Councilman James was an obedient soldier, he listened, he accepted his orders, and he got the ugly job done, knowing full well that it was hurting himself politically. Just like a military commander on the battlefield who takes his orders and puts himself in the line of fire.
After something that bad is done to the people of Newark, it’s not the occasion to “send a message” to our elected officials that we are not happy,
The idea of “sending a message” implies that we are ultimately relying on the elected officials in power to listen to us, and to do something good for us. That’s not happening. Such a presumption is so naïve it’s pathetic.
Look at what they’ve already done to us. Everyone: Never forget the Battle of March 7th. They are not going to be prodded into taking any positive action on rent control or anything else. Not this city council. What message can possibly be sent when the city council was clear on March 7th that the public be damned, and they are just going to close ranks and do what the big bosses tell them to do.
Protesting is basically a public admission that you don’t have the power to change things, so you are going to wine and complain, and hold up a sign, or send a political message through some other means. I say why complain when it’s possible to take real action ?
We are literally writing the law on Rent Control, and it’s going to a public vote in November. We are going to have a new Rent Control Ordinance voted into law,
We are doing this IN DIRECT DEFIANCE OF THE CITY COUNCIL. We know it, and they know it.
They think we have no power “on this side of the microphone”, as Chaneyfield-Jenkins says. They are wrong, we have all the power in the world. And that’s not a message either. That’s called reality.
WE THE PEOPLE are making real changes to protect our residents and our housing stock. We are not going to be priced out of Newark; and we are not going to be gouged of every last dollar of disposable income. And we are not going to sit by while friends, family members, and community members are driven into poverty or made homeless by the wealth extraction business plans of some bloodsucking mega-landlords who don’t even live in Newark.
Our struggle is directly analogous to Colonialism. We are fighting a wealth extraction business plan, plain and simple. Look at history for an analogy: all the wealth and resources were drained out of the Third World by the European powers. This is no different. Newark is to be held down, and bled for money by banks and landlords. Our elected officials who support this form of Colonialism are simply traitors to the people of Newark. A few of them aren't stupid, they know its wrong, but they have sold us out in the name of collecting their salaries and pensions.
The people are to be kept silent, and in fact our County Democratic leaders (aka: the political machine) don’t even allow Newark to have a Democratic Municipal Committee. That’s how disgusting everything has become. Newark is to be held down and controlled by outside forces, and to have no voice, not even within the Democratic Party. And that’s why I have total contempt for the Essex County power brokers. Mayor Ras Baraka won in 2014 by running against those power brokers. And then immediately upon election, he made peace with them and sold his soul. And he apparently did it for nothing; he didn’t even demand the creation of a Newark Democratic Municipal Committee.
This is a war. It’s a war for social and economic justice in the City of Newark. March 7th was just one battle in the war. The current battle is the Rent Control Ballot Initiative.
It’s time for all the tenant and community leaders to close our own ranks. We must be unified in our actions. We are not “sending a message”, and we are not going to weaken our proposed Rent Control Ordinance due to any political factors.
We are advancing REAL CHANGE NOW !!!!
We demand REAL CHANGE NOW !!!!
Now is the time for real and detailed systemic change in the City of Newark.
June 6, 2017: The proposed Rent Control Ordinance is complete and ready for the tenant's legal team for review. There was some discussion among the leaders as to how strong and comprehensive it should be. Turns out that an ordinance subject to a ballot initiative cannot be changed for 3 years, which was the winning argument towards making it stronger. An agreement was reached to hand all ideas over to the lawyers for further review. The next meeting of the group will be on Thursday June 8th, 6:30 PM, at The Priory.
June 6, 2017: Been so busy I've barely had time to update the blog. I've spent over 30 hours over the past two weeks on helping to draft the Rent Control Ordinance that will be the subject of a ballot initiative.
May 25, 2017: Plans advancing for a Greenway along an unused rail line that cuts through Jersey City, Kearny, the northern tip of Newark, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, and Montclair. Boonton line article
May 24, 2017: ROADMAP TO NEWARK'S CODE ENFORCEMENT REFORM. Action is needed on multiple fronts, and in each case, the existence of roadblocks in other places should not be seen as a reason NOT to proceed on any individual front. For instance, the fact that the Courts and the Judge currently assigned to Newark Code Enforcement does not take the process seriously is not a reason to give up on other aspects of Code Enforcement Reform. Each piece of the puzzle needs to be put into place, and by doing so, it places more pressure on the remaining pieces.
In general, I see the following interconnection of issues and policy directions regarding Code Enforcement. The following is a suggestion by this blogger to the Code Enforcement Committee, literally a first draft of an evolving concept:
1. massively increase fines to the property owners
2. allow for daily fines for issues not resolved, after court-imposed deadlines are not adhered to
3. increase the issues that draw fines
4. the annual rent increase should be void unless Rent Control and Code Enforcement fines are paid in full
5. For any given month, the annual rent increase in any dwelling unit should be void unless all building code violations in the dwelling unit are resolved by the first of the month.
6. For any given month, the annual rent increase in an entire building should be void if there is no heat, no water, no hot water, or no central AC in the entire building, or if any elevator is out of service on the first of the month. On the first of the following month, the annual rent increase is again void if those major building systems are not 100% operational.
7. Newark needs at least 100 code enforcement officers. We need to supercharge the concept that Code Enforcement is a revenue generating department
8. The case load will be beyond the capacity of a single judge. Perhaps convene the Code Enforcement Court by Ward, at a location in each Ward.
9. The judges must take this whole matter seriously, and impose heavy fines
10. Increase the reasons for incarceration of landlords, and beef up the language pertaining to this
11. Increase the actual incarceration of the owner (the Managing Member of the LLC) if ongoing and serious violations are not fixed.
12. Implement a database that tracks everything, and is publicly accessible
13. The database must be seamless between Code Enforcement and Rent Control Office
14. The database must incorporated an increased Registration requirement. Everyone associated with a property and all their contact information is to be documented annually, so Newark can best go after them. There will be an annual registration fee sufficient to cover the costs of data input.
15. There needs to be a better "system" in which the courts report back to Code Enforcement AND Rent Control on the disposition of cases
16. Tenants must be notified, in writing or email, of the results of any inspection in their unit
17. Tenants must be notified, in writing or email, of any Court Date assigned to the Landlord, so that they may attend and testify
18. Tenants must be notified, in writing or email, of the results of any Court hearing associated with violations in their unit
19. The Database must include the results of all inspections and court hearings, including the imposition of fines
20. There must be a Mayor and City Council sitting in power that considers Code Enforcement Reform to be mission-central to improving the quality of life of our residents, and the city in general. Either they get smart, or they get out. We don't need elected officials who are primarily concerned with maintaining their income and building their pensions. Same for Baye Wilson of Economic Development. Bye-bye Baye ! Put in someone who has a community-based understanding of these matters. I'll eagerly throw my name in the hat for that position.
21. There must be zero meddling from "connected" County and State elected officials and Party officials. Instead they should be asking how they can help advance Code Enforcement Reform in Newark.
22. There should be an informed and engaged citizenry. Bottom-up public policy making should be promoted. If possible, Neighborhood Councils should be created, and one of their primary directives should be to advance Code Enforcement.
23. All of this, the entire system, needs to be a gigantic revenue-generating process that will more than pay for itself, and pump tens of millions of "profit" into the annual city budget. And it needs to be so profitable that no future city council or administration will dare to unwind these reforms and lose all the annual revenue.
24. Recognize that an improved Newark, where apartment buildings and multi-family houses are not full of violations, and without abandoned properties and vacant lots is worth more. And if its worth more, it pays more taxes to the City of Newark. From an economic standpoint, Code Enforcement is much more than simply a revenue-generating department.
The whole system of Code Enforcement and the Courts in Newark must be widely seen not as the pathetic kangaroo court that it is today, but as a monster to be feared and avoided at all costs. It's time to build the monster.
This set of reforms, when completed, will utterly destroy the slumlord business plan to the point that the most economical and efficient business plan is the one in which the landlord wants to keep the properties up to snuff at all times.
The citizen leaders of Newark need to take matters into our own hands, because we do not have elected officials that have this understanding of the problem, or are willing to bring about the reforms. They just want to sit in power, not make any waves, and maximize their income and pensions.
The citizen leaders need to hit each aspect of Code Enforcement Reform in different ways. And there is a collective solution. All the pieces of the puzzle will snap together. The bad landlords are going to shape up their act, or get out of Newark. We'll no longer have to deal with their attorney lobbyists proclaiming that nothing will be fixed in Newark unless the landlords have a financial incentive for profit. That whole paradigm is coming to an end. A new paradigm is being forged.
Our critics will surely state that Code Enforcement Reforms of this magnitude will deter investment in Newark. Actually the reverse is true >>> The current chaos that we know as Newark deters investment. Once Newark is under control, and especially as the problems themselves are abated, Newark will be truly open for business. Investors and business owners will want to locate their business here, because the city will be clean and safe and inviting, and populated with happy tenants living in decent housing. We are going to end the chaos that is so much harming Newark and it's residents. This is central to the paradigm shift.
We want a Newark in which the people of Newark are going to want to stay, not get out as soon as it is financially feasible. There is a holistic answer to the problems of Newark, and it's far different from the gentrification vision of driving out the people of Newark and bringing in new and "better" people. We have great people in Newark now. There are leaders and geniuses in every neighborhood, people who have been shut out of the process or who's potential has not been realized.
Quality of Life is the focus but it's not just quality of life. We understand and recognize that we need the JOBS provided by commercial development. Furthermore, the RATABLES of that commercial development will allow provide quality services to Newark (schools, police, fire, social services, DPW). And that is central to the winning argument for everything that we are doing.
May 23, 2017: Tonite's meeting of the Newark Housing Coalition was tremendous. Dozens attended again, including new faces. The group has active subcommittees on several issues, and took a formal "Yes" vote to proceed with the Rent Control ballot initiative. Several of the petitioners have a history of collecting thousands of signatures on other petition matters by themselves. Our goal of 2200 signatures can literally be attained by 1 or 2 people. We have dozens of people committed to getting the signatures. If we can get 10,000 signatures, it's more than needed, but the process of getting the signatures educates the voters. At the end of the day, this needs to be voted on.
May 21, 2017: An attempt was made this afternoon to try and lure me into a house, by text, under a false pretense. I believe the real purpose was to cause me harm or death. The house address is 138-140 Eastern Parkway, Newark, NJ 07106. If anything happens to me, the investigation starts there. A second address is connected with this incident, which is in the South Ward: 51 Parkview Terrace, Newark, NJ 07112
May 20, 2017: BALLOT INITIATIVE PLANS: Folks interested in petitioning for the ballot initiative should make their desire known. Tenant leaders will soon be handing the "Dream Ordinance" over to the legal team. We already have a "dream team" of lawyers as well. Lawyers very knowledgable on ballot initiatives and rent control will very soon be pouring over the details to finalize the proposed Rent Control Ordinance already drafted by housing advocates. We are going to gather the required signatures and put it to the vote on Election Day in November. The changes coming are beyond the worst nightmare for the landlords, and our elected city officials who support them. They are just going to be astounded by the turn of events.
Yes we can do this. And yes, the voters of Newark will approve it into law.
Want to place the blame for this? The blame goes squarely on whoever pushed the Newark City Council so hard to roll back some of the 2014 reforms in March of 2017. That's probably several people high up in the Essex County and/or State Democratic Organizations, who are themselves acting on behalf of the landlord lobby. They won on March 7th and rolled back one-quarter of our hard-fought victories from 2014, but every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And that reaction is coming strong and hard. It's going to be a bitter pill to swallow on Election Day in November.
And the Newark housing community is now mobilized and supporting each other's efforts. It's not just Rent Control, it's Inclusionary Zoning, it's other Planning and Zoning matters such as the 284-unit high-rise proposed for The Ironbound, it's the demolition of public housing, it's code enforcement, and more. There are victims, and there are the victimizers. We are unifying, and we are taking sides.
Our elected officials that voted to weaken rent control on March 7th are on the wrong side. Every one of our elected officials in Newark is a homeowner, and since none of them are tenants they simply cannot comprehend the magnitude of the housing crisis that renters are facing in Newark, and across America. The bottom line is that over the past decade or so, rents are way up, and income is stagnant. As a result everyone's budget are absolutely broke, they stuck where they are living (if they are lucky), and they squeezed into debt. Plus at the same time, banking interest rates and fines are higher than ever on that debt, compounding the crisis.
These are the worst times for renters and the working class since the Great Depression in the 1930's. The biggest difference from the 1930's is that this time there is no media focus on our suffering, and no serious political movement to address our needs. This is true and absolute oppression void of compassion and any significant attention of the media. The Democratic Party, which claims to champion the working class, is in nearly complete cooperation with the landlords and other wealthy business interests like Goldman Sachs. Can I say it, to hell with Phil Murphy, Mr. Goldman Sachs himself. Things are really coming to a breaking point. The residents of Newark will be silent on the ongoing injustice of the housing crisis no longer.
The few news articles printed on housing inequities do continue to document the problems. Here's a revelation that I found astounding: Tens of millions of middle and upper income Americans receive a tax break for mortgage interest when they file their income taxes. Everyone just takes this for granted, but what does it really mean? This is a government housing subsidy for the middle and upper class. And many of the people receiving it are AGAINST government housing subsidies for the poor. But for their own housing subsidy that they are getting, that's OK. There are some true hypocrits out there. These government housing subsidies for middle and upper income Americans EXCEED government housing subsides like housing vouchers and Section 8 for the poor. Amazing and true. NY Times article on MID subsidy
Our next general meeting of the housing coalition is Tuesday at 6:30 at Rutgers Newark, 123 Washington Street, Room 394.
May 16, 2017: Article about the controversial high-rise planned for The Ironbound Opposition to 12-story tower See our May 11 news as well.
Rumors persist that The Addison, located at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Ave will either be sold or will dump Kettler Management by June 30th. If the buildings are sold, it might not be a "real" sale, but merely a sale between LLC's within a shell-game of LLC's.
Matt Shapiro of NJTO and Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United have reached agreement on the "legal absurdity" issue. The two had been looking at the same problem from different angles for over a year. Matt's concern was that Newark was allowing applicants to claim the mortgage principle on Hardship Applications, when only the mortgage interest is to be claimed. The difference becomes extreme towards the final years of a mortgage, in which the principle payments are much higher. Eric's concern was the escalating and fraudulent responsibility that the tenant bears as the mortgage balance is paid down. It's the same problem.
May 15, 2017: A draft exists in "ordinance format" for broad changes to the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. Housing activists will soon begin the process to refine and perfect it. This is the first step to putting a whole new Rent Control Ordinance on the ballot in November. This is not the same document as the priorities submitted a few weeks ago to the Newark City Council by Newark Tenants United. A separate list of priorities were submitted around the same time by Ironbound-based housing advocates.
May 11, 2017: HACKENSACK-LEVEL ZONING CONTROVERSY BEGINS IN NEWARK. Over 200 people packed the Newark Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing for a 12-story, 284 unit high-rise at 28-50 McWhorter Street. This is in The Ironbound about 2 blocks from Newark Penn Station, a bit south of Ferry Street. The applicant is asking for extreme variances, including 100% lot coverage instead of 60%. They also propose zero affordable housing. Housing advocates from all over Newark were present, and 67 raised their hands to specifically be counted in objection to the project. The hearing is delayed to August 10th because an Engineering Report was not ready for the Board's review and the public's review.
One or two attorneys representing neighborhood concerns were there in objection, which means that this application will undergo many full evenings of testimony as the applicant prepares a detailed case, and the objector attorneys cross-examine all of the expert witnesses of the Applicant. Having been born and raised in Hackensack, I am aware of two cases on Prospect Avenue in Hackensack (PC Air Rights, and the Bergen-Passaic Long Term Acute Care Center (LTACH) that went about a year with Zoning Board hearings.
Both applicants were beyond arrogant and absolutely certain that their lawyers would win it one way or another, both cases were ferociously opposed and denied, both were appealed to Superior Court, and both denials were upheld in Superior Court, and again in Appellate Court. Both Hackensack cases had such extreme political repurcussions that no candidates for public office dared to support the developers. Both of these high-rise cases, along with the Borg's Woods Estates case almost 30 years ago, have created a "culture" in Hackensack in which objector residents understand what they are getting into, and expect to win. There's a level of sophistication to the process that doesn't exist elsewhere in Bergen County, and certainly not in Newark. And the developers now know what parts of Hackensack they dare propose outrageous projects.
This application in Newark will be of this scale. The objectors would be smart to research the Hackensack cases. The magnitude of this controversy will present a considerable problem in Newark, as the city, the Zoning Board, and the residents are all ill-prepared to handle a hotly contested Zoning Application comparable to those Hackensack cases. They all have no idea what they are getting into. The Zoning Board will likely wind up scheduling many special hearings just for this case, and use the regularly scheduled hearings for the bulk of the agenda. It's going to be a terrible learning curve for everyone.
May 10, 2017: The Newark Civic Trust continues to make headway on several fronts. Harry Pozycki is really becoming a force to be reckoned with in Newark.
May 3, 2017: SOCIAL MOBILITY AND POLITICAL CHANGE IN NEWARK. What's been happening for decades in Newark is that people were living in their buildings and neighborhoods only until they had the economic means to move. Every family wanted that extra $200 a month to move up to a better part of Newark, or get out of Newark. This fueled apathy, a lack of civic engagement, and non-involvement with building or neighborhood groups, because everyone's focus was on "getting the hell out". There was no reason to build ties with neighbors and community groups, to help craft solutions to the problems of Newark, or to volunteer for anything. Within the past 5 or 7 years, this decades-long trend has largely come to a grinding halt.
Rising rents, along with predatory banking interest rates and fees, combined with the stagnation of wages, have largely destroyed social mobility in Newark. Most people aren't able to come up with that extra $200 to move to a better building or neighborhood. In fact, social mobility is moving in the opposite direction. People are either downscaling, or they are getting priced out of Newark.
Trends aren't recognized right away. Within just the past year or two, more and more people and families have started to accept the grim reality that they are stuck where they are. They are not moving up in the near future, and their dream to move up has been replaced with a new and harsher dream just to survive where they are living now.
As a result, the attention is turning towards NEWARK. It's focussing on the neighborhood problems. It's turning against the blood-sucking landlords, and against the politicians who are in their pockets.
People are mad. Just mad as hell. And if they can't move up, people are demanding that their current living conditions improve. They want stronger rent protections, they want effective code enforcement, they want youth programs for their kids, they want new parks and upgraded parks, they want more affordable housing options, and they want better schools.
The voters want Newark politicians who are activists and will push for positive change instead of sitting on the city council and just voting "yes" on whatever ordinance is put in front of their face by their higher political leaders. I'm talking generally about all of them, but specifically about Eddie Osborne and Joe McCallum. Both were put on the city council as "yes" votes for the mayor, and in 3 years they have contributed virtually nothing of their own origin. Same for Luis Quintana, he was elected as a "yes" vote for a former politician, and he's still sitting up there.
Most politicians are primarily interested in collecting their salaries and build their pensions. They want to keep things quiet so they have no controversies to have to address, no complicated issues (like rent control) to have to research and understand, no citizen groups to represent, and their pension-driven financial worlds are not threatened on Election Day. This is an indictment not just of Newark, it's an indictment of almost all politicians of all political stripes.
We're just tired of that, and there's a groundswell building.
Former Mayor Ken Gibson famously quoted "Wherever America is going, Newark is getting their first". Well, if that's true (it is true), take a look at what is happening in Newark. People are joining neighborhood groups and tenant associations, they are building coalitions, and they are mobilizing for change. And that change in Newark isn't waiting for the 2018 Newark Municipal Election. Not a chance. There's too much energy, too much anger, and too much demand for things to improve in Newark.
We're coming up on the 50th anniversary of the Newark Rebellion in just a few months. Newark needs to be shaken up once every 50 years. And that shaking is coming, trust me on this. And it's coming right on time. And this time it's going to be shaken up the right way. Newark is going to be restructured and improved, not burned to the ground.
May 1, 2017: Any rewrite of the Newark Rent Control Ordinance should include a one-year rent freeze for the calendar year 2018.
We have the answer to the age-old question: "How does Code Enforcement actually force the landlord to make the repairs". Those familiar with how the system works know that Code Enforcement generates an inspection possibly followed by a fine. But there's no way that court can actually force the landlord to fix the problem, and the fine is just the cost of doing business.
So here's the answer: We can amend the Rent Control Ordinance to allow fines to accumulate daily if a problem isn't resolved. And then, in another section of the Rent Control Ordinance, we can add a clause that say the landlord is not entitled to any rent increase, including the annual rent increase, if the landlord is not current with all Code Enforcement fines. The landlords have been saying for years that they need an "incentive" to make repairs. Well, they should be careful what they wish for, because they are going to get an incentive. And it's not the incentive they want.
And while we are requiring fines to be paid to qualify for the annual rent increase, let's throw in property taxes and the Newark water bill. Landlords under rent control will be incentivized pay their property taxes and their water bills :)
If any landlord doesn't like this, sell your building and get the hell out of Newark. There are better landlords who can buy your property.
April 30, 2017: I wish to offer some commentary on the political rift between Republicans and Socialists. As America suppresses wages and refuses to increase minimum wage, that is literally SOCIALIZING costs onto government and the taxpayer. Folks earning $8-something or $10-something an hour are applying for and receiving welfare, food stamps, etc., because their income not enough to live on. Especially with today's high rents.
Just one company, Walmart, is costing government over $6 billion annually, because Walmart pays so low that their employees qualify for welfare, food stamps, and other services. Something has to give, either the private sector employers have to pay a living wage, OR the more people will simply become dependent upon government.
Given the choice, Republicans are prone to choosing the latter, even though the more people are being subsidized, the more likely they are to vote Democrat or even Socialist. And that is the ultimate irony, Republicans want so much to cut costs for business that they are willing to destroy their own voter base to make it happen.
April 29, 2017: Commentary by Joseph Della Fave, Exec. Director of the Ironbound Community Corp Tapinto.net April 18
The Pennyhorder has published a month by month guide to getting out of debt and saving money Pennyhorder April 27
My apologies to Munirah Bomani and a few other friends. They have been emailing out articles faster than I can post them. Please keep them coming. Catching up on a few of them here.
As we consider doing a city-wide referendum in Newark, here's a chilling article about a judge overturning a referendum passed by 77% of the voters in Orange, NJ calling for the City of Orange school board to change from appointed to elected. For those not up on these matters, there aren't any cities or towns left with appointed school boards. The City of Orange may be the last in Northern New Jersey. The judge's reason was even more chilling, he says the impact wasn't explained well enough in the referendum. As if the other 99% of cities and towns in New Jersey are doing something wrong by having an elected school board ???? What's really going on here is that this judge simply disrespects the legal right for a 95%+ minority community to place a referendum on the ballot, and to enact something into law. The judge is a racist. And that's coming from me, someone who never pulls the race card. Readers know: I'll go years blogging here without pulling the race card. April 25 Judge dismisses referendum
Letter on the foreclosure crisis from Metropolitan Baptist Church this past February Feb 14 2017 Metropolitan Baptist
Information from Munirah about the National Reinvestment Development Corporation NRDC. Also posted in the "Resources" column to the right
NJ.com article from April 25th. Newark Residents don't get a fair share of jobs
Congrat's on a positive career move for Felix Moulier, who is no longer with La Casa de Don Pedro. The bad news is his new gig takes him to South Jersey. Newark has lost a strong supporter of tenant's rights, and will be missed by the Lower Broadway Neighborhood group. Hopefully we'll still be in touch. Here's some info from Felix on Constructive Evictions
From Munirah, April 22 Jersey City Eyes new Affordable Housing regulations
Again from Munirah: Gentrification and Black Lives
More from Munirah: 6th graders tell it to Ben Carson
April 28, 2017: I have again updated the Neighborhood Council tab of this website. This is the project to create a Neighborhood level of government in Newark, so that each neighborhood can directly address it's needs and problems.
April 27, 2017: A strong turnout at the Newark Housing Authority meeting was sufficient to thwart a decision to abandon and demolish Terrill Homes, an aging public housing project in the flood zone of the Passaic River, in the Ironbound community. Lots of tenant advocates, motivated by yesterday's meeting, turned out for this event. It's being hailed as a victory for community organizing.
April 26, 2017: About 50 concerned community leaders turned out for the effort to create a city-wide housing coalition. The group will be addressing all housing issues, including rent control, inclusionary zoning, stopping the demolition of public housing, $15 minimum wage, the mortgage foreclosure crisis, and more. Tenant leaders are putting past disagreements aside and are working together.
This is directly in response to the City Council weakening the rent control ordinance on March 7th. We are stronger than ever, but we know we need to be much stronger. We need to be able to push legislation in Newark against the pressure of the Newark Apartment Owners Association, not simply respond to the assaults against our protections. And what's truly revolting is that the current city council has sat in office for 3 years of their 4 year term and done nothing for rent control. It was a struggle just to get them to implement the law, and to continue to defend against the lawsuit. Without our pressure on that, they would have followed the advise of the former corporate counsel and folded. It's just been one assault after another against the rent control protections passed by the previous administration.
April 24, 2017: WHAT COUNTS, GENERAL ASSEMBLY ELECTION OR SPECIAL ASSEMBLY ELECTION ? This is a followup on the April 21st posting. We have reviewed the Certification from the City Clerk in denying the Referendum Petition, and there's now more questions.
We obviously need a lawyer involved in this, but I think I found the section that is applicable to an Initiative Drive, which is 28 pages long: 40:69A-192.
The matter we originally considered may have been covered under 40:69A-185, but we have since determined than 40:69A-192 is probably the best option. It affords more time to collect signatures, there are less signatures to collect, and it allows a broader range of issues to be covered.
Let's cut to the chase. Here is what Justia has to say about the matter, Justia 40:69A-192, and their article:
40:69A-192. Timing of election at which submitted to voters
17-43. a. Any ordinance to be voted on by the voters in accordance with section 17-36 or section 17-42 of this act (C.40:69A-185 or C.40:69A-191) shall be submitted at the next general or regular municipal election occurring not less than 40 days after the final date for withdrawal of the petition as provided for in section 17-42 of this act (C.40:69A-191), provided that if no such election is to be held within 90 days the council shall provide for a special election to be held not less than 40 nor more than 60 days from the final date for withdrawal of the petition as provided for in section 17-42 (C.40:69A-191) of this act.
b. In the case of an initiated petition signed by not less than 10% nor more than 15% of the legal voters, the ordinance shall be submitted at the next general or regular municipal election occurring not less than 40 days after the final date of withdrawal of the petition as provided for in section 17-42 (C.40:69A-191) of this act.
c. In any instance where a referendum election is to be held as a result of an ordinance of the council which by its terms or by law cannot become effective in the municipality unless submitted to the voters, or which by its terms authorizes a referendum in the municipality concerning the subject matter thereof, the time for submission of the question to the voters shall be at the next general or regular municipal election occurring not less than 40 days from the date of final passage and approval of the ordinance. Referenda held on ordinances adopted pursuant to sections 7 through 11 of P.L.1981, c.465 (C.40:69A-25.1 through 40:69A-25.5) shall be governed by this subsection, except that if the referendum is held pursuant to those sections as the result of the report of a charter study commission, the time for submission of the question shall be calculated from the date of that report.
We posed the question on our April 21st blog post if this coming November election is a General Assembly election. We have determined conclusively that it is.
Now, here's what 40:69A-192 has to say about Faulkner Act Communities:
"The initiative process is commenced when a petition signed by a sufficient number of the municipality's or county’s legal voters is submitted to the governing body. A petition can be submitted to the council if it is signed by either: (1) a number of the legal voters of the municipality equal to at least 15% of the total votes cast in the municipality at the last election at which members of the General Assembly were elected; or (2) a number of the legal voters of the municipality equal to at least 10% but less than 15% of the total votes cast in the municipality at the last election at which members of the General Assembly were elected. (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-184) The difference between the two options is that the first provides an opportunity for the ordinance to be placed on the ballot in a special election and the second does not."
(That's perfect for us, as it would not be in our best interest to do it via a special election, because tenant turnout will always be higher in a regularly-scheduled general election)...
"If an initiative petition contains the required number of signatures set forth in (1) above, the ordinance will be put on the ballot at a special election if there is no general or regular municipal election occurring between 40 and 90 days after the final date for withdrawal of the petition. The special election will be held between 40 and 60 days from the final date for withdrawal of the petition. If an initiative petition contains the required number of signatures set forth in (2) above, the ordinance will be submitted to the voters at the next general or regular municipal election occurring at least 40 days after the final date for withdrawal of the petition. (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-192)"
The last "election at which members of the General Assembly were elected" was in November, 2015. Two districts cover Newark, and each has two State Assemblypersons. In 2015, all 4 Assemblypersons representing Newark were elected for two-year terms.
We actually need signatures from at least 10% of the voters in the November, 2015 election to put a question on the ballot in the November, 2017 election. We need to research the exact voter turnout in Newark in November, 2015, which is likely to be in the range of 30,000 - 40,000. If all we need is 3,000 or 4,000 signatures (not the 12,052 claimed by the City Clerk), it's going to happen.
If we wait until after the November election, the number of signatures to collect will be based on the Fall 2017 election, not the Fall 2015 election. This is a Gubernatorial election as well as an Assembly election. The last Gubernatorial election (2013) drew 45,367 votes in Newark, and 10% of that would mean 4,537 signatures assuming the voter turnout in 2017 will be close to what it was in 2013. There's a strong incentive to do it before the Fall, 2017 election, and in fact to get the question on the ballot for in November, 2017.
Now, for a final twist. As it turns out, there were two State Senators and two State Assemblypersons who were on the ballot in various parts of New Jersey. One of those was District 29 in which Bonnie Watson replaced Grace Spencer, who was promoted to a judge position and retired as an Assemblywoman. District 29 covers about ¾ of Newark, plus all of Belleville. Now we have a gray area. Although November, 2016 was not a General Assembly election (the specific words in the State Statute) there WAS a Special Assembly Election for a seat up for vote in most of Newark. Democrat Grace Spencer resigned her seat, and a special election was held in which Democrat Bonnie Watson was elected. Until we hear otherwise from an attorney secured by us, we are going to consider that Special Election invalid for the purposes of calculating the number of signatures needed.
So, to summarize, the City Clerk, based on the city's legal research, has done the following:
1. incorrectly referenced the November, 2017 Presidential election to determined the number of qualifying signatures. A Presidential election always has the highest voter turnout, then followed by a Gubernatorial election
3. he told us we need 15% of the people who voted in the last General Assembly election, when we actually need 10%
4. And in summary, he told us we need 12,052 signatures, when we actually need less than 4,000.
The initial Petition letter that we submitted on April 11th was to challenge the March, 2017 Rent Control Ordinance. However, for what we actually want to do now (create an ordinance and put it to the voters in November, 2017), we might only need 3,000 - 4,000 signatures.
And we need to take a strong look at that Charter Commission option, which would literally throw them all out of office immediately (November, 2017) and restructure Newark.
April 21, 2017: NEWARK DENIES REFERENDUM PETITION. Newark Tenants United has received correspondence from Kenneth Louis, City Clerk, denying outright the referendum petition on the revised Rent Control Ordinance. In a very surprising move, the City Clerk is NOT giving the petitioners any time to correct the deficiencies as per the 2014 case out of Hoboken. The legality of that is questionable, as the Hoboken decision was clear that additional time should be granted to gather the full number of signatures and correct any deficiencies in the format of the petition. The letter lists 5 reasons for denial, and it's all in a formal Certification signed by the City Clerk. We are withholding the technical details at this time.
The City Clerk has clarified that the number of signatures needed equals 15% of the total votes cast in the municipality at the last election in which members of the General Assembly (New Jersey State Assembly) were elected. 80,348 votes were cast in the November, 2016 election, which means that 12,052 qualified signatures would be required. It would be smart to collect 16,000 signatures, because some will be invalidated. 2016 was also a Presidential election. We're looking to determine if the November, 2017 election is also considered a General Assembly election, because the turnout will be lower than a Presidential election, and therefore the number of signatures needed will be lower. It's certainly a Gubernatorial election, but most or all of the General Assembly was elected in 2016 for two-year terms. Research here is needed.
Now that the effort is denied, the next step could be an outright Initiative & Referendum which will be much broader in scope than the Referendum Petition against the specific ordinance. We stated in the April 18th news that city hall is not going to be happy with what happens next. And that's the next step. We are not playing games. If the city council is not going to pass the laws we want, WE THE PEOPLE are going to pass them on Election Day. And they are going to just fall off the back of their chairs when they see what issues are on the referendum.And that same "WE THE PEOPLE" is going to vote in May, 2018 on the city council. This is not looking good for the city council.
We are reviewing the Faulkner Act provisions for Initiative & Referendum efforts. We are making partnerships with various forces to organize a sufficient number of volunteers to collect the signatures. 32 people could collect 500 signatures each. Or more likely, 15 people could collect 667 each, and 40 could collect 150 each. Organizing 55 signature collectors with these stated goals is well within reach, because people are mad.
People are just generally mad. They are mad at Washington, DC, they are mad at Trenton, and they are disgusted that our Newark elected officials have sat in power for 3 years and done absolutely nothing to better protect tenants. Instead they have taken action to help the bloodsucking landlords. And they haven't done a thing about the Code Enforcement Crisis other than increasing from 8 inspectors to 9.
April 20, 2017: Metropolis' Retail Apocalypse Metropolis is wrong about what they call the "Retail Apocalypse". Yes, retail is in a tremendous decline, and it's costing America millions of jobs and billions in economic activity. But the real problem is not the facts lain out in their article. First, a disclaimer. Yes, some retail has shifted to the internet, but there will never be a situation in which real people will stop looking at real clothes in the aisles and trying them on in real dressing rooms. And that's just one example. People DO want to browse real products, and nothing beats seeing the actual products on a shelf and comparing price and quality.
The real problem is so many people have become working poor. There isn't money left for retail. And if this theory is true, the retail that should be hurting the most is anything related to hobbies, sports, and fitness, because that's the first thing that people cut when the money gets tight. Big department stores and expensive highway stores will take a hit, and dollar stores will be popping up everywhere. And the latter, at least, is surely happening. It used to be that the middle class didn't want to be seen walking into Dollar Tree. No longer.
Where's people's money going ? It's going to housing and credit card debt. Those are the main sinks. Next is college debt and medical costs. For so many people, there's just no money left for retail. Housing costs exploded between about 1999 and 2005, but even after the housing bubble burst, home sale prices are still tremendously higher than it should be. The housing downturn then caused rents to skyrocket, because so many people are locked out of home ownership, either by debt, by changing mortgage rules, or by losing a house they owned.
This was by deliberate design, because the value of a house (y), is a function of the rent roll (x). By increasing rents, the real estate sector sought to stem and then reverse the decline in house and condo sale prices. The banks and landlords have literally planned the disaster we know as the rental housing crisis, and it's all about increasing sale prices.
For different reasons, both political parties are to blame. That's another whole article.
April 19, 2017: NEW PUSH COMING SOON ON THE SECURITY GUARD ORDINANCE. Towards the closing of tonite's council meeting, Councilman Anibal Ramos and Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins both spoke openly about a new effort to revise the security guard ordinance. Ms. Chaneyfield-Jenkins wanted to lower the 100-unit qualifying limit for the security clause to kick in. Landlords had previously complained that the cost of security was enormous. The current ordinance starts security guard requirements at 100 units. The full requirements kick in right away for 24 hours coverage, including 8 hours of an armed guard.
Previously tenant leaders had suggested a tiered system, in which buildings 60 - 99 units would be required to provide 8 hrs, 16 hours, or 24 hours of security guard service, depending on the number of units. The tiered system reflected the idea of an "economy of scale" in which landlords with less than 100 units could afford some security, but not the full 24/7 requirements.
Ramos wants to set up a system similar to the alcohol licensing in which the city has the option to set up tougher security standards in buildings where there are ongoing problems.
Ramos' suggestion echoes sentiments aired a few years ago by a few tenant leaders specifically in regard to Garden Spires, previously knows as Academy Spires, on First Street at Route 280. This is widely believed to be the worst complex in Newark, worse even than any of the projects owned and managed by the Newark Housing Authority. This landlord (slumlord) currently has 3 full-time security guards, and they typically hang out together in a guard-booth building at the entrance driveway, and occasionally one of them makes rounds in the parking lot. They are basically useless because they are not in the lobbies. What's needed in a catastrophic way at Garden Spires is for each of the two buildings to have a 24/7 guard in the lobby who is checking ID's and keeping a visitors log. Some residents there will resist this tremendously, for the very reason that it will put an end to drug dealing, prostitution, and other criminal activity. The buildings themselves are so bad that the guards are afraid to go inside. They need a better security guard company, with guards that aren't scared. Illegal activity cannot function with visitors being ID'd, and that's a fact. And the 3rd guard can roam the parking lots and be on call to assist either of the lobby guards. The situation of "the streets" dominating the buildings can be broken. This is in the best economic interest of the landlord, because they will be able to fill the buildings, and the new tenants will be more law-abiding and less trouble for them.
Some history on the security guard ordinance. In April 2007, lobby security guards were removed at 380 and 402 Mount Prospect. The impact upon the landlord was immediate and catastrophic in two ways. First, the tenants there formed a tenants association and 29 units went on rent strike for 6 months, and battled the landlord on many fronts for years. This embryonic effort ten years ago would later blossom into what we now call "the tenant's movement" in Newark. Those tenants wrote the 2009 security guard ordinance, and got Councilman Ramos to sponsor it.
Second, tenants started leaving because it wasn't safe, and many of the new tenants coming in were "from the streets" and loved the idea of having no guards to ID their visitors. The buildings were going the way of Garden Spires. The landlord refused to accept in his own mind that he could no longer command the 4% annual rent increase allowed at that time. He kept asking higher and higher rents, and the units simply weren't renting. By the time that they were forced to restore lobby security guards in May, 2009, the buildings were close to 30% vacant, and the buildings were essentially bankrupt.
In 2009, the words "in the lobby" were added to the ordinance at the request of tenant leaders at 380 and 402 Mount Prospect, along with requirements to hire state-licensed security companies with SORA-certified guards. In 2011, the ordinance was revised again to require multiple security cameras, but the words "in the lobby" were removed. The tenants who wrote the 2009 ordinance were not advised of the change, and this remains a sore point. The change in 2011 ultimately resulted in security guard cutbacks at Forest Hill Towers and The Addison, and an attempted cutback at The Colonnades.
At The Addison, there has been one guard serving both buildings since the Fall of 2014, and rotating to each lobby every half hour or so. The change back to one guard at The Addison in 2014 did not have the same impact as it did in 2007. In 2007, the guards were stationed in an exterior booth with 0% lobby presence. That booth has since been torn down because it was built without permits. In 2007, there were no security cameras, and the guards themselves were unlicensed minimum-wage workers, not SORA-certified guards. The change in quality of the guards has been significant. Meanwhile, the tenant base at The Addison changed starting in 2011 with RapAd Management. Stable tenants were moving in, and "the street element" was removed from the buildings. The new tenants were law-abiding citizens of all backgrounds.
With quality guards in both lobbies as a major selling point, RapAd management filled the two buildings with stable tenants from 2011 to December, 2013, and then they sold the buildings. The new owner then reverted back one guard less than a year later. This time, the street element has not returned to the buildings. More than likely, the force of gentrification is the difference. There is still a strong need for 24/7 security guards in each lobby, and to check ID's and keep a visitor's log, but the buildings and the neighborhood are both much safer, so the need for the armed guard has diminished. Perhaps Ramos' idea of flexible requirements has some merit.
April 18, 2017: The Newark Zoning Board of Adjustment has denied one of New Jersey's most respected builders on an application to build a 5-story building composed of 80 units, all of which will be affordable housing. The vacant property wraps around the 07104 United States Post Office building at Broad Street and 3rd Avenue in the North Ward. The application was officially denied because the applicant proposed a 5-story building in a neighborhood zoned for 3 story buildings. However, the real reason for the denial was that condo owners in two brand new FIVE-STORY buildings across the street attended to oppose the application based on opposition to affordable housing. And to add further insult to injury, the new 5-story buildings got special funding for their own affordable units. Yesterday's article: Condo owners defeat affordable housing
The City Clerk's office has not responded to the April 11 filing by Newark Tenants United to challenge the rent control ordinance. By default, they are not allowing the action to continue. City Hall is not going to be happy with what happens next.
April 18, 2017: Tonite was the annual Gala of the Citizen's Campaign, held in Somerset, NJ. The promotional video of the Citizens Campaign features several speakers from their Newark Civic Trust, including one prominent tenant leader Citizens Campaign promotional video
April 17, 2017: The Big Loss, an ongoing series of articles about the declining income in New Jersey since 2009, has been updated by it's author. The Big Loss
I can recall in 2007 that the going rate for 3-bedroom units in new houses all over Newark was $1200 a month. It was $1500 a month in most suburban towns. $1800 could get you a single-family house in suburbia. Now, ten years later, all of these prices are dramatically higher, and in many cases doubled. Yet, income is down in New Jersey, and dramatically down in Newark. Rents Up, Income down, how are we to survive? And if we can survive, how are we to ever save money to buy ? The economy remains slugglish, and that's because everyone's money is going to rent, and not to all other industries. What the landlords are doing, in conjunction with the banks and their usury-level credit card interest rates, is called WEALTH EXTRACTION. And it's not just tenants who are suffering, it is every retailer, every restaurant, and every industry where people spend money. We are living in the second age of the Robber Barrons.
April 16, 2017: From the LA Times, here's an article about the impact of housing costs on employers. This is a totally Republican theme, and we housing advocates don't talk about it enough. Businesses are literally leaving high-cost areas, or deciding not to open up shop there, because housing costs are too high. Want to convince moderates and conservatives to support rent control and affordable housing? It's not impossible, and this article is Exhibit A LA Times Article on Housing Costs and Employers
April 14, 2017: On April 13th, the Newark City Council granted three projects a 30-year tax abatement. All of the projects included affordable housing. They were:
1. 650 Springfield Ave @ S. 17th Street. Renovation of existing building to provide 59 affordable units
2. 109 Broad Street @ 3rd Ave. Reinstate tax abatement for 80 affordable units behind and next to the 07104 post office
3. 915-933 Broad Street, which is directly across the street from City Hall. New 5-story building on existing fenced-off vacant lot. 46 affordable units, 38 market-rate units, and 9,050 square feet of commercial space, most likely to be an IHOP or some other restaurant.
We would love to know how long the units will be affordable for. Are they all in for the standard 20 years? If so, that means the units will be free from rent control for a critical 10 years until the buildings are 30 years old. All of these projects are "in" before the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance adoption. That proposal has a 30-year affordable term. The information doesn't say if the units are condos or rentals, and it's quite possible that the units at Broad & 3rd Avenue will be condominiums.
April 13, 2017: The CPI-based rent increase for May is 2.6%, an increase from April's 2.5%. Both are the highest figures since passage of the new Rent Control Ordinance in 2014.
April 11, 2017: CITY REVIEWS CHALLENGE TO RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE REVISIONS The three members of the Newark Tenants United Steering Committee signed a Referendum Petition to repeal the City of Newark Ordinance 17-0273, as adopted by the majority of the members of the Newark City Council on March 7, 2017. Ordinance 17-0273 was the controversial revisions to the Rent Control Ordinance that moved the city closer to Vacancy Decontrol on vacant apartments, and eliminated the right of tenants and landlords to appeal certain Rent Control Board decisions to the city council.
There is 20 days from the publication of a law to submit a Referendum Petition. Today was the 20th day. Staff at the City Clerk's office said that the rent control revisions were not signed by Mayor Ras Baraka, but not veto'd either. When this happens, a law automatically went into effect after a set grace period. That might be 10 days, forgive me for not being sure.
There was a passive standoff at the City Clerk's office as Deputy Clerk Kathleen Marchetti listened to various persons as to whether or not the document should be accepted. Eric Martindale, who visited the City Clerk's office to submit the document, asked that it be stamped for the purpose of meeting the deadline, and to give the City of Newark time to determine it's validity.
Lidya Radin argued by cell phone that case law out of Hoboken in 2014 shows that they must accept the petition even though it is way short on signatures, and to give Newark Tenants United an opportunity to resolve any deficiencies in the format and/or to secure more signatures. It was touch and go for a considerable time as various people weighed in. Ms. Marchetti disappeared into the back room several times, presumably to consult with key city officials. Ms. Radin's contribution was key, as she was able to cite the Hoboken case and compare it to the current situation in Newark.
After a solid hour of information gathering, Ms. Marchetti stated that she was authorized to stamp the document as accepted, and then consult further with the proper city officials to decide if the document will be deemed valid. The document is under review, which is what I asked for originally, and that's fair. This could take a few days, or it may happen tomorrow. We followed up by emailing Ms. Radin's research on the Hoboken case to the City Clerk and Deputy Clerk.
It helped that all the staff at the City Clerk's office knew me both by name and by sight, and they were familiar with my advocacy for rent control over the years. However, I left wondering what would have happened if either of my two African-American associates on our group's Steering Committee had been tasked to deliver the document instead of myself. Would an unfamiliar or much less familiar African-American tenant leader have succeeded in getting the document stamped? I feel I used up every ounce of my white privilege just to get the document stamped and into review by the City Clerk's office. The ball is in their court, and the next step is theirs. Meanwhile, I need to recharge my white privilege; it does come in handy.
April 10, 2017: Look for a major announcement on April 11 on Newark Rent Control
We were contacted by a tenant leader from Oregon who wanted advise on legislation. Leaders there are hopeful to pass a State law allowing cities and towns to adopt a Rent Control Ordinance. Portland will immediately introduce a Rent Control Ordinance. I submitted several pages of recommendations today. There's a whole series of issues that will arise once Portland is allowed to adopt rent control. It might be possible to address some of them in the State legislation.
April 8, 2017: THERE'S A GEM HIDDEN IN THE NEWARK RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE As we finalize our comprehensive requests for changes to the Newark Rent Control Ordinance, we have uncovered a big surprise in the current Newark Rent Control Ordinance. In the event of a Hardship Application, Section 19-2:8.5 allows the Newark Rent Control Board to hire an outside appraiser, for any "good cause", to appraise a property, AND this appraisal is to be billed to the applicant. Any cause is a "good cause". This is amazing on two counts:
1. The 380-402 Tenants Association had asked for this change in 2016, not realizing it was already in the ordinance, and they were told it was going too far, and that the Rent Control Board couldn't just change their Policies & Procedures to start doing this. Instead, Newark would have to adopt an ordinance to allow this. Yet the right to hire and appraiser and bill it to the applicant has evidently been on the books for decades, and buried so deep that nobody noticed it.
2. This sets a great precedent in the Newark RCO. Newark Tenants United also wants the Rent Control Board to have the right to hire an outside auditor who is a CPA to audit a landlord's Hardship Application. This will allow the Board to rest it's findings on the audit of a CPA, in addition to their other findings. This will reduce error and make the city's decision much more difficult to appeal by a landlord in the event of a dramatic reduction of the Hardship Request, or an outright denial. And we want the Rent Control Board to be able to bill that to the applicant as well. We've been told it would be "a stretch" to bill anything extra to the applicant, but low and behold the existing ordinance already allows the Board to bill an appraiser to the applicant. Boom !!!
We will soon be releasing a detailed list of our suggested changes, in priority order. Some of them are old and some are new.
Here's a sneak peek at a new change never before discussed. One imagines that the city council will embrace it with open arms >>>
"There shall be no rent increase application heard by the Rent Control Board, and no annual rent increase for any tenant, unless the landlord is current with both his Newark City property taxes and his Newark City water bill."
Why isn't this already law? Landlords not paying their taxes and water bills has been an ongoing problem in Newark. The landlords are so arrogant that some are even making applications to the Rent Control Board while behind on these bills. The city is routinely behind by millions of dollars on this count, every year, just from landlords. Yes, the tenants are concerned with the overall economic health of Newark, and we got the answer to make landlords pay their property taxes and their water bills. Now, if the City Council doesn't want to entertain this change, then we know for sure that they must really be raking in the campaign contributions from the landlords. Stay tuned...
April 7, 2017: KETTLER SAYS THE ADDISON IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR SALE. The 380-402 Tenants Association has a statement from their Property Manager, Nina-Parker Davis, that The Addison (380 & 402 Mount Prospect Avenue), is under contract for sale. "There is a pending sale", she said. That doesn't mean it's true, it just means she was told that by Kettler senior management. A few weeks ago multiple tenants saw a consortium of Hasidic or Orthodox businessmen walking around the property. They could be new buyers or new managers; there are two scenario's:
Scenario #1: It's true, the buildings are for sale. The current owner, Azure Waterford, realizes they won't be able to squeeze more money out of the tenants, and there is a new owner who wants to take a shot at it, and who doesn't know the level of tenant organizing they will be facing.
Scenario #2: It's a lie, something else is going on. The other possibility is that the buildings are NOT under contract for sale, and it's a deliberate disinformation campaign to cloak a change in management or managing partner, because Kettler doesn't want their staff quitting.
The history here indicates that Scenario #2 is a very real possibility. We didn't know for years who the real owner was. The Tenants Association formed in 2007, but we didn't find out that our owner was the notorious Praedium Group until Praedium sold in 2013, and to our surprise they were listed as the seller in a newspaper article.
From 2007 to 2011, tenants thought the owner was "Audubon" (Chuck Reyher), when actually Audubon was Praedium's management partner, and they never owned more than a 10% stake here. When RapAd was buying out Audubon's stake in 2011, Audubon went around saying "the buildings are selling", when really they weren't. It was only Audubon's stake selling to RapAd. And then RapAd lied for years that they were the primary owner, but it was still the Praedium Group. The lie went so deep that we can't even be sure that RapAd's Property Manager, Jude Mason, knew that RapAd wasn't the primary owner. The higher-up owners could have been lying to him. And then when the real owner (Praedium Group) was actually selling in 2013, their managing partner, RapAd, remained in complete and adamant denial that the buildings were selling.
The bottom line is that building owners and managers are never honest at what is happening, so if Kettler management says a sale is pending, there is no reason to take it at face value. It's probably a disinformation campaign.
It's very possible that Azure Waterford is going to ditch Kettler Management (who is under under contract), and either hire a new management company or sell a 10% stake here to a new management partner. In this case, the disinformation campaign from Kettler senior management would be to tell their employees here that the buildings are selling, and give them permission to tell that to the tenants, when what is really happening is that Kettler is on their way out.
It would not be in Kettler's best interest if their employees knew that a new management company was taking over, because some would get new jobs and quit, and that would disrupt Kettler's ability to manage in the months or weeks prior to the transition. If it's true that Kettler is on their way out, the last people to find out will be the property manager and their staff. So if Scenario #2 is true, Kettler is just lying to their property manager, and she'll be promptly without a job with no advance warning. They don't care about their managers any more than their tenants.
So stay tuned, we'll see what is really happening.
April 5, 2017: Thanks for Hassan Glenn Hamilton of Georgia King Village for providing the two links regarding a major rent control controversy in Jersey City. A new group, Jersey City Together, is taking the bull by the horns in JC, with an eye on the upcoming mayoral election. NJ.com article on violations issued to a mega-landlord Violations article
Hakim Hasan had an opinion piece published on this matter by NJ.com, and focussing on the rent increases caused by capital improvement surcharge applications on vacant units. Hakim Hasan opinion piece
April 4, 2017: MINIMUM WAGE BATTLE NEEDS TO BE TIED TO RENT CONTROL. 15NJNOW, which is the New Jersey affiliate to the national movement for $15 minimum wage, held a major press conference on Saturday, listing their goals. The first goal is an immediate "as soon as possible" increase of New Jersey's minimum wage from $8.44 to $15. This is interpreted by most observers to mean after the Nov, 2017 Gubernatorial election, since Gov. Christie has already veto'd the $15 legislation, and he won't budge on the issue. There appears to be a 100% chance for a Democrat to win in November. Most or all of the Democrat candidates support the $15 minimum wage. This includes the current front-runner, Phil Murphy, but he can't be trusted on that because he's from Goldman Sachs.
The second goal of 15njnow is an increase to $20/hour by the year 2022, with automatic annual increases tied to inflation thereafter.
Newark Tenants United is on record supporting $15 minimum wage. We will discuss at our next Steering Committee meeting to support the expanded position of 15njnow.
We want to bring to the attention of everyone that the primary reason why there is a need to increase the minimum wage is because rent control isn't strong enough throughout New Jersey. Rents have approximately doubled over the past 10 years across large parts of the State, while wages and salaries have been flat. In fact, many people have had declining income in Newark. The increase in rents is simply disgusting, and now it's going to hit employers.
Our State elected officials are deciding to take from all industries instead of limiting the greed of the landlords, even though taking from all industries may result in layoffs, declining tax revenue, and companies moving out of New Jersey. That's how "untouchable" the landlords have become. They have become the kings of New Jersey; how dare anyone suggest that they can't rent units for whatever the market can bare.
What is literally happening with the increase in the minimum wage is that all businesses in all industries are going to take a financial hit (paying their workers much more) because of the extreme greed of the real estate industry. The landlords aren't just taking every last dollar of disposable income from tenants, THEY ARE TAKING FROM ALL OF THE TENANT'S EMPLOYERS AS WELL. Every industry is being impacted and harmed because the State is unwilling to keep rents down.
For arguments sake, let's say that the State had created strong rent control Statewide 10 years ago. Had that happened, there wouldn't be the need to increase minimum wage as high as the current proposal. New Jersey is literally at the point that SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE. And right now, that "something" is every employer paying a $15 minimum wage, and possibly $20 by 2022. There isn't even a real discussion about hitting the landlords. This whole economic battle should not be seen as just tenants vs. landlords. This is Main Street versus landlords. Wake up folks, that's the reality.
And as soon as low-wage tenants have much more money ($15 an hour), you can guarantee that rents will skyrocket everywhere. And once that happens, our landlords in Newark will be screaming even harder to lift the brakes on raising the rents, because "look at how high rents are everywhere else, it's unfair to us". In the end, nothing will be accomplished, and the people will still be suffering. Raising the minimum wage is part of the solution, but to do so without stronger rent control everywhere accomplishes nothing in the long run. The landlords will just gobble up all the additional income.
April 3, 2017: Fortune.com article document Rent Affordability Declines for Blacks and Latinos. Thanks to Munirah Bomani for submitting this fortune.com March 30, 2017
March 31, 2017: Some thoughts from today's 'Build a Thriving New Jersey" Housing Seminar at St. Joseph's Plaza, which was organized by Arnold Cohen of the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey:
1. An issue will not succeed just because of the facts. How it is presented is key
2. "Persuade the persuadable". The speaker stressed that "people who know and care" are not our primary audience. It's the moderates and the people who haven't yet connected the dots that should be the primary audience
3. Messaging is important, as is the need to "build on values and ideas" held in common, in order to persuade the persuadable person to support the housing agenda
4. Don't attack other person's belief systems, or call them out and say "you're wrong"
5. Specific words used or not used is very important. Never use the phrase "affordable housing". A Fannie Mae study found conclusively that the phrase has a negative connotation with the vast majority of people, and yield uncaring and unsympathetic responses
6. Instead use the phrase "affordable homes".
7. Say you are "promoting economic progress", not "fighting poverty"
8. Never say "low income people". Instead say "People who work hard and aren't paid enough to make ends meet"
9. For good messaging
- openness to common ground
- repetition (like seeing a TV ad dozens of times, it sinks in)
- discipline (get comfortable with your messaging)
- talk with common English words, don't talk over people's
10. Help to shape the debate
11. Portray our issue as a civil rights issue
12. Never portray your issue as "complicated", make it simple
13. Never say what you claim not to be (example: Richard Nixon "I am not a crook") because then the discussion is framed around whether you are or aren't what you just said.
14. Mercedez Benz moved out of Montvale, NJ because employees couldn't afford homes in the area
15. Don't overly rely on numbers
16. Use as few acronyms as possible. Housing advocates know what COAH is, for example, but many people do not
17. Get someone from the other side to be a messenger for your cause
Whether or not all the housing advocates in Newark can follow this advise remains to be seen. There is an ongoing debate in Newark as to whether the direction should be "moving to the center" by persuading moderates and independents to support affordable homes, or should it be "moving to the left" by holding rallies and political protests, and organizing various opposition causes to support each other and create a powerful political front.
Today's speaker was clearly in the "move to the center" column, yet immediately following his presentation, one attendee who is well-known in the housing movement provided an alternate perspective that was in direct opposition to most of the points given, esp. 1, 2, and 3.
This clash of perspectives will again be put to the test. In addition to Newark Tenants United organizing internally, there is a push coming out of The Ironbound for all the housing and tenant-related groups in Newark to work together as a "housing movement". This is a good idea, and we support it. However, this also means revisiting the debate over moving to the center or to the left. Both camps appear firm in their positions.
March 29, 2017: MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT BY NEWARK TENANTS UNITED. Newark Tenants United is now officially run by a Steering Committee.
Newark Tenants United Steering Committee
- Eric Martindale
- Carl Hill
- Freedom Bremner
Martindale and Hill both live in The Addison on Mount Prospect Ave, while Bremner lives in the "C" Building of The Colonnades. The organization had been run unofficially by Martindale for years, and then by Martindale and Hill. Hill brought to the team a deep understanding on social and economic justice matters in America, and the role that rent control plays. The addition of Freedom Bremner today allows us to declare a Steering Committee for the first time. Freedom is a born leader, and he is great with technology, including video production.
The organization continues to make progress towards a full Executive Board and adopting bylaws. We are considering candidates for the Executive Board, which will have 7 board members. Persons with the following skills are most desired:
- Major social media campaign capable of reaching tens of thousands of people in a short period of time. Someone with knowledge and experience on this level is needed.
- Grant-writing skills. Newark Tenants United can apply for grants or funding from everything from government programs to philanthropic organizations. The intent is to open a storefront with full-time staff. This will take a few years to accomplish.
- Media outreach. Experience in successfully engaging various media, including blogs, newspapers, magazines, radio, and television
- Grass-Roots Community organizing. We have some of these skills in-house now, but additional experience in community organizing is desired.
We could easily fill our Board immediately with four "yes" people, to arrive at our 7 board members. We don't want "yes" people, we want dynamics leaders will who take us in new and strong directions.
We are in touch with many existing leaders who are concerned primarily with their building and their tenants association, but that's not good enough. Everyone on our Board must be fully onboard with addressing the city-wide, state-wide, and nationwide aspects of the rent control and affordable housing movement. Everyone should have the attitude that WE are going to drive public policy, and advance reforms to help the common citizen. There must be a national focus on economic justice and inequality, and we will help make it happen.
Newark Tenants United will be creating additional video's, and has expectations for aerial footage via a drone. We are formulating an action plan to move forwards, including pro-tenant revisions to the Rent Control Ordinance to at least partially balance off the losses adopted into law on March 7th.
Stay tuned, the real battle is only just beginning.
March 22, 2017: GUBERNATORIAL FORUM TODAY IN NEWARK The Citizens Campaign and The Newark Civic Trust hosted a "No Blame" Gubernatorial Forum today at Rutgers. Three Democratic candidates debated, and a fourth Democrat, Bridgegate activist Bill Brennan, was there and upset that he was deemed too minor to be allowed into the debate. Carl Hill and myself talked with Brennan for about 15 minutes before the debate. Brennan is a fireball. He's a true activist, he's down to Earth, and he has great people skills. He would be a phenomenal challenge in the Democratic Primary if he is ever able to reach the debate stage. He's still collecting his 1000 signatures to run for Governor.
The candidates on stage were Jimmy Johnson, Ray Lesniak, and John Wisniewski, all Democrats. The Democratic front runner, Phil Murphy, who has been endorsed by all the Democratic machines in New Jersey, stayed away. The Republican candidates also did not appear, but they will be offered a separate forum by the Citizen's Campaign. This makes sense. Candidates from different parties don't normally face off against each other until after their respective primaries. The Primaries are in June.
The biggest disappointment was the African-American candidate, Jimmy Johnson. When asked what he would do to resolve problems in the State's cities, his basic response was to look at the cities as opportunities, not as problems. He didn't use the phrase "trickle down", but he might as well have. His response was an insult to everyone working so hard to resolve the problems of Newark and other cities. Johnson is cut from the same cloth as Calvin Souder, the attorney for many of Newark's largest landlords. Johnson is very smart, he has a great resume, and he talks a good game, but he really doesn't resonate with our problems. He just doesn't get it. He also evaded a lot of questions and gave half-answers. Jimmy Johnson has nothing to offer Newark.
Ray Lesniak, who has served for decades in the State Senate, had some good ideas, but on three separate occasions, he forgot what the question was by the time he had the opportunity to rebut the other candidates. He might have early-onset Alzheimer's. He also tried too many times to engage the crowd, even after it was clear to everyone else that the crowd was stiffer than the candidates, and could not be engaged.
There was some talk about the $15 minimum wage by a few of the candidates, but not one candidate said what the people need to hear:
"The biggest problem is that many people just don't have the money to survive. There isn't enough money to pay the rent, pay the bills, and put food on the table. Families with children are burdened with credit card debt, and squeezed by rents rising faster than wages. The people are stressed. Its causing misery and crime. Salaries aren't high enough, and jobs aren't secure any more. We are living in substandard conditions, and landlords rarely fix anything. The people need real relief. Our politicians don't understand how we are struggling, or they just don't care"
I would say that John Wisniewski won the debate. He's thoughtful and intellectual, and he had a sound grasp of most of the issues. He's also the candidate furthest from the Party establishment, and in fact he ran the Sander's Presidential campaign in New Jersey. Wisniewski has an unusual plan for affordable housing, which is to sell units, but not the land. This will make housing cheaper, because the government will own the land. This could be part of a larger housing plan.
My final commentary is on the pathetic nature of today's college students. I was a student at Stockton State College in 1985, and I attended the 2nd Kean Shapiro Gubernatorial debate held at the college's Performing Arts Center. The student body was about 4000, and 400 or so attended the debate. There was no need to publicize the event. The whole campus was talking about it for days, and students were eager to attend. One out of ten students actually attended, filling every seat in the PAC.
What was the response of Rutger's students regarding today's debate? Nobody cared. Rutgers Newark is many times the size of Stockton State, but it couldn't produce 30 students at the event. Today's students have close to zero sense of civic responsibility. They might attend Trump protests, but that's a protest. To actually be involved in something productive and civic-minded is beyond their most basic wiring. It's really sad. About 200 total people attended the event.
March 20, 2017: The State of the City Address tonite by Mayor Ras J. Baraka was again shameful. Not one mention about the struggles of rent control and the dire lack of adequate code enforcement, which are two of the biggest issues in Newark. Newark has about 290,000 population. Over 200,000 residents of Newark are tenants, and our mayor can't find the time to talk about their greatest concerns. Progress is good, but what Newark needs is Progress without displacement. He's clearly afraid of these issues. Also not mentioned is the ongoing controversy of Charter Schools v. Public schools, and the city's Watershed lands. The State of the City is basically the same speech regurgitated every year, focussing on the issues that the mayor wants the press to write about, and ignoring the issues that he wants little media coverage.
Posting an article about a homeless encampment and the economic difficulties in finding low-cost rental housing. It would appear that the housing crisis has two great epicenters, one is for very low-income studio apartments for poor single people, and the other is affordable 3 and 4-bedroom rental units or houses for families. NJ.com article on the homeless
March 19, 2017: Newark Tenants United is working hard to finalize a list of potential pro-tenant changes to the Rent Control Ordinance
march 16, 2017: Tenant leaders did not organize attendance at last night's city council meeting, but two leaders and Independent Producer Lidya Radin all appeared on their own to discuss aspects of the Rent Control controversial changes.
March 15, 2017: Janise Afolo has advised that Mayor Ras Baraka has signed the unfavorable revisions to the Rent Control Ordinance which were passed by the city council on March 7th. Some leaders were holding out on hopes that Ras Baraka would defend the people of Newark with a veto on the ordinance. People are very unhappy.
March 11, 2017: The Newark Civic Trust and it's parent organization (The Citizens Campaign) is hosting a "no blame" Gubernatorial Forum in Newark. It will be held at the Paul Robeson Cultural Center (Rutgers) on March 22, 2017, at 4 PM. It will also be covered exclusively by Channel 9 news. Eric Martindale is one of the Trustees of the Newark Civic Trust.
March 10, 2017: There's a mistake in the 3/7 posting. The Star Ledger / nj.com does not have a circulation of over a million. It's amazingly low, only 114,000. Furthermore, their circulation is not 100 times all the bloggers in Newark. It's more than all the bloggers in Newark, maybe a few times more. But that's all. What's more interesting is that the 114,000 circulation of the Star Ledger is all over New Jersey. Daily readership/views in Newark could only be 5,000 or 10,000. That might actually be less than the audience of all the bloggers and news websites in Newark.
Observers are debating what the vacancy decontrol vote means politically in Newark. Councilmen James, Osborne, Gonzalez, and Ramos worked together on this. The latter two were not part of team Baraka. Councilwoman Chaneyfield-Jenkins wouldn't go along with it, and abstained. Does any of this signify a change in political allegiances. Or is it just a vote that defies the boundaries of politics in Newark? We're not going to speculate at this time.
March 9, 2017: Eric Martindale was interviewed by Nancy Soloman of NJ and NY Public Radio yesterday, and made a few brief comments about the rent control vote yesterday. A Facebook friend said he heard it, so it did air.
A more serious public relations effort is in the making. Radio broadcasts are a small part of it.
Newark Tenants United advises the Ironbound Community Corp that a move is underfoot among the city council for additional rent control legislation in Newark to remove all buildings under 5 units from rent control, whether they are owner-occupied or not. This will be strenuously opposed, if the idea moves forward.
March 8, 2017: Star Ledger article from Tuesday afternoon Deconstruction of Rent Control. This article highlights the fears of tenant leaders about the future of rent control. Tenant leaders remain "stung" by yesterday's vote. We've been organizing for 3 years strong, but what happened yesterday was a first --- we lost.
A few tenants at the public hearing yesterday pointed out some unusual behavior of the city council at the end of the meeting. They were congratulating each other on the Vacancy Decontrol vote. There was at least one hug, and a high-five. "We did it" was overheard. They were really relishing in their victory over the people. They were acting like they had just beaten someone on Election Day. I guess that means we're tough, and there's a cause for celebration on the rare occasion that we are beaten. We'll have to make sure that won't happen again.
A quick note to clarify the difference between a blog and a newspaper article. A blog is a combination of information and editorial, but a newspaper article is not. A newspaper article is supposed to present the facts and give equal weight to both sides on a contested issue. In this regard, the "rules" for a blogger are not the same as the rules for a newspaper reporter. I am acting as a blogger on this website, and the rules allow me to insert much more opinion than a reporter can on his or her articles. I most certainly could be a reporter, but I am a blogger.
March 7, 2017: BAD RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE PASSES. Congratulations to the Star Ledger / NJ.com for securing passage of the 2017 Newark Rent Control ordinance. The Star Ledger, our million-plus circulation regional newspaper, published a glowing article about the pending changes to the Rent Control Ordinance, and highlighted Councilman John Sharpe James, sponsor of the ordinance, in a positive manner. Most of the pressure we have been placing for weeks was nullified. Had the Star Ledger published an article about the gentrification of Newark and the dangers of vacancy decontrol, we would have won today. The newspaper sold out the City of Newark that they have already abandoned, and defended their advertisers (real estate). Advertisers pay them money, tenants don't.
The city council saw clearly that there would be no negative press coverage, and since the Star Ledger has over 100 times the outreach than all the local bloggers in Newark combined, that's all that mattered. Star Ledger article May 7
Note how the article implies that some concerned tenants were OK with the "tweeks" to the ordinance, and that "everyone" thought the $5000 per room equation was too high. Just because a Councilman makes a statement doesn't mean the press should quote it if it is factually wrong. The etiquette of professional journalism suggests that a factually correct statement be published instead. Yes, I have worked as a reporter as well, many years ago. There were a few quotes against the changes, but overall the article wasn't even close to balanced. I just can't wait to see the article about today's vote.
Even with the article, the pressure that we placed was enough to persuade Councilman Amador to be absent (he's done that before) and Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins abstained, saying that more public input was needed. The other 7 all voted "yes". Again, with fair press coverage, we would have won this.
Notably absent from the public hearing was a single landlord or their attorneys. It was a done deal, and they didn't need to come. Dozens of tenants were in attendance, and over 20 tenant leaders and concerned tenants testified against the ordinance. The one landlord who did speak testified in favor of the tenants, noting that she very recently purchased a 2-family house and was previously a tenant. Her tenant is not covered under rent control. She thought the changes were bad for Newark.
The vote on the bad rent control ordinance
Augusto Amador (East Ward) not present
John Sharpe James (South Ward) yes
Joseph McCallum (West Ward) yes
Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins (Central) abstained
Anibal Ramos (North Ward) yes
Luis Quintana (at large) yes
Eddie Osborne (at large) yes
Mildred Crump (at large) yes
Carlos Gonzalez (at large) yes
The changes include:
1. Vacancy Decontrol. The $5,000 per room threshold for substantial rehabilitation and a 20% rent increase is out. Now landlords need to spend the equivalent of 8 months rent to secure a 20% rent increase. At current rates, this reduces the threshold by about 40%, but that figure varies widely from building to building. This is vacancy decontrol
2. Appeals Eliminated. No rent control board decision can be appealed to the city council.
3. Landlord Labor Eliminated. This only affects contractors/investors who want to invest in Newark by buying and fixing up a 2 and 3-family house. They won't be able to claim their own labor towards an application. Tenant leaders have mixed feelings on this. As a contractor, I myself am opposed to it. Contractors shouldn't have to hire another contractor to fix and rent, or fix and flip, a house.
4. Cleaning & Painting not a valid expense. Basically this is an irrelevant "concession". The scope of the projects is such that they are way beyond the cleaning and painting phase.
They effectively passed an ordinance without a single meaningful concession to the tenants.
Several on the city council said they would address tenants objections with yet another ordinance change, reportedly addressing problems with the Hardship Application process and a few other matters.
In our meeting with Councilman James an hour before the council meeting, James told Eric Martindale and Carl Hill that owner-occupied houses should not be subject to rent control, and he's going to introduce another ordinance real soon to change that. We had to advise him that owner-occupied houses are already exempted from Rent Control. The little-guy homeowner is already protected.
Some observers believe that today's vote was ordered by high-up figures in the State Democratic Party, in exchange for the promise (or actual deliverance) of serious campaign donations for this year's gubernatorial election. There's still a chance that Mayor Ras Baraka could veto the ordinance. We'll see what happens there.
Note: There's a mistake in the 3/7 posting. The Star Ledger / nj.com does not have a circulation of over a million. It's surprisingly low, only 114,000. Furthermore, their circulation is not "100 times" all the bloggers in Newark. It's more than all the bloggers in Newark, maybe a few times more. But that's all.
March 6, 2017: Our newest tenant leader in Newark is bursting onto the scene. Welcome everyone to Freedom Bremner, a resident of The Colonnades and a supporter of Newark Tenants United: Freedom Bremner's Call to Action - March 6, 2017
March 5, 2017: posting article by WNYC News Why Tenants Lose Against Landlords in Newark
One focus of the article is that tenants using the Marini habitability defense still have to pay their rent to the Court, and let the Court hold the money in escrow until the repairs are made. Completely eliminating this would be problematic for landlords because tenants who otherwise can't pay their rent would abuse this system and claim "repairs" when the real reason is they don't have the money. Tenants are already doing this so often that it discredits the real and valid complaints of tenants and the tenants movement.
As noted in the article, sometimes the repair and infestation problems are so bad that the tenants have to spend some money on their own to resolve them, and as a result there isn't enough money to pay the rent. I agree that this issue needs to be addressed with State legislation. The issue of the tenant first putting the request for repairs in writing is also a valid counterargument on the part of the landlord. The irony is that it's always in the TENANTS best interest to document everything. We've been saying that for years. If the landlords want something and tenant advocates want the same thing, probably it's a good idea. Any email or letter sent to the landlord, keep a copy forever as your proof.
The big problem is that tenants are not educated on how to address these issues, and they typically default to withholding rent until repairs are made without taking any other measures. And then they show up to Court without a check or money-order paid to the Court, and they have to scramble to get back to the Court by 4:00 PM that same day. Any State legislation should give the tenant until the close of the next business day to come up with the escrow money to the Court. That issue needs to be addressed, and it was not addressed in the article.
How to educate the tenants on the proper process is a significant public policy dilemma, especially for tenants who barely or don't speak English.
Let me speculate, for example, that if the rent is $1400 and the tenant spends $300 on repairs or rodent control, that's a real world issue. Most tenants are living paycheck to paycheck, and now they are $300 short in their ability to pay the rent. Perhaps the answer is for the tenant paying rent in escrow to submit the full rent into escrow MINUS all receipts for labor and material on the repairs. And then when the case is resolved, the Court can release the money in escrow to the landlord, and if they rule that the tenant's repair complaints are valid, issue a formal rent credit for the invoices and receipts produced by the tenant. And the legislation should stipulate that the rent credit must become part of the ledger in the landlord's records for that tenant.
The issue of blacklisting is also a serious social injustice, and not fully addressed in the article. Potential landlords are looking at blacklisting lists without any knowledge of whether the tenant has a valid repair complaint, or is just a deadbeat who can't pay the rent. State legislation is needed on that front as well.
March 4, 2017: Independent producer Lidya Radin has produced a second YouTube Video featuring the speech of Carl Hill of Newark Tenants United, at the March 1st Newark City Council meeting. This time we had editorial control over the inserted text. There were a few issues with the text inserted at the end of the Eric Martindale video. Youtube video: Income Inequality and Rent Control
In addition to Newark Tenants United and the tenant associations that work closely with us, multiple cells of tenant activists in different Wards of Newark are organizing opposition to the proposed ordinance. Multiple action flyers have gone out. Some of the strongest opposition is again coming from the East Ward (aka Ironbound).
Lidya Radin is coming back on Tuesday March 7th to film the city council meeting and the public hearing on the Rent Control Ordinance
March 4, 2017: Someone has created a change.org petition for our cause. We don't know who is the author, but we suspect it originated in the East Ward. We encourage folks to sign it in addition to your phone calls and emails to city officials. The deadline is 10 AM on Tuesday March 7th. This is NOT an evening council meeting, and it is not a Wednesday city council meeting; any information to that effect is false
Change.org petition on Newark Rent Control
Note that the petition is more focussed on Ras Baraka, and it does not identify who the sponsor is. We as an organization would not have taken that approach; this is NOT our petition
March 3, 2017: Independent producer Lidya Radin has produced a YouTube video focussing on the March 1, 2017 speech of Eric Martindale at the Newark City Council Hearing of Citizens. Ms. Radin lives in New York. She is known as a libertarian advocate for housing, free press, and honest government reforms throughout the NY/NJ Metropolitan area. She has been battling with Yeshiva University for over 10 years. Her commentary at the end is a bit tough, but she IS a producer, and that's her choice. YouTube video: Eric Martindale speech on rent control - March 1, 2017
March 2, 2017: Posting NY Times Article about the Renaissance of The Ironbound District march 1 Talks about development, rising rents, and more
And from today's NY Post Is Newark the New Brooklyn It's becoming public knowledge that Newark is gentrifying. It's like the media is announcing to the whole metro area that it's safe to come to Newark.
The Wall Street Journal published a 2/28 article about a Financial Technology Firm leasing 160,000 square feet in downtown Newark, adding 1000 high-paid jobs to Newark. The title of the article refers to Newark as "Booming" Wall Street Journal FinTech 1000 jobs 2/28
The City Clerk's office just confirmed to me that the announcement publicly made at the end of yesterday's city council meeting was incorrect. The March 7th city council meeting will be at 10 AM, not 6:30 PM. Anyone watching the broadcast on Cablevision or FIOS, please disregard the information that it's at 6:30 PM. It's wrong. Also, there is no Hearing of Citizens. Thanks to Drew Curtis on both counts for alerting us on this.
March 1, 2017: At today's City Council meeting, the Rent Control Ordinance was deferred until 6:30 PM on March 7th, due to improper legal notification. Eric Martindale and Carl Hill of Newark Tenants United made strong presentations, supported by Munirah Bomani and several other speakers.
The epicenter of landlord power in New Jersey is the largest yeshiva in the United States, Beth Medrash Govoha. They are located in Lakewood, NJ. The "Renter Hell" series in the Asbury Park Press alluded to them, but did not identify them directly. Surprisingly, Lakewood is now over 100,000 population, making it one of the largest cities in New Jersey, and has had by far the largest population growth over the last 10 years of any municipality in New Jersey. Lakewood is just shy of 25 square miles, compared to 26.1 square miles for Newark.
February 28, 2017: Tomorrow's vote on the bad Rent Control Ordinance will be deferred until March 7th, per discussion at today's Workshop Session. This is only because of legal notification issues. The council remains completely focussed on passing the ordinance. It is a major roll-back of tenant victories without any actual concessions to the tenants. Both concessions offered are meaningless. About 10 housing activists are registered to speak at the March 1 Hearing of Citizens.
February 27, 2017: THE CONCESSION THAT SCREWS THE LITTLE GUY INVESTOR Let's reflect on one of the "concessions" offered to tenants in the proposed RCO. They are saying that the landlord will no longer be able to claim his own labor as a cost towards a substantial rehabilitation application. We the tenants are supposed to be happy about this. So what does that concession actually mean ? Let's say I'm a contractor (yes, I am a contractor) and I want to buy an old investment house in Newark, fix it up, and rent it at market rate. (I would love to do this). And in order to make that investment economical, I'm going to do most of the labor myself, because I'm a contractor. There are tens of thousands of people all over New Jersey that would love to buy a fixer-upper house. Newark wants to take away that business plan. They would make me, a contractor, hire another contractor to do the work, if I'm going to apply for substantial rehabilitation. Not only is this ridiculous, it is completely against the most basic level of capitalism. Just because we are rent control advocates doesn't mean that we are against capitalism. We are against greed and economic injustice. Dare I suggest that taking away the business plan of the solo investor is itself a form of economic injustice?
The big landlords are not affected by this concession because when you own dozens, hundreds, or thousands of units, you don't personally get involved with the actual work. Leave it to the big landlords and their lawyers to come up with a "concession" that doesn't affect them at all, and that screws the little guy investor. This is just genius, and this is what our city administration thinks is fair for Newark. Very little thought went into this ordinance, on the city level. They were handed this concession, and they had no idea what the ramifications would be.
February 27, 2017: Drew Curtis has advised us that rent control is on the agenda for a special city council meeting for 10 AM on March 7th. This could mean another round of attacks against rent control protections is commencing immediately. Hopefully we'll find out tomorrow at the Workshop Session.
Interview with Tom Moran of the Star Ledger, addressing the issue of slumlords in Newark, and possible legislative remedies. Interview with Tom Moran Feb 27, 2017
February 25, 2017: The Newark Tenant News Blog now starts with quick information on Action items. If nothing urgent is going on, the CALL TO ACTION ITEMS will say "none"
Republishing THE BIG LOSS, from December, which shows how real income is down in our region. How does rent go up and income go down ? This has always been the most relevant argument for rent control; it shows how badly people are being squeezed. Our city council must understand this is the basis for public policy on rent control and affordable housing
February 24, 2017: CPI-U SURGE CONTINUES TO 2.5%. At the same time the City of Newark is proposing Vacancy Decontrol within our Rent Control Ordinance, the surge in the CPI-based rent increase continues with no end in sight. The April figure was just released, and it's up to 2.5%.
In the event that the change in the CPI-U exceeds 4%, the annual rent increase defaults to a 4% cap. As of very recently, gasoline prices are way down again, so this might push the CPI-U lower in a few months. There appears to be a 2 or 3-month lag between a change in gasoline prices and the official CPI-U figures. That's a short-term possibility. Long term could be more difficult for tenants, as the possibility of new and stronger tariffs on imports could dramatically affect the cost of various goods that factor into the CPI-U.
The Case for Licensing Landlords was published in The Gothamist on Feb 23. Thanks to Drew Curtis for this information.
Matt Shapiro of NJTO has confirmed that there is no requirement for a Rent Control Ordinance to allow a Property Tax Surcharge process. The only thing required are Hardship Applications.
February 23 2017: WILL THERE BE AN AVALANCHE OF TAX SURCHARGE APPLICATIONS? The issue of future Tax Surcharge Applications is becoming a concern regarding the proposed changes to the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. If the proposed changes are passed, it will set into motion a chain of events that will cause an avalanche of Tax Surcharge Application to the Newark Rent Control Board. This will translate into massive rent increases upon all tenants, including old tenants who don't live in upgraded apartments.
Once large numbers of units in a given building experience the 20% rent increases, the rent roll will be much higher. And as the rent roll goes up, so does the value of the building, and then the property tax bill follows in place.
The law, as written, allows the landlord to package his good fortune as a "burden", and pass it along to the tenants as a property tax surcharge RENT INCREASE.
The concept of a Property Tax Surcharge is fair only as it relates to an increase of property taxes due to excessive spending on the part of the City. But if taxes are going up because the rent roll has gone up, is it fair to pass that "burden" along to the tenants? If the change in rent roll/property value is something the landlord wants and has been demanding, how is that a burden to him?
This reminds me of the tremendous Property Tax Surcharge application that was attempted by Kettler Management for The Pavilion, The Colonnades, and The Hallmark House about 4 or 5 years ago. The Pavilion and The Colonnades jumped tremendously in value due to the demolition of the nearby Baxter Terrace housing project on Orange Avenue, while the Hallmark House increased simply due to it's prime downtown location. Hey, when the landlord does nothing and the building goes way up in value, that should be a cause for celebration on the part of the landlord. The increase is not to be repackaged as a "burden", and passed on to the tenants.
The criteria for Tax Surcharge Applications needs to be completely redefined to prevent this type of gouging. Or if possible, eliminate it entirely. It's part of a vicious cycle. First, make housing unaffordable with 20% rent increases, and then make it more unaffordable with an associated Tax Surcharge application. The landlord's bag of tricks is endless.
Nobody can say that the proposed Rent Control Ordinance changes are needed to try to stimulate growth and prosperity in Newark. We've seen the newspaper articles coming on a weekly or even daily basis. Newark IS prospering, despite all the "sky is falling" talk when the Rent Control Ordinance was passed in 2014. We said that was all lies, and we were right !!!
The growth of Newark should not come as a burden on the backs of the tenants. Newark is growing now. Newark is prospering, Newark is adding jobs, and Newark could be bringing in major employers who are attracted by the affordability of housing. Newark has even become a Vogue destination. And as the downtown prospers and the non-residential portion of the Newark tax base increases, the tax burden shifts away from the residential sector. All of this is good. We can all benefit. There is no reason to pit homeowners versus tenants on the matter of property taxes.
All we ask for is that the tenants be PROTECTED, and that the affordable rent structure of existing buildings be preserved. New people are going to move in regardless, and many of those new people will be higher income. Filtering is over, and gentrification has begun. All of that cannot be stopped, but one thing for sure is that gentrification doesn't need to be supercharged with the proposed ordinance change. We want those new tenants and the existing Newark tenants to enjoy the lower rents that Newark offers. Lower rents are the greatest thing about Newark, and that's how we outcompete New York, Jersey City, and suburban New Jersey. We'll have money to spend to power the economy in Newark, or to save money to buy houses. We don't want to be max'd out on rent just to satisfy the disgusting greed of the landlords. There's no give and take in their world, tenants exist only as a resource to suck out every last dollar.
Don't gouge the tenants, don't destroy the affordability of housing in Newark. Don't pass the bad rent control ordinance.
February 22, 2017: There will not be a meeting of housing advocates at The Priory before the all-important March 1, 2017 Newark City Council meeting. There are too many schedule conflicts of the leaders. Newark Tenants United will be doing it's share to coordinate tenant input to the city council. We will be outlining the deficiencies of the existing Rent Control Ordinance as part of the process. Newark Tenants United wants to extend our thanks to Joseph Della Fave of ICC, for his continuing commitment to the housing needs of Newark. Active members of his organization and their volunteers and friends will be coordinating their own advocacy on this matter. Multiple people from The Ironbound have registered to speak at the city council meeting.
One item kicking around is whether or not applications for substantial rehabilitation should be heard by the Rent Control Board prior to the work being done, and including an inspection before the application. Something needs to be done to prevent landlords from gutting perfectly good kitchens just to hit the spending goal to achieve at 10%, 15%, or 20% rent increase. There needs to be an answer to this problem. This might not be the best answer, but we're throwing it out there for the issue to be discussed.
February 21, 2017 Two more articles about the gentrification of Newark
nj.com article on Vogue Magazine selecting Newark as a tourist destination for Arts, Dining, and even shopping. Dated 2/21
jerseydigs.com article dated 2/21 on Newark’s University Heights Is a Neighborhood In Renaissance
The Newark housing advocacy community includes groups fighting for rent control, affordable housing (aka Inclusionary Zoning) and the preservation of low-income housing. We are planning a meeting, imminently, to address the ordinances up for vote on March 1st.
ASSISTING IN JERSEY CITY: Reporting that on February 17th, two strong housing advocates from Newark visited and consulted a new group that is organizing a city-wide effort for Jersey City. Issues related to housing and gentrification are at the top of their agenda. The Jersey City group has decided to organize within The Citizen Campaign. It was a very productive meeting. The housing advocacy community in Newark looks forwards to strategizing with our new allies in Jersey City.
NEWARK TENANTS UNITED BOARD MEMBERS SOUGHT: As the stakes get higher, it's becoming more urgent to organize and halt the gentrification of Newark. Newark Tenants United still has not formalized an Executive Board and bylaws, but we've taken major steps in that direction. The bylaws are ready. We are interviewing potential Board members. Ideally we would like to make an announcement with 6 people. It's not easy to find the right fit. Two people who can potentially serve have recently been denied.
The ideal candidate is someone interested in addressing housing and social justice matters on a city-wide level, not just for the buildings where the Executive Board members live. There will also be some focus on the regional and national level, and perhaps networking with groups in other cities and States. Honesty and integrity is of the highest priority. Any move towards an unethical postion or self-interest automatically disqualifies. The ideal candidate does not answer to any elected official, and is not under the sway of any elected official. He or she can have personal political ambitions, but not put them above the need to organize for the social and economic justice needs of Newark. He or she should be able to make a professional presentation, and not be shy about addressing the city council at the podium. Any skills or experience regarding website development, public relations, fund-raising and grant-writing is especially relevant. The organization will make decisions as a committee of equals, and not function in a top-down manner. Those interested in possibly serving can contact us at email@example.com
February 19, 2017: HOW BROKEN DREAMS BECOMES BROKEN FAMILIES. The denials about gentrification continue. Mayor Ras Baraka is quoted in an nj.com article today, saying that Newark is not gentrifying. Is Newark the next Brooklyn? Mayor says no He says that areas that have been down for 30, 40, or 50 years are simply improving.
That is gentrification, plain and simple. He can deny it all he wants, but that doesn't change the facts. There's gentrification, and then there's the reverse, which is filtering. You've either got one, or you have the other. It's like a light switch that is either on or off. Both can't happen at the same time in the same neighborhood. 15 years ago, Maplewood and South Orange switched from filtering to gentrification. West Orange was next, and then Bloomfield only about two years ago. Now it has become very clear that downtown Newark has flipped, and so has The Ironbound, University Heights, and parts of the North Ward. Here's an article about filtering vs. gentrification
Filtering is still going on in the West Ward of Newark, and that's probably why housing advocates were unable to secure the support of the Unified Vailsburg Services Organization (UVSO) last year. It's hard to complain to them about gentrification, when most of their corner of Newark is still falling apart. They just aren't ready for what is coming. We've heard reports that they are starting to wake up, we'll see. That neighborhood is like a sleeping giant.
I want to reflect more on the February 16th blog posting, which talked about a near future Newark in which the poorest neighborhood complete the flip from filtering to gentrification. I talked about how people will be trapped in their neighborhoods, without the economic means to move to better parts of Newark, or out of Newark, and that the social consequences will affect tens of thousands of families for generations.
I think a few things will happen. Let's take a look into the crystal ball: (1) First, people will become madder than hell. They will be mad at "the system", they will be mad about the economy, they will feel increased emotions about "racism", and they will be mad at all levels of elected officials from city hall to the White House. (2) Second, they will vote. And they will be furious at any elected officials that they believe have abandoned them. Voters will become more and more upset that a new Newark is being created, but it's not being created for them, it's being created for newcomers. (3) Third, for decades most people's idea of improving their lives has been to move up to a better neighborhood, or a better town. They didn't want to be involved in neighborhood affairs, because their goal was to get out. Well, it's already true that almost nobody can get out, because every decent town or quite neighborhood in Newark has become ungodly expensive.
Now that this dream of moving up is being crushed, people will absolutely demand that their neighborhoods be improved. They will become completely intolerant of urban blight, vacant lots, burned houses, neglected properties, and the whole social scene that revolves around corner liquor stores and bodegas. They will organize powerful neighborhood associations or strengthen those that exist. The call for increasing code enforcement actions will become a resounding chorus. Is this going to happen? I don't need to make this prediction, it's too easy. I can put away the crystal ball for this one, it's happening already. Is this a sign of hope? Perhaps.
But what's also happening at the same time is that families are being crushed economically. They will have no money to spend, because every last dollar that could be part of consumer spending is going to the rent. The more families are stressed, the more crime increases. That means more domestic violence, more divorces, and more broken families. Bottom line: broken dreams means broken families.
February 16, 2017: THE CRUEL WINDS OF GENTRIFICATION HAVE SET UPON THE CITY OF NEWARK. And it literally happened during our press conference, at about 6:20 PM.
As yesterday's catastrophic news of pending vacancy decontrol spreads, the realization has set in that Newark really is gentrifying. A housing "core" of over 1000 units is under construction in downtown Newark in which 2-bedroom units will be renting for $2,500 a month or more. This means that the market value for older 2-bedroom units, in older rent-controlled buildings of similar size automatically jumps to that level. I'm talking about The Hallmark House, The Pavilion, and The Colonnades. Even The Addison, two miles away from downtown, is directly affected. People in Forest Hill think they are living in a bubble, unaffected by the changes downtown. They are clearly mistaken. All 26,700+ rent controlled units in Newark are affected.
And now, with this proposed vacancy decontrol ordinance, our city council is allowing a mechanism for the rents in these buildings to skyrocket. And this is happening just as we are truly under the gun, and need the most possible protection. This is what our city council is doing to us. You'd think they'd be happy with all the new construction coming to Newark. No, it's not enough, they want to remove the protections on the older housing stock so those rents rise to an unaffordable level.
It doesn't matter if the unit already has a new kitchen. Hell, they'll rip out that new kitchen and put in another new kitchen, just to hit the spending goals in the ordinance for a 20% rent increase. And there's nothing in the proposed ordinance to prevent that kind of abuse. East Orange has some protections on that abuse, but Newark will not.
If someone asked me a month ago if I was part of gentrification, I would have responded "No, ten years ago I moved from Bergen County to Newark to find lower rent, so me personally, I'm not part of gentrification." Only very recently has the true nature of gentrification dawned upon me. That's exactly how Brooklyn gentrified. People moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn to find lower rent. Same for Hoboken. That's no different than me moving from Bergen County to Newark. So I am part of the gentrification, and so are most tenants in my building.
Even myself, a housing advocate for nearly 10 years, did not understand the Beast we call gentrification. The public really needs to be educated. We will not tolerate any of our elected officials saying that Newark is not gentrifying, nor will we tolerate Councilman John Sharpe James or any other council member twisting the facts and presenting the ordinance as anything less than the absolute betrayal that it is.
What is filtering, and what is gentrification? As recently as 2011, most incoming tenants in my building (The Addison at 380 Mount Prospect Ave) were moving up from lower-status parts of Newark. Many young Latino families with young children were "moving up" from crowded streets of the North Ward, streets like Garside Ave and Summer Ave. Others, especially stable middle-age African-Americans, were moving here from all over Newark to finally fulfill a life-long dream to make it to the Forest Hill section. Literally a page from the old sitcom, The Jefferson's.
Demographers call this "filtering". Those days are over. That outflow from the lower-status areas has been squelched, as few people in those areas now have the economic means to advance their condition in life. They are trapped in their neighborhoods. The social consequences of this are enormous, and will affect tens of thousands of Newark families for generations, but that's another whole discussion.
For decades, filtering has dominated Essex County and changed the nature of suburban towns near Newark. Now the tap is shut, and there's no more filtering. The demographics have reversed, and now it's all inflow. Almost every single new tenant is relocating here from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Hoboken, Jersey City, suburban areas, or higher-status areas in other States. And there's a name for that inflow --- gentrification. People are coming for lower housing costs, but they are largely of higher economic means than the existing residents.
And now our Newark City Council is removing the protections in the Rent Control Ordinance regarding rent gouging and vacancy decontrol. The stock of affordable units will greatly diminish, and the long-term tenants with lower rents will become second-class citizens. The long-term residents who are paying less rent will be harassed by our management and staff, and our maintenance requests will be ignored, because they want us out. They want to rip out our new kitchens to hit some spending goal in the ordinance, and increase the rent 20%.
As we prepared for the press conference on the steps of city hall yesterday evening, a light but steady rain set in. A chill set in. Then in the middle of our brief press conference, a cold front moved through. Gusts briefly hit over 40 mph, overturning the heavy folding table we had set up. Temperatures dropped from the low 50’s to the upper 30’s, and the rain stopped. We should have seen that gale-force blast of cold as the omen that it was. The cruel winds of gentrification are upon the city of Newark.
February 15, 2017: VACANCY DECONTROL ORDINANCE ADVANCES ON FIRST READING. This is really bad news. A second reading and public hearing will be held on March 1, 2017 to finalize a major rollback in rent control protections. The ordinance is a frontal assault on the supply of affordable housing, and it gives landlords a tremendous incentive to drive out existing tenants, make units vacant, spend a small amount of money, and increase the rent for the next tenant.
It's all about vacancy decontrol. There are many possible ways to achieve vacancy decontrol, all from the NYC playbook. The landlords have been focussing on substantial rehabilitation as the means to achieve vacancy decontrol in Newark. The result is the same for all types of vacancy decontrol, which is to bypass the annual CPI-based rent increase to bring rents to market rate when a tenant moves out.
Vacancy decontrol destroys the affordability of the housing stock in a given city of metro region. Why is this important? The obvious answer is that tenants need affordable housing because rents are rising, but salaries are not. But there's another very compelling reason: Cities and towns are spending so much money to build new affordable housing, but now at the same time Newark will be letting thousands of existing affordable units become unaffordable. That's just brain-dead. There is already such a short supply of affordable-level rents that to lose any units to higher rent is completely unacceptable. This is a public policy disaster in the making.
It is clearly the result of the powerful financial pressure and promises by the landlord lobby, and quite possibly the Essex County Democratic machine. The machine is known to be pro-landlord and is extremely involved in all big decisions in Newark. Most of the city council members are either completely beholden to the machine, or strongly influenced by them.
Councilman John Sharpe James was vocal and outspoken, and he did most of the talking. He claimed to have been the sponsor of the 2014 Rent Control Ordinance, which is untrue. Ras Baraka, then a Councilman, was the original sponsor. James then signed on as a co-sponsor. James was absolutely adamant and completely dismissive of the testimony during public comment on rent control and vacancy decontrol. He outlined extremely minor changes to the ordinance that he says weigh in the tenants favor, thus making a balanced ordinance. They range from irrelevant (not claiming labor costs) to very minor.
The process of writing this ordinance was again very much biased against the tenants, who were given zero input during the ordinance development phase.
James kept stressing that they adopted the ordinance in 2014 knowing that the $5000/room clause was "too high", and now it's time to fix it. He says the proposal for landlords to spend 8 months rent to get a 20% rent increase is a compromise; that the tenants wanted 12 months and the landlords wanted 6 months.
This is a complete distortion of reality. The tenants wanted to keep the $5,000 per room clause, and the landlords wanted 6 months, so if there is any compromise, it should be the 12 month option.
The roll call on the vote was:
Augusto Amador (East Ward) YES
Anibal Ramos (North Ward) YES
Joseph McCallum (West Ward) YES
John Sharpe James (South Ward) YES
Gayle Jenkins-Chaneyfield (Central Ward) YES
Mildred Crump (At-Large) not present
Luis Quintana (At-Large) YES
Carlos Gonzalez (At-Large) not present
Eddie Osborne (At Large) YES
Tenant and community leaders spoke about rent control, the possible demolition of Terrell Homes, and the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. Dozens of concerned tenants and community leaders were present. The 12 speakers included:
Deborah Smith-Gregory (Pres. Newark branch, NAACP)
Rev. Eric Dobson (Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill, NJ)
John Goldstein (consultant for fair housing nationwide)
Eric Martindale (380-402 Tenants Association)
Victor Monterrosa, Jr.
Earlier in the day, a comprehensive analysis of the proposed Rent Control change was submit to our city leaders. It was written by Carl Hill of Newark Tenants United, in consultation with Matthew Shapiro and Eric Martindale.
On the matter of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, it's been deferred and a "task force" of housing activists will be convened to work with the administration on the wording.
In closing, if the City Council decides to abandon the tenants, it's time for the tenants to abandon the City Council.
February 13, 2017: A tremendous flurry of activity is going on. The shocking news erupted all over Newark a few days ago that revisions to the Newark Rent Control Ordinance are coming in as a "communication" at the Wednesday 2/15 city council meeting, and could be introduced as a first reading. As always the information is being hidden, and it's not in Legistar. Ordinances take weeks to reach this stage, and it involves being drafted, and then getting comments from 8 different city departments. This didn't just pop up last week, they've been working on it in secret for at least 2 months.
John Goldstein is putting together a press conference on the steps of City Hall, scheduled ½ hour before the council meeting. This is not a "protest", so Newark Tenants United is in full support and participation. Concerned tenants are encouraged to appear, and then attend the Hearing of Citizens in the city council meeting, 6:30 PM. 7 or 8 tenant leaders are on the docket to speak.
The Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance is up for 2nd reading and a public hearing, in which any member of the public may speak, registered or not, on the ordinance itself. The ordinance is a good idea, but it is filled with problems and weaknesses that have been outlined by the Ironbound Community Corp.
Wedn, February 15, 2017
Steps of Newark City Hall
920 Broad Street, Newark, NJ 07102
NEWARK COUNCIL MEETING / HEARING OF CITIZENS
(and public testimony of Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance)
Wedn, February 15, 2017
Second floor, council chambers
920 Broad Street, Newark, NJ 07102
February 12, 2017: Housing activists remain concerned that Terrell Homes, a complex of 3-story buildings very far down neck in the Ironbound is scheduled for demolition. The loss of housing stock is a concern, and those who are relocated will are not likely to be relocated elsewhere in the Ironbound. Instead they will be steered towards very old 3 to 6-family investment properties in the West Ward, the western Central Ward, and the more impoverished parts of the South Ward. Thus, the concentration of poverty in Newark will be increased. This is not in the best interests of those residents, or the City of Newark as a whole.
While at least half of the residential areas of Newark are on an upswing and facing gentrification, significant areas are getting much worse. In those areas, more and more homes are transferring from owner-occupied to absentee landlord, poverty is increasing, and the housing stock is aging and increasingly neglected. Newark is becoming a tale of two cities, and this is a serious social concern. The matter of Terrell Homes will be addressed by housing advocates at the Feb. 15, 2017 city council meeting.
February 11, 2017: Met the owner of a condominium in Newark which is rented out. The building is over 30 years old. She's quite familiar with the existence of the Newark Rent Control Ordinance, but was flabergasted to learn that it applies to her, and that she is supposed to register her unit with Rent Contro. "It doesn't apply to me, I don't own 50 units", she said. This problem is going on all over Newark. Landlords either don't know about the Rent Control Ordinance, or feel it doesn't apply to them
February 9, 2017: There was an article about the vacant Pathmark on Bergen Ave, at one time the only Supermarket in a large part of Newark. It's been vacant since all Pathmark stores went out of business. It will be rehab'd into medical and medical-related facilities Pathmark article
Another article highlights the greater need for transparency and the ease of the public to access information all across New Jersey. The article actually cites Newark as an example to be copied Article on Transparency in New Jersey
February 9, 2017: UPDATE ON THE CODE ENFORCEMENT INITIATIVE >>> The Newark Civic Trust met last night. The group continues on it's major initiatives, and will be helping to organize similar groups in Jersey City and East Orange. The Newark Civic Trust is part of The Citizens Campaign, based in Metuchen. So far, Civic Trusts are up and running in Perth Amboy, Trenton, Newark, and most recently in Plainfield. A dozen residents from Jersey City and East Orange were in attendance at last night's meeting at The Greater Newark Conservancy, to watch the group in action.
The Fairmount Heights Neighborhood Association has begun it's long-awaited Neighborhood Maintenance Survey, which was designed by the Newark Civic Trust. They are going door to door to gather all violations inside and out, and it will be entered onto a spreadsheet and given to "everyone", including all Newark elected officials and departments. Homeowners and tenants have been very receptive, with the exception of Georgia King Village. Residents there remain furious about the PSE&G substation. This code enforcement drive will bring attention to resolve violations in one of the most economically depressed parts of Newark. To my knowledge, there has not yet been a meeting with the city's judge who will handle the cases. Cooperation on that level is important.
Talks are underway for more neighborhoods to roll out the same survey, including parts of The Ironbound, Forest Hill, Clinton Hill, and several other areas in the West Ward identified by the West Ward Clergy Alliance. A representative of the West Ward Clergy Alliance is active with the Newark Civic Trust.
Special thanks to Bill Bishop for all of his hard work on this. He is a true unsung hero. Eric Martindale was instrumental in building support within the Newark Civic Trust for this initiative, and he created the first draft of the Maintenance Survey. Martindale also secured the cooperation of the Fairmount Heights Neighborhood Association to launch it as a pilot program. Staff at The Citizens Campaign worked tirelessly at their Metuchen, NJ headquarters to help craft the program.
As the program rolls out across Newark, the city will have to staff up on Code Enforcement. A few more officers have been hired for this year, but it's not enough. Code Enforcement is a net revenue generating department, and their work improves the quality of life for Newark residents. No less than 60 code enforcement officers are needed for Newark. This entire program is coming from the pure grass-roots of Newark. Our elected officials appear to be supportive, but it's absolutely coming from the people of Newark and the Newark Civic Trust. The days of the slumlords are coming to an end. The Citizens Campaign has already begun to roll out this program in Perth Amboy, Trenton, and Plainfield. It's going statewide.
February 8, 2017: Newark Tenants United contacted Councilman Anibal Ramos to address the horrendous condition of 108 Third Avenue, a vacant and vandalized house. The front door was broken down, debris from inside the house covers the lawn, and gang-tag graffiti is on the house. Councilman Ramos office responded that "...Code enforcement visited site and has placed a clean and lien on property. Department of Sanitation will be out there soon to clean up site and board up home..."
The housing advocacy flyer has been finalized and emailed all around Newark.
February 7, 2017: Housing advocates met again tonite at The Priory to plan our opposition to the poorly-written Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. At least 8 people are registered to speak at the February 15th Hearing of Citizens. There will be a strong showing of community leaders in the event (still possible) that the ordinance will be deferred to work on it further. Other actions will be taken, to be announced here soon.
The ordinance was written by the administration at the request of Mayor Ras Baraka, who supports affordable housing. We appreciate the mayor's support. There is no sponsor on the city council, as nobody has yet shown the courage to put their fingerprints on it. The city council appears to be gun-shy on this matter, probably a result of the nearly 3-year long battle over the rent control ordinance, and all the attempts to rewrite it or to defeat it in court.
There is a parallel between the Rent Control Ordinance and the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. The New Jersey Tenants Organization (NJTO) wrote the Rent Control Ordinance, and the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) wrote the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. In both cases, the ordinances were drafted by leading activists and handed to the city. Hats off to the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) for all their hard work on this issue. Newark Tenants United is a strong supporting player on this ordinance, and we are bringing significant skills and resources to the table, but this is the ICC's baby. No question there.
In addition, the community of housing advocates is getting stronger and more organized. We support each other's issues, and we are committed to working together. Any future attempt to weaken the Newark Rent Control Ordinance will be met with a thunderous opposition from all over the city.
February 6, 2017: Community leaders have another meeting at The Priory tomorrow at 6:30 PM to discuss the city's Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. Two dozen attended the first meeting.
February 6, 2017: Another article about the gentrification of Newark, and what could happen to tenants wnyc.org article on Newark 2/6/2017
February 5, 2017: I drove by AvalonBay Maplewood. About 40% of the complex was destroyed, although the media said "over ⅔". The 60% not touched by fire include all the units along Springfield Ave, and some along Boyden Ave.
February 4, 2017 4:50 PM: Avalon Maplewood, a 235-unit luxury rental complex in the final stages of construction, was destroyed by fire in the overnight hours. It was located at Springfield & Boyden Avenues, on the east side of Maplewood. Over ⅔ of the units were lost. It was set to open in 6 weeks. New Jersey still allows 5 stories of wood-frame construction on top of a concrete parking garage. This is the 3rd major Avalon fire. The first two were in Edgewater. Eyewitness news report
February 4, 2017: Getting around to updating the blog that the first reading of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance passed on Wedn, February 1st. Second reading and public hearing is on Wedn, Feb 15, 2017. This is an evening city council meeting; anyone can speak on the ordinance; no need to pre-register
Feb 1, 2017 NJ.com article on IZO
The inclusionary zoning ordinance is long and complicated. Here's the Feb 1, 2017 IZO version
My February 3 blog entry was made to help explain the enormity of the housing crisis. We absolutely need the best possible Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance.
February 3, 2017: HOW BANKS AND LANDLORDS WORK TOGETHER TO CAUSE THE RENTAL HOUSING CRISIS: The increase in home prices and rental prices in recent years is seen as golden by millions of people. They consider housing to be on the path to returning to “normal”. But just how normal would that be? 12 years ago real estate peaked, and by 10 years ago the crash was in full swing. Home values went down substantially.
Next, the banks stepped in. They changed mortgage rules to make it harder for people to secure a mortgage. Credit requirements were tightened across the board, and rules were changed restricting the ability of sole proprietors to secure mortgages. Debt-to-income ratios were adjusted, and new categories were added to the “debt” side such as child support and alimony. These requirements, which were not counted prior to 2006, effectively prevent those paying child support or alimony from securing a mortgage. That is because the percent of their income that the government wants the payee to pay is more than the debt-to-income ratio sought by mortgage companies. No increase in income can change this, because the more one makes, the more one is obliged to pay. The debt-to-income ratio can never be achieved.
For all of these reasons, millions of people who could have qualified for a mortgage are locked out. Meanwhile, millions more lost their houses and were forced to rent. The economy has been weak, and the wages have declined. Some high-paying jobs have been outsourced, and in some cases people have been laid off and their jobs given to robotic equipment or lower-paid immigrants who have recently arrived. Student loan costs have skyrocketed, and young adults are forced to rent until their loans are paid down. Other people have been drained by their medical costs, or the medical cost of family members they are caring for. Assisted living costs are simply criminal. The job market is increasingly shifting towards low-pay service sector jobs, so even though the unemployment numbers are down in most States, the new jobs that have replaced the old jobs pay very low. This is what economists call the collapse of the wage structure.
Rents work by the most basic supply and demand equation. For the past 10 or 12 years, there has been a tremendous demand for quality rental units. This has forced rents up, even though the wage structure is flat or declining in most States. People are being crushed by rising rents, unable to buy a house, and so maxed out that consumer spending has declined.
One possible solution that has been touted is a $15 minimum wage, which is more than double the $7.25 cent per hour federal minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is unchanged since 2009. But just how much would the $15 minimum wage help in New Jersey. It’s not even close to resolving the housing crisis.
A 3-bedroom apartment typically rents for at least $1,800 a month, and more in quiet suburban communities. $15/hr comes to $2,600 a month, before taxes are taken out by the government.
Ideally, ¼ of a tenant’s income should go to rent, but many landlords accept 1/3. $2,600 divided by 3 = $867 a month. Nothing can be rented for $867, or perhaps a studio apartment in a bad part of Newark. Now lets take the absurdity to the next level.
Here’s a sample budget for a family of four living in a 3-bedroom apartment, adjusted to virtually eliminate all discretionary consumer spending:
Rent, 3-bedroom apartment $1800
Heat included $0
Water included $0
Gas & Electric $150
Internet, phone, cable triple-play $140
Cell phone #1 $50
Cell phone #2 $50
Fixed expenses total $2190
Lease or finance payment $250
Oil changes $ 10
Tolls & misc. $ 40
Parking (if lucky $0) $ 0
Vehicle expenses total $760
PERSONAL INSURANCE (eliminated, this family cannot afford any insurance)
Rental insurance $0
Life insurance $0
Medical insurance $0
Identity theft & data protection $0
Insurance, total $0
LIVING EXPENSES (with almost all discretionary spending eliminated)
Groceries, food & non-food $650
(if shopping very smart)
Eating out lunch $0
Eat out/entertain $25
Furniture, electronics, misc. $50
Baby sitting $0
Barber / hair & nail salon $30
Vacation / travel $0
Dental for all four family members $100
(let’s assume they have good teeth)
Alcohol, tobacco, drugs $0
Income tax preparation $0
Living expenses, total $910
GRAND TOTAL $3860 a month
$46,320 a year, NET
How much does a family need to gross a year to net $46,320. At least $53,000
Now, this $53,000 is for the perfect household, and living on a really skimpy budget. How unrealistic is this example?
This family does not exist, especially with regarding to health insurance and medical costs. The reality is that a family of four cannot get by with less than $60,000 annual income.
And this is with virtually all consumer spending eliminated…
THIS HAS HUGE REPURCUSSIONS FOR THE ECONOMY: Money that could have gone to other sectors of the economy is instead going to RENT. Landlords aren’t just gouging the tenants; they are taking from every business where the tenant spends money. Although the economy can potentially expand, at any particular snapshot in time, it's a zero sum game. Money is either being spent and respent around the whole economy, helping every sector, or it's being gouged by high bank fees and interest rates, and by excessively high rents. Here's who the banks and landlords are taking from:
All of these sectors are being harmed. The rest of the economy cannot do well with so many people maxed out on rent and banking costs, and eliminating almost all consumer spending. The other sectors of the economy have not gotten smart. They do not realize that skyrocketing rents are taking away THEIR INCOME. There is a gigantic theft going on, real estate is taking from Main Street and every other sector of the economy. And when this finally rises to some level of collective consciousness in America, it’s going to go over like a bomb blast. Perhaps it’s something that liberals and conservatives will agree is a problem.
The economy of this country is never going to dramatically improve unless consumer spending goes up. That is the absolute truth. Yet as rents skyrocket year by year, consumer spending continues to decrease.
Let’s go back to the numbers. To earn $53,000 income, one must make $25.48 an hour, and work 40 hours a week. This is more than triple minimum wage for New Jersey, which is a dollar and some change higher than the federal minimum. There are way too many families who don’t earn this much.
The disgusting truth in 2017 is that a family of four is actually better off on public assistance and food stamps, and getting tons of income tax breaks, than earning $45,000 annually. Some public policy makers know this, and they actually WANT to have more people on public assistance and living in very high density urban environments, because both problems translate into more votes for one side of the modern political war.
Now, as we come to the conclusion, even if the “perfect” family of four has $53,000 income, what can they qualify for in the rental market?
Now, where is anybody going to find a 3-bedroom apartment for $1472.00 monthly rent? Certainly not anywhere in northern New Jersey. A 3-bedroom unit goes for $1700 in the most high-crime parts of Newark, and upwards of $2200 elsewhere.
Landlords have no problem getting Section 8 to subsidize a 3-bedroom unit for $1700, $1800, or more, because that’s the going rate. Do you see where I’m going with this? Not only are the landlords taking money from every business where the tenant spends money, they are taking money from the government, from taxpayers.
The landlords and the banks have this all figured out, the insurance industry is complicit, and they have an army of lawyers and lobbyists to marshal this plan forwards. It’s the tenants, the taxpayers, and every other sector of the economy that are being taken advantage of. These are the emerging battle lines of an incipient national emergency. This has the potential to reorient and redefine the entire political equation in this country. Today's political alliances will be overshadowed.
The realization is slowly setting in. We are in what is most certainly the greatest housing crisis in over 50 years, and its at its worst in the most high-priced metropolitan areas. The full weight of this crisis is bearing down upon almost every blue State.
Won’t it all even itself out on it’s own? A libertarian perspective will typically yield the following response: “In an economy of supply and demand, if people can’t afford these high rents, eventually the rents won’t rise any higher. Problem solved”
And that is the wrong answer. I can prove it.
That's the right answer in Manhattan, but it’s the wrong answer in New Jersey because there is an inexhaustible supply of New Yorkers fleeing to New Jersey to find lower rents. They are coming like a tsunami. As bad as rents are in New Jersey, it's a renters paradise compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn. The reality is that if nothing is done, there will be complete population replacement. The residents of New Jersey, especially northeastern New Jersey, will simply be driven out and replaced. Similar situations exist in other States with high-rent cities.
This problem started in the cities, but now it’s well under way in the suburbs. Renters there cannot afford the increases either. Some people are moving to Newark. It’s becoming known that Newark has the strongest rent control ordinance of any major city in the United States. Others are moving out of New Jersey entirely.
This is not a question of ideology or political party affiliation. The question is whether or not the elected officials of New Jersey care about their constituents. In many cases their own relatives are being crunched out of economic existence, and/or driven out of the State of New Jersey.
We are in a catastrophic housing crisis, worsening by the year, and with no end in sight.
And it’s not happening by accident. It’s happening by design, by the banking industry. Let me explain.
In some ungodly banker’s think tank, it was decided that they need to elevate home prices. Now, given the weak economy, the only way to elevate home prices is to elevate rents. That is because the basic price of a house, at a bare minimum, is a function of how much it could rent for. So the banks decided to force millions of people into being renters by locking them out of mortgages and by increasing credit card interest rates and fees. If there are millions of people looking to rent, rents will increase. Like any other commodity, rents are function of supply and demand.
And with a huge demand, many large rental buildings will be built, also stimulating the economy. Banks, of course, will hold all those big construction mortgages for the builders. The banks want people who own homes to recover the “loss” when the housing market corrected (tanked) over 10 years ago. The banks want this because it reduces the number of families that are underwater on their mortgage, and who might abandon their houses. So this whole disaster has been engineered by the banks. It’s the younger generations who are being hit the hardest. This is quite literally generational theft.
Wealth is being sucked from the younger generations that are forced into perpetual renting. And these same young families are also paying for the social security and Medicare costs for the older generations; but they may never see those benefits themselves. Those funds could be bankrupt by the time they are seniors. And to complete the disaster, the entire country is spending itself into catastrophic debt, now over $19.5 trillion, and that will also fall squarely on the shoulders of the younger generations. Needless to say, it is the older generations who are doing the spending and not managing the country’s finances. Pension costs are central to this. The collective impact of all of this is a national catastrophe. These problems need to be reversed and solved by those in power now. If not, this country is going to go completely socialist. That can happen either by election or by revolution. It’s only a matter of time until the younger generations figure it all out. It’s all completely unacceptable, and it’s about ready to go on fire.
How do we resolve the housing crisis?
WE NEED RENT CONTROL, IN EVERY CITY AND TOWN
REAL RENT CONTROL, NOT RENT CONTROL WITH 4% and 5% ANNUAL INCREASES
WE NEED NEW CONSTRUCTION OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING
WE NEED MORE MOBILE HOME DEVELOPMENTS
AND MUNICIPALITIES CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO PROHIBIT THEM BY ZONING
WE NEED TO CONTROL OTHER GREEDY SEGMENTS OF THE ECONOMY, NOTABLY BANKING, INSURANCE, AND THE LEGAL INDUSTRY.
February 1, 2017: CORRUPTION UNCOVERED. Visited the manager of a very old 4-family house on S. 19th Street between Central Ave and South Orange Ave. He bragged openly about paying off code enforcement inspectors a couple hundred dollars in order to come up "clean", with no violations. He even said the code enforcement staff openly solicited the money. The units were in reasonably good condition, for that part of Newark.
He is in the process of evicting his Section 8 tenants to go market rate, hoping to get "better tenants that won't destroy the apartments". He plans to rent the 2-bedroom units for $1200 each, the same rent he gets now for Section 8. He never heard of the Newark Rent Control Ordinance, so don't expect him to abide by the provisions. Newark is like the Wild West, it's just completely and totally out of control
He explained that the owner of another very old 4-family house next door, also rented to Section 8 tenants, recently removed all of the furnaces and converted the entire house to electric heating. "The tenants pay for the electric, so he might as well go all electric for the heating". The small landlords are realizing that they have no incentive to pay $15,000 or more to upgrade old furnaces when they can just convert the entire house to electric heat. They don't have to risk the furnaces being stolen, or purchase fuel for them, or even to incur service costs, because they are no longer present. The heating costs are getting pushed off to the tenants.
And when the landlord is putting in new windows, don't expect him to pay the extra $30 to have the low-e/argon energy star package, again because the tenant is paying for the heat. They'll instead put in junk vinyl windows that cost $100 each, even if they will incur $1000 - $1,500 a year in additional costs to heat and cool the house. Why buy windows for $130, when you can buy windows for $100 each? The answer is the "smart" (greedy) landlord gets the $130 window if he is paying to heat the house, and buys the junk window if the tenant is paying for the heat. I'm a contractor and I've installed hundreds of windows, so I know these figures. These tenants are surely getting slammed with $600+ electric bills in the winter months. I'm not even sure if Section 8 covers the electric bill.
I think it's time for the State of New Jersey to ban the sale or installation of any vinyl window that does not have the low-e/argon energy package, and at least a .30 u-factor, or lower. At this point, everyone is getting the energy-efficient windows, except people who don't care how much the heating bill would be, which are exclusively landlords that don't pay for the heat, and investors flipping houses.
January 31, 2017: A few readers disagreed with yesterday's post, emailing me that the City of Newark will become majority Latino much quicker than projected in the post. Some say it will happen by 2020, and that we'll have Councilman Anibal Ramos as Mayor in 2018, and if not most certainly in 2022.
January 30, 2017: DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE IN NEWARK >>> NJ.com article on diversity in New Jersey lists some interesting demographics for Newark. Their statistics are based on a report from the American Community Survey. This may be the first report that Newark's African-American population has dipped below 50%. The 2016 data shows the following
The numbers don't add to 100%, so presumably the remaining percent are "other" or people of mixed race. The 2010 census had the city's African-American population at 52%, and the White population at 11%.
The African-American decline is due to replacement by a growing Latino population, as well as an overall declining population in parts of the South, West, and western Central Wards. The number of abandoned homes in these areas has increased since the end of the 2000 - 2005 construction boom of 2 and 3-family houses. Many older houses, and even some of the new construction houses, have been abandoned and foreclosed. People knew this was coming, because public schools have had a declining enrollment in these parts of Newark. Observers have been speculating that the city's African-American population could be as low as 44% by the 2020 census. However, the development of the downtown and the continued plans by the Newark Housing Authority to abandon public housing projects could result in an even lower figure.
The overall White population is virtually unchanged despite a likely increase in the city's downtown and the Forest Hill District. This blogger doesn't have access to demographic statistics, but speculates that these increases are probably balanced off by declines in The Ironbound, where older White households (mostly Portuguese) are dying off or retiring out of Newark, and they are being replaced by Ecuadorians and other Latino's. These Latino's are of similar or higher income than the outgoing White families. NJ.com article on American Community Survey
January 29, 2017: An astute reader has raised the concern that proposed tariffs against Mexico and other countries could cause the CPI-based rent increase to increase further, possibly even reaching the 4% threshold. This is because the tariffs may increase the cost of consumer goods made abroad and purchased in the United States. The increased cost of those products weigh heavily in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and will cause an increase in the CPI. This would be particularly unjust for tenants, because an increase in the cost of consumer goods in no way reflects on an increased cost to the landlord. He's not buying 66" HD TV's, clothing, and other consumer goods as part of his business plan.
January 25, 2017: Rent Control has published the CPI-based rent increase for leases up in March. The 3-month skyrocket continues, as the figure is now 2.1%. A tenant with a rent of $1300 per month will see an increase of $27.30. This is still better than the previous 4% rent increase, which would have yielded $52. Rent Control website
The March, 2017 figure of 2.1% is the highest it's been since the 2014 Rent Control Ordinance was adopted. A few months after the ordinance was passed, it fell to 0%, and it was at 0% to 1/10 of 1% for about 6 months. The landlords were in an uproar. It's been steadily creeping up. The rate has been 9/10th of 1% or higher since June, 2016.
Sources say that the Newark City Council has no plans to touch the Rent Control Ordinance until after the Spring, 2018 election. Can you believe it, in only a year Newark will be in the midst of the campaign season.
january 24, 2017: Newark Inc has published an article on Monday's grand reopening of the historic Hahne's Building on Broad Street across from Military Park. The mixed-use 400,000 square foot building include a 40,000 square foot Whole Food (opening soon), 35,000 additional retail space, plus offices and 160 apartments. The residential units include 40% affordable housing. One big surprise is the projected rents for the market rate units: from $1835 for a studio to $2980 for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath unit Newark Inc Jan 24, 2017
One thing for sure is that the impact of The Arts upon nearby rents is tremendous. The mere construction of a major arts facility is a huge draw. It's becoming a form of elitism.
January 23, 2017: Richard Cammerieri and Joseph Della Fave had a great turnout for tonite's meeting at The Priory to discuss Fair Housing and the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. Two dozen strong leaders braved a moderate rain and came out to share information and strategize an approach to strengthen the proposed ordinance. We would have had an even greater turnout, but the high winds which hit earlier in the day managed to deter a few people, even though they had subsided.
Representatives attended from at least 15 organizations, including the NAACP and several tenant associations.
A lobbying campaign directed at the city council will commence soon. Talking points are being compiled by Richard.
There was also discussion about the Short Term Rental (airbnb) ordinance. Many in attendance knew nothing about it, and everyone was outraged that this is waiting in the wings.
In other news, Newark Tenants United found out that a few recipients of our email blasts in the South Ward are decimating information to many tenants in their buildings. We don't always know what people do with our emails and information. Two more buildings may be creating Tenant Associations soon, and we are more than willing to come down and help them organize.
January 20, 2017 7:30 AM: Progress is being made at Georgia King Village. Millions are being spent, including a complete overhaul of the heating system. Every unit is also getting a new kitchen. We've analyzed the budget in a previous post here, and noted that what is being spent per unit is many times higher than the controversial $5000/unit clause for substantial rehab in the Newark Rent Control ordinance nj.com article
January 20, 2017: 7:00 AM MESSAGE FOR DONALD TRUMP. Today is Inauguration Day for our 45th President, Donald Trump. As our readers know by now, this blog is not about partisan politics, and we rarely have anything to say about it.
What I will say today, on Inauguration Day, is that there's a difference between conservative and stupid. Conservative is being upset that the government has spent us into $19.5 Trillion debt, it's wanting more power and decisions returned to the States, it's being opposed to abortion and the transgender movement, it's respecting law and order, it's wanting a strong military, it's reducing the number of people who are dependent upon government, and it's wanting more place in society for the Word of God. Newark Tenants United is not taking stands on those issues here, of course, I'm just noting what being conservative entails, and that's a fair definition.
Stupid is something entirely different. Stupid is the failure to understand that we are living in a new Age of the Robber Barons in which the mega wealthy are interested only in robbing as much as they can, and in sucking every last dollar out of the public while telling them that an unregulated free market is going to balance everything out. That's not the way it works. It didn't balance anything out in the late 1800's either. The old robber barons were the railroads, the utilities, and the steel industry. Now, 140 years later, we have the new robber barons, which are the banks, the insurance companies, big pharma and the entire medical industry, Monsanto, big law firms, and landlords. And like the old robber barons, the new robber barons fight each other for power and domination, and they each desire to suck every last dollar from every last citizen. People are kept down and dependent on government, and home ownership is increasingly out of reach for the average wage-earner.
The result of the first Age of the Robber Barons was that after a few decades of it, the public was fed up, and this country was on the verge of becoming communist. Things wound up balancing out, as we enacted child labor laws, a 40-hour work week, labor unions, and the whole New Deal. What's going to happen this time is anyone's guess, but its worth noting that a strong majority of young adults in America (I've read 85%) not only support the Democratic Party, but they support outright Socialism. As older Republican voters die off, these young Socialists will rise to power. Meanwhile today's Youth that are too young to vote now show every sign of becoming even more Socialist than today's 20-somethings. For anyone who is less than stupid, the political handwriting is on the wall for 2020, and if not, most certainly for 2024.
What this means is that Donald Trump has 4 YEARS to fix the deeply rooted problems of this country, and truly address the needs of the masses. This includes tenant concerns and providing affordable housing for hard-working Americans. This is going to mean cutting back on the excess of the new robber barons, and getting them to understand that if can't cut back, the next political surge in the other direction is going to wipe them out. If the Republicans can't or won't do that, not only is the country going Democratic in 4 years, we're going full Socialist. And that's my message for Donald Trump on this Inauguration Day. The future of this entire country is riding on what you will do. Good luck, and may God Bless America, and all of humanity.
January 19, 2017: Big news for affordable housing in New Jersey. The NJ Supreme Court ruled 6-0 that the State must provide an additional 200,000 affordable units. This blogger believes the lions share should be allocated to local streets in or adjacent to suburban downtown centers all over New Jersey. NJ.Com article on COAH ruling
The idea that a town has no obligation if they currently have no affordable housing is counter-intuitive, as is the claim that there should be no affordable housing obligation if there are no vacant lots over 2 acres in size. To continue to push public policy in that direction causes a giant conflict between housing and environmental activists. Lots as small as ¼ acre are perfect for affordable housing in a suburban downtown. Trailer parks should also be part of the equation, and excess State and Federal lands can surely be found for them, especially unused parts of military bases.
Destroying farms and environmentally sensitive areas is not the answer. It's something I've been opposed to for 30 years. Prior to moving to Newark and becoming a housing advocate, i was the leading environmental advocate in Hackensack. My organization, the Borg's Woods Preservation Coalition, fought for 9 years for the preservation of Borg's Woods. We defeated a luxury townhouse proposal, the owner sued the city in Superior and Appellate Court, and lost twice, and then our group secured County purchase of the land as a nature preserve. See: Borg's Woods The prior owner of the woods never submitted a proposal for affordable housing, but he was approached to do so, and there was significant newspaper coverage. Ironically, that news coverage wound up being instrumental in firming up the political consensus to create a nature preserve.
We won Borg's Woods by appealing to moderate and Republican arguments, and securing the support of the Republican officials who controlled Bergen County at the time. Along the way, our organization helped to elect a new Mayor of Hackensack who was a white Republican man (as is the current mayor now in 2017). He ran on a bipartisan slate with both Republican and Democratic council members. We knew we had to walk the fence politically, and that any form of "protesting" or trying to rally a far-left political movement would alienate the politicians who supported us and counted on our votes. The Democrats supported our environmental movement 100%, so there was no need to move further to the left. The preservation of Borg's Woods was an amazing and improbable exercise in the name of bipartisan politics. We had everyone supporting us, and we developing a broad coalition across the city. No politician was going to come out against us.
For better or for worse, I bring this life experience with me to Newark. That is why my style is very different from most housing activists. I readily admit that I'm moderate to conservative on many issues, and there's something to be said for the average hard-working American man to be able to secure safe, clean, decent, and affordable housing for his wife and children. In this manner, affordable housing could easily be portrayed as a family values or "apple pie" issue.
I continue to believe in the urgency for both moderate and conservative arguments to be made nationally for affordable housing. I support the liberal arguments as well, but those aren't the arguments needed at this time. Housing advocates must remain mindful of which Party controls the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. The idea of using the housing movement to organize far left politics is a step in the exact opposite direction, because it only serves to further alienate the elected officials (moderate Democrats, and Republicans) who's support is urgently needed. There's no question that affordable housing is FOR EVERYONE, regardless of their politics, their race, their income, etc. Why present it in any other way ? Housing advocates all over America are marginalizing themselves by their protest tactics. I am following them on Facebook, and just shaking my head.
January 18, 2017: Joseph Della Fave of the Ironbound Community Corp (ICC) and NCDN Chair Rich Cammarieri are calling for a meeting of Newark community groups, and housing and rent control activists, to organize input to the Newark Mayor & Council regarding the proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. It's a good ordinance, that is severely defective as written. The meeting will be held on Monday, January 23 at 6:30 pm at The Priory at 233 W Market Street, in the Central Ward. There is ample onsite parking. This could be a meeting of historic significance.
January 18, 2017: Four of Newark's most vocal housing advocates spoke at the Newark city council workshop Executive Session today and persuaded the city council to defer the proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance so that they may consider community input. Those leaders were Joseph Della Fave (ICC), Richard Cammarieri (NCC), Drew Curtis (ICC) and Eric Martindale (NTU). The city council was very receptive to the speeches. Several stated that they haven't read it, and others wanted to take a strong look at it. Councilwoman Chaneyfield even asked to see the original draft by the Ironbound Community Corp, as well as written copies of today's speeches.
The original motion from Councilman Amador was to table the ordinance, but Baye Wilson of Economic Development rose to the podium and he secured a deferral instead. To "table" means it will be abandoned or rewritten, and to "defer" means it's coming back unchanged at the next city council meeting. Wilson has delusions that the ordinance will appear on the docket for the next council meeting, unchanged. He just watched the key housing leaders of Newark secure the city council's ear, but he thinks there will be no changes to the ordinance. We can't make this up, folks.
Other matters discussed at the Newark City Council Workshop session include
1. A lively discussion regarding police and fire personnel costs to cover Port Authority, Newark Penn Station, the Federal building, and the major universities. It was noted that the Town of Princeton won over $19 million from the tax-exempt Princeton University regarding these services.
2. Discussion on over $14.2 million in federal grants coming to Newark, which includes funds to demolish city-owned abandoned homes as well as the expansion and modernization of Doremus Ave in Port Newark.
3. There is no Newark representative on the North Jersey Water Supply Commission
4. Discussion on salary increases for unionized city employees. Every employee, regardless of their salary, is getting a $1400 annual increase. This makes sense, because folks at the bottom are hurting the most. Councilman Gonzalez thought it was unfair to the higher salary workers.
5. Discussion on the now-infamous Valentine's day homes sale in Newark (2015?). Of the 98 vacant lots, it appears that not more than 13 will close. There were too many obstacles for the buyers, the biggest being the difficulty in securing construction loans to build a new house.
January 17, 2017: NJ.com article on the increase of poverty in New Jersey. 37% of New Jersey residents are now classified as the working poor. It's getting harder for families to get by, as families are squeezed out of existence by rising housing costs, but they make way too much money to qualify for federal assistance. nj.com article Jan 16, 2017
The article defines a group they dub ALICE (Asset-limited, income constrained, employed) -- a group of people the United Way says make too much money to qualify for federal poverty assistance, but are being crippled by the high cost of living in New Jersey. "We estimate that for a family of four, the bare minimum to live, the basic survival budget is $64,176," said Stephanie Hoopes, the author of the study. "That's more than double the U.S. poverty level."
January 16, 2017: Pleased to announce that the 425 Mount Prospect Tenants Association has reorganized with a new Executive Board. Former Board member Hons Yu and Henry Plemper have returned to the Board, and Gladys Andre has been recruited. William O'Donnell remains as the Chair.
425 Mount Prospect is still struggling with what is believed to be one of the worst and most arrogant landlords in the City of Newark. We are expressing editorial discretion and holding back on reporting the most incredible actions of this landlord.
January 15, 2017: Despite some reports to the contrary, at this time there is no credible or functioning tenants organization at the Hallmark House. However, serious progress is being made in launching a Tenants Association there. There is a strong core of organizers at the Hallmark House who understand the basic principles of community organizing, including the idea that the individual tenant associations are much more powerful working together.
January 13, 2017: Word has reached us that the far-from-perfect Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance is up for first reading on January 19th. There is a city council Workshop Session on the afternoon of January 18th, in which some community leaders hope to be speaking. The ordinance needs to be pulled and worked on further. We published on this blog a comprehensive list of the objections on December 29, 2016. Scroll down to read. This issue is being spearheaded by the Ironbound Community Corp (ICC), and we are in active communication and collaboration.
A meeting of community leaders to discuss the Inclusionary Zoning and Short-Term Rental (Airbnb) ordinances is pending. It's probably going to be January 23. There is a need for the meeting regardless of whether or not the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance is pulled on January 18th. Either way, much more community input to the mayor and council on the matter is urgent. The city simply haven't heard from enough organizations and housing advocates, and they are deferring on too many matters to the real estate developers who are objecting to the proposed ordinance.
The problem isn't so much the mayor or the city council, it's people in the administration who are in charge of drafting ordinances and commenting on economic matters. Sounds familar? It should, these are the same voices that have had issues with rent control, and kept influencing or writing bad ordinances.
I am waiting for the meeting announcement to be made by the ICC, and then I will help circulate it.
January 12, 2017: Update on Newark's pending RESPONSIBLE BANKING ORDINANCE. The ordinance was drafted by The Citizens Campaign and the Newark Civic Trust. It was intended to provide a source of funding for the rehab and sale of vacant houses, and other socially-responsible matters. Approval was reached with the City of Newark on the wording, and the ordinance was ready for first reading when the bomb dropped. Someone researched that in April 2015, the US Supreme Court throw out New York City's Responsible Banking Ordinance on the grounds of "pre-emption", essentially that the federal and state governments have regulatory authority, and a city does not. NYC's ordinance was considered to be "regulation" by the Supreme Court. Supreme Court ruling
The move towards a responsible banking in Newark has not been derailed. The Citizens Campaign is looking for a way to make it transactional as opposed to regulatory. The banks want to hold the city's deposits, so the city can say that it wants x, y, and z from the banks as part of that contract.
Much progress has been made by The Citizens Campaign towards making civics classes a mandatory part of the high school curriculum in New Jersey. A non-partisan approach has been lain out and it is advancing. It's becoming clear that "civics" has bi-partisan support and if there is any matter of contention, it is about what topics are included in "civics". For instance, there is a clear understanding that civics courses should include the US Constitution, but how the civics courses address the 2nd amendment is becoming a battleground. Republicans see gun ownership as a civic right, and part of the very concept of civics. Democrats have a completely different vision. Developing the civics course is going to be fraught with these land mines.
Generally speaking, Republicans want everyone to be personally responsible and economically independent of government support, and this is advanced with a basic understanding of civics. Meanwhile, Democrats see it in terms of community building and addressing social grievances, as well as empowerment of people who are otherwise helpless and dependent upon government. This blogger sees validity to both of these approaches, and I believe it is integrally connected to urban policy issues, the housing crisis, and developing a constituency of activists for the long term.
January 10, 2017: Newark Tenants United has communicated to the Asbury Park Press reporter who authored "Renter Hell" a possible solution, which is legislation to allow towns to create and sell tax liens to cover unpaid fines from code violations, as well as hiring a contractor to make repairs. In each case, the municipality should be allowed to upcharge 20% to cover their costs. Cities and towns need to have a financial incentive, otherwise they won't incur costs to repair properties. There are man-hours associated with coordinating a contractor and inspecting his work, and a big city like Newark would have to hire several people to do that, as well as inspect the work prior to paying the contractor. Asking the city or town to absorb those costs, AND to wait years for a property to sell is clearly not the answer. Selling tax liens with a 20% upcharge would be a game-changer.
January 9, 2017: RENTER HELL, a series of articles from the Asbury Park Press, was emailed to us by several readers. Posting it now
Part One: Renter Hell, by Asbury Park Press. January 2017 http://www.app.com/story/insider/extras/2016/12/30/renter-hell-part-1-billions-squalor/96011730/
Overview summary article
Part Two: Fighting The Rats http://www.app.com/longform/insider/extras/2016/12/30/renter-hell-part-2-fighting-rats/94289002/
Subsidized housing in New Jersey is getting worse. Inspection scores are dramatically down from 2013 to 2016.
Horror stories regarding Aspen Stratford and Pueblo apartment complexes in Newark.
Part Three: Protected by the Law http://www.app.com/longform/insider/extras/2016/12/30/renter-hell-part-3-protected-law/94817488/
Apartment LLC’s fail to appear in Court. It is very difficult for towns to track down the owners. The owners hide behind LLC’s. The LLC system was set up in the 1990’s, and the authors had no idea that it would enable apartment owners to escape the law. Rental owners are allowed to hide behind an LLC to flout punishment, and rack up fines that can never be collected. There are religious organizations in Lakewood, NJ that are affiliated in some way with the LLC’s.
Beepers Plus, a beeper store on Clifton Ave in Lakewood is the mailing address for hundreds of anonymous LLC’s owning rental housing throughout New Jersey.
New York City has tried to make LLCs more transparent by requiring landlords to register with an actual address, rather than a post office box, to provide the name of a local person responsible for the property.
When LLC’s don’t show up to court, all municipalities can do is put a lien against the property, which must be satisfied before a property can be sold. This does nothing to improve the day-to-day living conditions for the tenants in these rental units.
Jackson, NJ passed an ordinance to require landlords to register their properties annually and provide a list of current tenants. If a property is owned by an LLC, a copy of the state certification and contract information of the owner must be provided. Now they have a registered owner, instead of chasing a ghost.
There are LLC bills currently before the Legislature. Assembly bill 4100 and Senate Bill 2612 would require an affidavit identifying the members, managers, and other authorized persons of the company to be appended to the deed. If passed, the law would be applied to sales of buildings with one to four units, which are the rentals currently NOT overseen by the State. Republican State Senator Samuel Thompson, from Middlesex County, introduced the legislation, and he expects it to see the light of day.
Part Four: Failing the Inspection http://www.app.com/longform/insider/extras/2016/12/30/renter-hell-blacklisted/95767588/
A Lakewood-based data-mining firm called Tenant Safe keeps records of every tenant that has ever appeared in Landlord-Tenant Court, for any reason. This allows future landlords the ability to discriminate. Tenant Safe does not document the reason for the court appearance or the outcome.
Part Five: Some Fixes but no Cure http://www.app.com/longform/insider/extras/2016/12/30/renter-hell-part-5-some-fixes-but-no-cure/95764700/
Most cities do not have enough inspectors, and there is a general lack of enforcement. A group called Brooklyn Center has an idea, to reduce the reinspection requirements if a landlord has a good record. Camden, NJ has a special housing court, separate from all other legal matters, and it meets twice a week with a focus on bring property owners into compliance. Ocean Township has cloud-based software that allows users to see property violations.
A study conducted by a professor at Seton Hall University.
After the study’s publication, its authors held stakeholders meetings at Seton Hall’s law school in Newark to discuss a legislative response to the study’s findings. The remedies discussed included:
- Restricting court records from being used blindly in background checks. Minnesota requires tenant-screening services to disclose all information about a person along with the sources, reducing the chance a tenant who wins a court case would be punished. New York City is considering similar legislation.
- Changing court rules so judges have discretion on the amount of back rent a tenant must post to receive a Marini hearing.
- Creating a statewide code enforcement database so judges can see a property’s or landlord’s history.
- Using that database to alert state and federal housing agencies about substandard living conditions so they can potentially abate rent subsidies to landlords who are neglecting properties.
January 8, 2017: HALLMARK HOUSE PARKING & REDEVELOPMENT PLANS. More details on the parking crisis at The Hallmark House, first blogged here on Jan 3rd. Starting in March, 2016, management increases parking from $85 to $125. Whether or not this is in violation of the Rent Control Ordinance depends on who you talk to. The ordinance is clear that parking is included in the CPI-based rent increases, but the parking is not in the lease. Tenants sign a separate parking agreement with an outside vendor who themselves LEASE the parking lot from the Hallmark House. We have confirmed that the parking lot is owned by the Hallmark House
According to lot and block records, the entire square block (Block 6, Lot 1) is owned by PF Hallmark House, LLC, located at 1315 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230. It is assessed at $24.0 million. It is NOT a separate lot; the land is directly owned by the landlord. The Hallmark House appears to be attempting to circumvent the parking provision of the Rent Control Ordinance by leasing the parking lot to an outside vendor, and not managing the parking directly. This arrangement may predate the 2014 rent control ordinance.
Further complicating the matter is a giant sign on the Broad Street announcing their plans to redevelop the parking lot. They want to build a 12-story building there, plus 2 huge retail stores to replace the entire lawn along Broad Street.
Hallmark House tenants are worried about the illegal parking lot increase, but the bigger problem is whether or not they will have ANY parking at all. At this time, we don't know the status of approvals for the redevelopment, or if it's already approved, if there is anyone that wants to build the retail stores and the 12-story tower. As usual, the tenants are kept completely in the dark regarding major changes to their home living situation. Tenants are just treated as second-class citizens. It's disgusting.
January 5, 2017: It has been announced that the PATH rail line from Midtown Manhattan to Newark Penn Station will be extended south to Newark Airport, and two new PATH stations will be built. One will be in the vicinity of Frelinghuysen & Haynes Avenues in a gritty industrial section of the South Ward known mostly for old deteriorated factories, brownfield properties, and drug rehab centers. The other will be at the Airport. There's been talk of extending the PATH line for years and years, and now it's finally happening. As I recall, the PATH option was considered but rejected when the monorail was built. I wonder what will happen to the monorail? Does anyone still use it? And will the PATH be extended into Elizabeth, that's been talked about for some time as well.
This blogger thinks PATH should also add a station along McCarter Highway in the vicinity of Chestnut Street (Ironbound) and Kinney Street (downtown). A station there would get way more use that Haynes Ave. However, I think the real plan is for massive redevelopment of the Haynes Ave area on both sides of the railroad. There's a triangular shaped old industrial area bounded by Weequahic Park, Frelinghuysen Ave and Route 22 that could be entirely redeveloped. Even Haynes Ave as far east as Route 9 could attract the attention of builders. Who knows, in 10 years that could look like the Harrison PATH station.
The news article about the PATH extension makes a big deal about the Seth Boyden housing project being redeveloped as a Transit Village. I don't have a map in front of me, but I think that project is over a quarter mile from the proposed PATH station. A little far for a Transit Village. Housing advocates will surely have something to say about the Seth Boyden redevelopment, and how much of it will be designated as affordable housing. For those readers who don't know, what the State defines as affordable housing is not Section 8 or any kind of public housing. Path Extension and Seth Boyden Transit Village
January 4, 2017: More validation of our position that rising rents cuts into consumer spending, in this case spending for food. From CBS last week, When Paying Rent Means Going Hungry
Complaints are coming in from tenants at the Hallmark House (in downtown Newark) that management is increasing parking fees beyond the provisions of the rent control ordinance
January 3, 2017: Anticipating that a meeting will be called soon for community leaders to come together on the proposed Inclusionary Zoning and Short Term Rental (AIRBNB) ordinances.
December 31, 2016: We have chanced upon a regularly published series of articles on rent control in NYC. Propublica covers a variety of topics that are "in the public interest", and The Rent Racket is one of their most popular series. Also listing this link in our Tenant Resources section, so our readers can have ready access. The 23 year retreat from rent control in NYC has had a profound and tremendous impact upon housing costs in New Jersey. It originally started with a revolt by landlords against millionaire tenants in NYC who were enjoying rent control, and it's evolved into the loss of rent control and affordable housing for everyone. Propublica: The Rent Racket
December 30, 2016: In an email copied to the entire Newark city council and other city officials, Mayor Ras Baraka has responded to our email blast about the proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. Mayor Baraka didn't respond at all to the specific concerns over the wording of the proposed ordinance, and instead accused the objectors of not investigating before thinking.
"Just an FYI for those that like to investigate before they actually speak: Downtown projects with Affordable Housing already agreed upon now and going forward include the following: Hahnes building, Verizon Building, NJPAC tower, Bears stadium, and counting. These projects alone account for more than 200 units of Affordable Housing in the downtown area alone. Happy New Year to all!" - Ras Baraka
The message appears to be that affordable housing is being provided even without the proposed ordinance, so community leaders shouldn't express concerns about the wording of the proposed ordinance.
We do appreciate Mayor Baraka's general support for affordable housing and rent control (Ras Baraka, as a councilman, was the sponsor of the rent contro ordinance in the Spring of 2014), but we are long past the idea of just sitting back and trusting our city leaders to represent our needs. If that were the case, we wouldn't have had to fight very hard four times to keep the rent control ordinance from being gutted, we wouldn't have had to file a motion to intervene in the litigation between the landlord's and the City of Newark, and we wouldn't be facing a short-term rental / AIRBNB ordinance now. Eric Martindale responded to the Mayor, as follows:
"That's excellent work, Ras. I'm glad there is progress before the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance is adopted. Perhaps some of those builders are including affordable housing because they know the Mayor of Newark wants affordable housing. I will note this progress on the tenants website. All of that progress is irrelevant to the issues with the proposed ordinance. Housing advocates hope that the City will take a strong look at the recommendations, which are a compilations of ICC's recommendations, my recommendations, and input that I have received from other leaders. It's a work in progress."
December 29, 2016: OBJECTIONS TO THE PROPOSED INCLUSIONARY ZONING ORDINANCE
Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United has compiled a list of objections to the proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance.
Objections #2 and #4 alone are sufficient reason to stop the adoption of the ordinance until the objections can be incorporated.
Objection #7 is a huge opportunity that is being missed. It benefits both builders and housing needs.
Objections #1 through #5, below, were raised by the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC). The ICC conceived, lobbied for, and drafted the ordinance, and presented it to the Mayor. They are upset with the changes and omissions on the version proposed for adoption.
(1)Duration. All projects should be covered for a period of 30 years without exception. The proposed Ordinance mandates a 30 year commitment to affordability with the exception of “High Poverty Census Tracts” (most of the City), which only carry a 10 year commitment. This loophole needs to be closed and the 30 year term should remain intact for all projects, thus providing the transition into Rent Control for the affordable units.
(2)Substantial Rehabilitation. The Ordinance should apply to Substantial Rehabilitation projects. It is standard to include Substantial Rehabilitation projects as well as new construction in Inclusionary Ordinances; otherwise, large residential projects in renovated old buildings will be unnecessarily exempt.
(3)Threshold Project Size. The Ordinance should apply to all projects of 20 units or more that are presented at either the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Adjustment. It is larger projects that can support the inclusion of affordable units.
(4)Zoning Board. The Ordinance should apply to all Zoning Board projects that receive “c” and/or “d” variances, regardless of size; otherwise they are getting free public bonuses with no give-backs. For example, if a Zoning Board project gets approval to double its density from 10 to 20 units, it gets a great benefit towards its bottom line with no compensatory responsibility since it is not covered by the proposed threshold number of units. At the very least, a sliding scale could be applied:
o Projects of 10-19 units have a 10% set-aside responsibility.
o Projects of 20 units or more have a 20% set-aside responsibility.
(5)Downtown/ Central Business District. The Ordinance should apply to the Central Business District immediately. Delaying application of the IZO to downtown (Central Business District) until 2018 opens the potential for projects to get their approval prior to 2018 with no affordability responsibility and thereby allowing downtown to develop as an exclusive market (i.e., luxury) rate enclave. This would not meet the vision of having Newark grow inclusively and for all incomes; further, it may contribute significantly to gentrification and displacement.
These are all excellent points. In addition, Eric Martindale makes the following observations
(6)ALLOW OPTION OF 15% AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR 99 YEARS: 20% for 30 years should be the standard, but if a developer wants the option of 15% for 99 years, Newark should take that in a heartbeat. From a housing advocacy perspective, this more than doubles the amount of unit-years of affordable housing. It actually provides 2.475 times more unit-years of affordable housing. For example
20% for 30 years 15% for 99 years
400 unit development 400 unit development
20% affordable = 80 units 15% affordable = 60 units
x 30 years x 99 years
= 2400 unit-years = 5940 unit-years
What builder would take the 99-year option? I expect many builders to be focused entirely on the profit margin during the 30-year mortgage. Less affordable housing (15% instead of 20%) means more profit during those years. Some builders are not concerned about what happens after the 30 year mortgage is paid off, and might figure that they will be long dead and buried. Never underestimate the lure of upfront greed on the part of a builder.
Other builders might have a hard time getting their project financed by a bank with a 20% affordable housing obligation, and the 15% for 99 years is the only way the project can be approved. In this case, this option is especially good for affordable housing because the proposed building is actually financed and constructed, and much-needed affordable units become available. Providing the builders and the banks with more flexibility and options certainly doesn’t harm them, and in this case it’s a win-win for affordable housing.
(7)SET RECEIVING DISTRICT PARAMETERS: Please set parameters for Newark to become a receiving district that will accept the affordable housing obligation from other cities and towns in Northern New Jersey. These parameters should include how a developer outside of Newark can work with a developer in Newark to fulfill an affordable housing obligation. While many suburbs have a nose-in-the-air elitist attitude towards affordable housing, we in Newark see affordable housing as a vital resource. Such partnerships are an important potential source of funds to build affordable housing in Newark. The Newark ordinance is not complete without these criteria being fleshed out. Both the builders and the housing advocates are losing out due to this omission.
(8)THRESHOLD OBJECTION: Ironbound’s Threshhold objection (see objection #3) is still not strong enough. Under the proposed wording, in order to circumvent the affordable requirements, developers will:
a.Build apartment buildings one unit short of the 30 or 20-unit threshold, and/or build many 2-family or 3-family houses on the property.
b.Another scenario is that an investor could subdivide a large lot into many small lots for the future construction of 2-family or 3-family houses, and then sell off those lots one by one. The next owner will then have no obligation for affordable housing because he is just building on the one lot that he owns.
Section 3F of the proposed ordinance does address these concerns, but very weakly.
I live in the real world. I know that the primary objection to the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance by the builders of smaller apartment buildings is that the economy of scale doesn’t exist to absorb a 20% affordable housing obligation. I agree that this is indeed the case, but the answer is not to exempt buildings under 30 units. The answer is instead to provide a sliding scale obligation, as follows
-Developments 30 units are more provide 20% affordable housing
-Developments 20 – 29 units provide 12% affordable housing
-Developments 10-19 units provide 8% affordable housing
-Developments 5 -9 units contribute towards the Newark Affordable Housing Trust Fund, based on a presumptive obligation of 6% affordable housing
In addition, on all of these sliding scale scenarios, multiply the affordable housing obligation by .75 if the builder pledges to keep the unit affordable for 99 years.
(9)DELAYED IMPLEMENTATION IN MOST OF NEWARK: ICC’s objection of delaying application of the IZO to the downtown also carries to the rest of the Central Ward, and to the North, West, and South Wards. There is a reason for the proposed delays; it’s so politically connected builders can get their projects in and approved before the requirements take effect. If it sounds bad and smells bad, it’s bad. ICC appears to be unwilling to make such a strong statement. I have no qualms at all.
(10)NEWARK AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST FUND: Section 5B defines the amount a developer must contribute to the Newark Affordable Housing Trust Fund if they don’t want to include affordable units in their development. There are two problems with this:
a.First, the equation set is $100,000 for a 1,000 square foot 2-bedroom unit. I don’t build homes, but I am a contractor, and I know for sure that this figure is too low. They are claiming it costs $100 per square foot of floor space for new construction. Check with credible sources in the construction industry to see what the real cost is. Come back with a real number for the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. Thank you.
b.Secondly, a non-profit organization which is receiving funds from the Newark Affordable Housing Trust Fund first has to buy the land to build the affordable units. That cost could easily be $25,000 to $50,000 per unit, and even more for the downtown. This is a real cost, and it needs to be factored into the equation. My objection is not simply that the $100 per square foot is too low, it’s that it doesn’t include land acquisition costs.
c.For developments over 70 units, the ordinance should require out right that no more than 50% of the affordable housing obligation can be shifted into a housing trust fund. The whole point of adopting an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance is that affordable units are actually built within market rate developments. The lure of contributing only $100,000 per unit into a Trust Fund is so favorable that no inclusionary units will actually be built onsite.
d.On October 7, 2016 I suggested in my blog post on www.newarktenantsunited.org a structured incentive to transfer the affordable housing obligation to distressed neighborhoods. I rescind that suggestion if such units are only to be affordable for 10 years instead of 30 years. The suggestion is otherwise moot because nobody is going to transfer their obligation to a distressed census district if they can get out of their obligation for only $100,000 per unit. $100,000 a unit is much cheaper than actually buying land and building affordable housing.
e. There is no lock-box provision in the ordinance for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It could be raided by some future governor, as Chris Christie tried to do, or even by a future mayor and city council of Newark looking to balance the budget.
(11)NEWARK REPURCHASE, SECTION 10C: This should specify “City of Newark or any City of Newark Housing Corporation or Public/Private Housing Corporation”.
(12)RESALE PRICE AND REGIONAL INCOME LEVELS: I would rather tie the resale price to Newark Income Levels. Regional includes some rather affluent areas near Newark. This is in Section 11
(13)COAH: Somewhere there should be a reference to “COAH or it’s successor”, or otherwise indicate that if the State of New Jersey abandons affordable housing, Newark’s program continues without alteration
(14)ALIMONY & CHILD SUPPORT: There are two sections called 21d. One needs to be 21e, and then alter the following sections accordingly
(15)FLOOD ZONE ISSUES: Require that the ground floor of any unit be at least “x” feet above sea level, and that the developer may regrade to raise the topography. This would affect Ironbound more than any other part of Newark.
(16)ROOM SIZES AND CLOSET SPACE: All too often, builders of affordable housing will build the tiniest bedrooms and closets in order to squeeze a second or third bedroom onto a floor plan. The result is a substandard quality of life and a squalid housing unit. On behalf of the families of northern New Jersey, let me state clearly that we want quality housing, not apartments with tiny rooms and closets. I would like the ordinance to require, for the affordable units:
-A minimum master bedroom size of 140 square feet, and a minimum master closet of 18 square feet
-A minimum secondary bedroom size of 110 square feet, with a minimum bedroom closet size of 12 square feet
-A minimum entry closet size of 16 square feet.
-A minimum kitchen size of 80 square feet, for units that are 1 bedroom or more
-a minimum size of 500 square feet for total living space in a studio
This can be added by creating a Section 9D, and then note that Newark is opting to establish higher standards than NJAC 5:80-26.4. Newark is within it’s rights to do so.
Amendments and additions to this rebuttal could be forthcoming, based on reader input. Thank you.
December 21, 2016: Special thanks to Upendra Sapkota, Senior Planner for the Newark Department of Planning, Economic Development, and Sustainability. Ms. Sapkota provided us the pending Short Term Rental (AIRBNB) Ordinance and the pending Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. This came after other officials referred me to make an OPRA request, which should really only be for old documents that need to be researched.
Office of Planning, Zoning, and Sustainability
This is a great resource for current and future needs. It have also posted this link in our right column under RESOURCES TO HELP NEWARK & NJ TENANTS
Short term rental (AIRBNB)
Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance
My reviews of these ordinances are forthcoming.
For now, let me State that the Short Term Rental ordinance is very short, and it's worst deficiency is that it does not explicitly accept that it governed by Rent Control if the unit is otherwise a rent-controlled apartment. Making that change will not end opposition to the ordinance.
The Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance is 38 pages long. There are significant deficiencies in this ordinance, intended to allow the construction of affordable housing. It needs to be stronger.
December 19, 2016: A representative of the Ironbound Community Corp has advised that the Planning Board passed the AIRBNB proposal, and now it's back to the city council for adoption.
There was no attempt to block the Planning Board passage of AIRBNB because it has become known that the Newark Planning Board is absolutely elitist and shows zero consideration for the concerns of tenants and affordable housing. This became crystal clear during the recent application for the rehab of Carmel Towers. Tenant leaders are interested in fighting on the battlefields of our choosing. At this time, the Planning Board is not one of them.
There will likely be tenant pressure upon the Newark City Council to block the AIRBNB ordinance from being adopted, and if it is adopted for the Mayor to refuse to sign it.
It is hoped that Mayor Ras Baraka will clear out some of the dead wood on the Planning Board and appoint new members that are concerned with the true interests of the community.
December 18, 2016: UPDATE ON THE CPI-BASED RENT INCREASES. First, there has been a surge in the CPI-based rent increase. Newark Rent Control has just published the increase for February 1st, and it will be 1.6%. Here's the rent increases for recent months
Sept 2016 1.0%
Oct 2016: 1.0%
Nov 2016: 1.1%
Dec 2016: 1.0%
Jan 2017: 1.2%
Feb 2017: 1.6%
Now for the good news. The major landlords are still upset about not getting their 4% annual rent increases. Most Newark tenants are in or soon entering their 3rd year of low rent increases. Instead of rents going up 12.48% over the last 3 rent increases under the 2014 ordinance, most tenants have only increased 2% to 3%. There's a cumulative savings of about 10%. Could the landlords have gotten the higher rents ? The answer is YES, because the rental crisis continues to intensify in NYC and Hudson County.
The 2014 Rent Control Ordinance is working as designed, it is protecting the tenants from being gouged, or being stripped of all disposable income, or literally being forced out of Newark. The only problem is that the Newark ordinance is not being duplicated all over America.
For a tenant's third lease under the 2014 rent control ordinance, the approximate 10% savings amounts to the following
LEASE AMOUNT MONTHLY SAVINGS ANNUAL SAVINGS
$800 $80 $960
$900 $90 $1080
$1000 $100 $1200
$1100 $110 $1320
$1200 $120 $1440
$1300 $130 $1560
$1400 $140 $1680
$1500 $150 $1800
$1600 $160 $1920
$1700 $170 $2040
$1800 $180 $2160
$1900 $190 $2280
$2000 $200 $2400
$2100 $210 $2520
$2200 $220 $2640
The savings last year were about 2/3 of these amounts, and in the prior year, the savings were about 1/3 of these amounts. Next year's savings, and for following years, will be higher, due to the incremental nature of the CPI-based rent increases.
Now, the question is: "What are tenants doing with the money saved". And the answer is: "They are spending it". This helps the entire economy. It increases sales in all industries, and it generated jobs. Tens of millions of additional money is flowing around in the Newark area economy. And the low rents are making Newark a more attractive place to live, especially for young adults fresh out of college. We, the tenant leaders of Newark, are part of the economic renaissance of our city. Isn't it ironic that there is more building and investing in Newark that at any time in the last 50 years. Despite all the propganda and scare tactics by the landlords, the 2014 Newark Rent Control Ordinance has had zero negative impact on building and investing in Newark.
The Newark Rent Control Ordinance pegs the allowed rent increase to the change in the CPI-U for New York, northern New Jersey, and Long Island, with a cap of 4%. That means that no matter how high the CPI goes, the rent increase will not exceed 4%. There were several negative months in the CPI-U since adoption of the ordinance, and these were interpretted to be 0%, not a rent reduction.
December 17, 2106: The root source of the Newark housing crisis has been revealed, and it's a surprise. It was a vote in NYC in 1994 to allow vacancy decontrol. Vacancy decontrol are provisions that allow the landlord to raise the rent when a tenant moves out to a level above that otherwise dictated by the rent control ordinance. In this case, NYC voted to allow 100% complete decontrol for any rental unit that surpasses $2,000 a month rent, for any reason. What's not in the article is that there was a surge of capital improvement applications, and other special rent increase applications, in order to bring units over the magic $2,000 threshold.
The housing crisis has rippled out of NYC, especially in the past 5 years, as tens of thousands of tenants fleeing high rents have moved to Newark and other parts of New Jersey. 1994 Vote that allowed NYC vacancy decontrol
December 13, 2016: San Fransisco started AIRBNB, and now that city is turning strongly against it with new regulations. AIRBNB allows apartments to be rented as hotel rooms. Perhaps the City of Newark should look at San Fransisco's reforms. Dec 11 SF turns against AIRBNB
December 12, 2016: NEW JERSEY INCOME DOWN SINCE 2009 But of course, rents are up. NJ.com article entitled The Big Loss. Documents how income in NJ is down in real dollars since 2009, not even counting for inflation. We're hurt more by the economy than almost any State. And in this economy, it is an utter disgrace that rents have been skyrocketing for those last 8 years. This is only possible due to a tremendous outflow of NYC residents seeking cheaper rents. We are suffering so much due to the greed in NYC, and we as voters have zero say about housing costs in NYC.
Based on the economy of New Jersey alone, rents should have been flat or declining for this entire time. This is a tremendous argument for rent control for the entire State, or at least all of northern New Jersey.
December 11, 2016: New York-based landlords are becoming a global scurge, oppressing tenants everywhere. The following NY Times article details the struggle between tenants in Europe and "Wall Street landlords" based in the US, esp. in New York
NY Times Dec 11, 2016
December 10, 2016: Three important resolution on the docket for December 7th.
1. First for the city to hire Temporary Construction Code Enforcement personnel, for a 2 year term. They are hiring the firm of Optimus Exidus, located in Nutley, for $1.5 million. It doesn't say how many personnel will be hired.
2. Second to refer to the Planning Board to allow for AIRBNB short term rentals. It passed, but Councilman Amador voted "no"
3. Third is an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, also referred to the Planning Board. Councilman Amador also voted "no" on this one.
December 6, 2016: The following has been emailed to Mayor Ras Baraka and the city council, in addition to posting here
"$250,000 fine payable to 9 tenants. That's over $25,000 each.
Newark might have the strongest rent control ordinance of any major city in America, but we don't have strong judges. Our judges are weak, the fines are a slap on the wrist. Why can't we have judges like this judge in NYC.
The 3 needed components to protect tenants:
- well-staffed and strong code enforcement
- tough judges
- strong rent control ordinance
Newark only has one of the needed components."
December 3, 2016: Additional arguments against Newark's pending approval of AIRBNB are coming in from supporters of rent control:
1. GET IN WITH NO BACKGROUND CHECK -- It's a way for families unable to pass a credit check to live in your buildings. There's typically no background check for AIRBNB, or something much less. Income and credit-worthiness isn't the only issue. AIRBNB is also perfect for any fugitive fleeing from the law anywhere in America. Who knows if the "tenant" is even providing their legal name.
2. PERFECT FOR PROSTITUTES -- It's a way for prostitutes to set up shop. Some of them travel the country. They stay for a few months each in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, NY/NJ, and just travel around while they try to meet new clients posing as single women on internet dating websites. AIRBNB is perfect for them.
3. COUNTY WILL USE AIRBNB TO PLACE HOMELESS FAMILIES -- There's a shortage of hotel space for social service agencies looking to place homeless families. It's a lot cheaper than hotels, and it meets the philosophical desire of social service providers to make placements in a "community environment". The biggest client of AIRBNB in Newark is going to the County of Essex. Homeless families will be placed into residential apartments all over Newark, and it will save County government millions. And nobody cares about the existing tenants, or that buildings will be destabilized.
4. PERFECT FOR MEGAN'S LIST -- Sex offenders on Megan's list have a hard time renting apartments due to background checks. AIRBNB is well-suited to those on Megan's list. The landlords either don't perform background checks or they just won't care if a temporary resident is on Megan's list. Any major landlord that utilizes AIRBNB is going to be a bottom-feeder.
5. RISK TO INSURANCE COMPANIES -- For all of the above three reasons, AIRBNB presents an enormous liability risk to the landlords, so much so that it is very unfair to the insurance industry if their clients include AIRBNB in their business plan without accepting an additional cost on their liability insurance. Any ordinance allowing AIRBNB should involve the landlord providing proof to the City of Newark that they have contacted their liability insurance carrier accordingly. And to publicly disclosing their liability insurance information so that concerned tenants can contact the insurance company.
6. UNFAIR COMPETITION TO HOTELS -- Hotels objecting to AIRBNB is analagous to retail stores and deli's objecting to street vendors. The argument is the same; there is unfair competition with the brick-and-mortar businesses that are paying taxes to the City of Newark. And why should any more hotels even build in Newark if the City will allow AIRBNB. Hotels are going to object to AIRBNB coming into Newark, because they will lose bookings, their vacancy rates will go up, and they will have to reduce their rates to compete. Tenant leaders should compile a list of hotels in Newark, and contact every one of them to help lobby against AIRBNB. In the meantime, a comprehensive case against AIRBNB needs to be compiled.
November 26, 2016: PENDING AIRBNB ORDINANCE ALARMS TENANT LEADERS Newark has started the process to adopt an airbnb ordinance, and a resolution to this effect is on the docket for the Tuesday November 29, 2016 city council meeting. The text is here: airbnb resolution
Airbnb is a peer-to-peer online marketplace and homestay network that enables people to list or rent short-term lodging in residential properties, with the cost of such accommodation set by the property owner.
Airbnb brings transients into buildings. People will come and go on a weekly or even daily basis, and will have no desire to know their neighbors. The tenants of Newark have chosen to live in apartment buildings, not hotels. We don't have the full text of the proposed ordinance, but the resolution refers to all residential zones.
More importantly, Airbnb is effectively an end-run around rent control. In terms of the rent control ordinance, these short-term leases/contracts are completely unenforceable. How could the city's Rent Control Department possibly monitor these leases, when their manpower is stretched so thin as it is that they can barely monitor year-to-year leases ?
Landlords will have the ability to designate as many units as they like for airbnb use, and reap profits far beyond the rents allowed under the rent control ordinance. The profit margin could be so great that lure of converting units to airbnb use would be an incentive to drive out existing tenants. This is every bit analogous to our objection to the landlord's proposal on vacancy decontrol a few months ago, which was to allow a 20% rent increase on a vacant unit if the equivalent of 7 months rent was spent on rehabilitation. In this case, the numbers are even more alarming. To our knowledge, there is no provision for rehab, and the increased profit on airbnb use could far exceed a 20% rent increase.
Matt Shapiro, President of the New Jersey Tenants Organization, has been contacted, and he provides the following as an initial observation:
"I do see the text of a resolution amending a prior resolution, somehow defective, which referred a "draft ordinance" (not identified by number or reference) amending the Newark zoning and land use law, and referring that ordinance to the Central Planning Board for swift review. This resolution may be defective in leaving out specific identification of the proposed ordinance.
Anyway, you might want to get a look at that draft ordinance to see just what is being proposed. It does seem extensive from the "Whereas" clauses in this resolution. It would seem to be a legalization of any short term rental in any type of residential building (single family, two unit, or multiple dwelling) anywhere in the city. But you need to see the text of the draft ordinance to know that.
I know of only two municipalities that have acted to prohibit air bnb's -- Union City and Fort Lee. Jersey City has acted to enable it. I have no expertise in land use law or hotel and motel regulation, which are probably the major areas restricting this type of use.
In my opinion, short term rentals should not be allowed in multiple dwellings. The transient short-term renters (transient by definition, not by negative characterization unreasonably applied to all renters) do not have a connection to their "neighbors," whom they do not likely even consider neighbors. Their behavior impacts the other building occupants, who have little if any ability to respond, other than by moving out. Rent control would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce on these units.
Such units (in any size building) are effectively removed as units affordable to low to middle income families, increasing the price pressure on the remaining units."
- Matt Shapiro
Based on Shapiro's remarks, it would be more appropriate for Newark to follow the lead of Fort Lee and Union City, and specifically prohibit airbnb rentals.
November 25, 2016: Tenant leaders are unanimous in their belief that Sam August was removed from the Rent Control Board to weaken the tenants movement. The mayor has responded that Mr. August was not removed due to any complaints about Sam's performance (which has been stellar), but merely to allow another city resident the opportunity to serve on this important Board.
This webmaster asked and encouraged Sam August to run for an at-large position on the Newark City Council in 2018. That would really be the perfect response to the injustice of removing him from the Rent Control Board. If Ras doesn't want him on a minor board, then Ras can deal with him on the city council. That's the answer. Sam is intelligent, he is very concerned with housing and social justice matters, and as a licensed CPA, he would be well-suited to review the city budget. August would be a strong candidate and an excellent councilman, but sadly, he has no plans to run for public office. I hope he reconsiders.
We have chosen not to post the Mayor's email comments and the responses from tenants. It's all really ugly. The best response is not to continue to battle with the mayor, but instead to organize ourselves internally, and plan for the next phases of battle. Clearly, the mayor is unconcerned about possibly losing our gratitude. This means that we need to be stronger and more organized. And then we'll be more respected.
This whole matter is extremely disconcerting to us. We have updated the Rent Control Summary document to include the first ever red item (LANDLORD WIN). Every other matter since our inception has been a blue item (TENANT WIN). Will post it soon.
November 16, 2016: SAM AUGUST REMOVED FROM RCB Sam August, a tenant representative on the Newark Rent Control Board received a letter from the city stating he has been removed from the Newark Rent Control Board at the discretion of the mayor. Mr. August is a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and he brought invaluable knowledge to the Rent Control Board that no other member possessed. He was able to scrutinize the landlord's applications and verify if the information is accurate, and at the same time to expose any irregularities in applications. Samuel August resided at the Pavilion, and He has been an active tenant leader in Newark for years. The Board is composed, by ordinance, of 2 tenant representatives, 2 landlord representatives, and 1 homeowner.
Only two major landlord applications were heard during August's tenure, and only one of those, 559 Broadway, was heard completely. The application for 380 Mount Prospect could not proceed due to lack of substantial compliance on violations.
Sam August has been reportedly replaced by Tawanda Dowdell-Sheard. We know nothing about her, but evidently she is a tenant who lives in Newark, and is close politically with Ras Baraka and Council members who support the mayor. She may turn out to be a great Board member, but right now tenant leaders are upset at the TALENT that we lost from the Board.
The process of his removal is very disturbing. There was no objective investigation, and not even the courtesy of a phone call. It was done by letter, and no reason was specified. What could they possibly say, that he was doing too good a job as a tenant representative? The whole matter is very distasteful.
At this time, we don't know what is the official process to remove a member of one of the city's Boards. Does the Mayor have the right to remove any Board member at any time, be in Planning Board, Zoning Board, or Rent Control Board? That's an unanswered question. It certainly merits investigation.
November 15, 2016: NorthJersey.com article on One Theatre Square, which is a luxury apartment building to be built next to the Robert Treat Hotel, and across from the NJPAC. The article actually promotes and encourages the very type of rent inflation that many civic leaders are concerned with. Improving downtown Newark is a good thing, but when it morphs into elitism and gentrification, that becomes a concern. Nov. 15 article on One Theatre Square
November 14, 2016: Kettler Management, the bitter enemy of tenants in Newark, NJ now holds the Chair position of the National Apartment Owners Association. Cindy Clare, President of Kettler Management, was sworn in as President of the NAOA. This probably means that NAOA will be looking much closer at the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. The management company that has most bitterly battled with tenant leaders representing the most active tenant associations in Newark now runs the NAOA. The NAOA fears what has happened in Newark, and the possible national implications. The irony is that Kettler has quite nearly been run out of Newark; of the four buildings they managed, only The Addison has kept Kettler. Tenant leaders all across the United States have no clue how seriously bad this selection will be for them.
Swearing in of Cindy Clare
November 12, 2016: An article in City Lab on Nov. 11th is amazingly close to the economic arguments presented in our Rent Control - Comprehensive Presentation. They even go as far as to state that it is causing national economic stagnation. It incorporates new and additional information. The housing crisis of today is worse than at any time in our lifetimes. The Great Rent Squeeze
Regarding Item #2, Substantial Rehabilitation, from the Nov. 11th post , the ordinance on the books now is what counts, per Matt Shapiro. The Policy & Procedure Manual is so outdated that it contains language and forms that are inconsistent with the current ordinance. It's more than interesting to see the original meaning of "Substantial Rehabilitation". Item #1 regarding Hardship Application remains a valid issue.
A Zoning Board application for the Colonnades (25 & 51 Clifton Avenue) to add fencing and remove security guards from the lobbies was not heard on Thursday, Nov. 10th. It will be rescheduled. Colonnade residents are in an uproar, and this will be a major battle. Rumors are also floating around that the same landlord is considering filing a Hardship Application.
November 11, 2016: SHOCKING DISCOVERIES IN THE NEWARK RENT CONTROL POLICY & PROCEDURE MANUAL: We are in receipt of the Rent Control Policy & Procedures Manual, approx. 1.5" thick, that was secured via an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request a few weeks ago. My initial quick review found two absolutely shocking things in the Manual:
(1) DEPRECIATE EXPENSES IN HARDSHIP APPLICATIONS: Pages 71 and 74 are clear that expenses incurred during the time period of a hardship application are to be depreciated. This was not done for the Hardship Application at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Avenue, and the Rent Control Dept cleared the application for a hearing without the depreciation being calculated. This issue was a substantial portion of the proposed 17% rent increase, and it was part of my planned objections had the building secured substantial compliance. I bet this problem recurred with 559 Broadway as well. (This is also more reason to see the tax return of the applicant to be sure they are depreciating for the same time period they are claiming to the IRS)
(2) THE NEWARK ORDINANCE SAYS SUBSTANTIAL REHABILITATION IS ONLY FOR VACANT BUILDINGS: The Landlords have been complaining bitterly that the $5,000 per room is too much. They want to be able to rehab a kitchen or bathroom, or lay down laminate flooring in an entire unit, for a few thousand dollars, and process a rent increase for the next tenant. Well, the Policy & Procedure manual appears to indicate, in dozens of places and on multiple pages, that this entire section is for vacant buildings. It's not for vacant units in occupied buildings, when a tenant moves out. The manual even stipulates that the entire building needs to be vacant for 18 months. If I'm reading this correctly, this is a gigantic WOW ! (See note on 11/12/2016 posting for more information)
November 10, 2016: Will Donald Trump help or help American's cities ? Here's an interesting piece from the left-of-center CITY LAB. City Lab article on Donald Trump
November 9, 2016: Congratulations to Donald Trump for winning the Presidency. It is fair to wish the best to the victor, and to hope that there is progress on affordable housing matters. Newark Tenants United did not endorse any candidates or encourage voters to vote any way. Our blog was silent throughout the election process regarding the campaign.
Trump is in for a rude awakening, which is that he ran a POPULIST campaign, and now he will be expected to address all populist issues, including HOUSING REFORM. That might be difficult, considering his real estate background. However, Trump's core constituency that elected him is poor and working class rural Whites. These are people with serious economic and housing needs, and they've had Trump's ear for over a year. That's a good thing, and it may indicate positive public policy changes that will also benefit the poor and working class in America's cities. We'll see.
One early move on social justice matters for the poor and working class could be Trump's campaign promise to make day care costs a tax deduction. The costs of day care have become so high over the past 20 years that some people are now choosing not to work, because after considering taxes and transportation costs, over 75% of their income (at minimum wage) would be consumed by day care costs. This is a pure absurdity. A Republican/businessman looks at this problem in a very different way than a Democrat. The Democrat has a pure class-conflict perspective, and is looking to secure more entitlements for as many constituent groups as possible. The Republican is looking for ways to maximize income for poor and working class people by removing obstacles to working.
Making day care costs a tax deduction makes a lot of sense, and this will help millions of families in cities like Newark. Not only will the taxable income be reduced by the cost of day care, but the family will qualify for much greater Earned Income Tax Credits by having a lower taxable income, on the order of about $10,000 a year. And the family will have much more disposable income on both counts. Remember the central theme of our video slide presentation --- disposable income is what powers the entire consumer economy. If average people have more money to spend, the entire economy will take off like a rocket.
Meanwhile, for the Republicans, the fact that day care costs consume 75% of earnings at minimum wage is a serious wake-up call to the need to increase minimum wage. Although individual employers will lose money because minimum wage has increased, the amount of money flowing around in the economy will be much greater, and there will be much more overall spending for various products and services. In many cases, this is to the immediate benefit of the very businesses that would be paying a higher minimum wage.
November 7, 2016: SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH THE NEWARK PLANNING BOARD. Folks, tenant leaders have been focussing on the city council, the Rent Control Ordinance, and a bit on Newark Rent Control hearings. However, there's another whole component of the housing movement. That component is the performance of the Newark Planning Board. And we have a problem.
Tonite's Planning Board meeting saw the approval of the rehab of the vacant 25-story Carmel Towers, at Meeker and Elizabeth Avenues in the South Ward. On it's face, restoring a vacant building is a good thing, and it's hard to argue otherwise. However, the Planning Board was weak in its review and didn't even ask about the developer providing any affordable housing. There was no discussion at all about affordable housing except from this webmaster. I told the Board, outright, that "I am astonished and ashamed" that the Board was not addressing or discussing affordable housing matters, especially in light of an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance under development
Across most of the country, $1,000 a month rent gets you a single family house. But in Newark, $1,000 a month gets you a studio apartment in my building. People cannot afford to live in Newark, and there's nowhere cheaper in our area to relocate to. "The housing crisis is real", I said. A big part of the disconnect is that the Planning Board members own houses and just don't get it that we're in a catastrophic housing crisis.
The 216-unit building will be a high-income gentrification project in the South Ward. This marks a major change in Newark, as it will be the first instance of true gentrification in the South Ward. The building provides 104 parking spaces, and their experts testified that there will no issues or problems associated with overflow parking in the neighborhood. They said folks will park on Elizabeth Ave both north and south of Route 78. This is such a lie it's hysterical. Folks are going to park where parking is safest, which is the quite side streets going west from Elizabeth Ave. There wasn't even any discussion of that on the part of the applicant.
The applicant testified that the prior owner was foreclosed upon and that they bidded and won this property. They claim no affiliation and no connection at all with the prior owner.
November 4, 2016: A representative of Newark Tenants United submitted an Open Public Records Application (OPRA) for the Rent Control Policy and Procedures Manual on October 13th. A letter received today from the City Clerk's office stated that more time is needed to locate the document. Maria Hernandez of Rent Control has this document, and there should not be any delay or refusal to comply.
November 3, 2016: Special thanks to Alturrick Kenney for his hard work in trying to secure jobs for Newark residents. Kenney has been at the center of the initiative to secure more Port Newark jobs for Newark residents. Their NewarkWorks website is here: http://www.newarkwdb.org/newark_works
November 2, 2016: The last vacant apartment building on Mt. Prospect Ave is undergoing rehab. Work is active at 312 Mt. Prospect, a 5 or 6-story brick apartment building, which appears to be at least 80 years old. There were once 3 large vacant apartment buildings in the vicinity of Mt. Prospect and 2nd Ave, several other vacant lots, and two other properties surrounded by hideous barbed wire fences. The barbed wire is gone, and soon there will be no abandoned properties.
November 1, 2016: The Planning Board case for the rehab of the vacant 25-story Carmel Towers is on the docket for 6:30 PM, on Monday, November 7th at the Central Planning Board. The hearing is in council chambers in city hall.
Carmel Towers is at Meeker and Elizabeth Avenues in the South Ward. The case was carried from the October meeting. The percentage of affordable housing is at issue. Plus the building will be exempt from rent control for 30 years, so the affordable housing obligation should be for 30 years (at least), not 20 years which is common practice. The application represents a significant public policy discussion. I personally advocate 15% affordable housing for 99 years, not 20% for 20 or 30 years.
The issue primarily disaffecting that neighborhood for decades has been decline, disinvestment, poverty, crime, and drugs. Multiple buildings have been abandoned, and other buildings very close to Carmel Towers are simply teeming with problems. The greed of landlords on Elizabeth Ave, their outright racism, and their refusal to make repairs is an ongoing catastrophic problem. Compounding this problem is the nearly complete inability of the City of Newark to address code enforcement and property maintenance matters. This stems directly from the cutbacks in inspectors at the hand of former Mayor Corey Booker.
From a socioeconomic standpoint, the over-concentration of severe poverty in the Elizabeth/Meeker neighborhood is also at play. Whole buildings (and neighborhoods) simply don't work as "all poverty". This issue is fundamental to the housing movement, and the desire to see affordable housing mixed together with market rate housing. Few people say this outright, but folks know this implicitly because so many mid-rise and high-rise public housing projects in Newark have been dynamited and leveled. Economically impoverished Youth need to see stable adults and stable families living amongst them, to serve as role models. If all they see is crime and drugs, dysfunctional families, and abandoned and deteriorated properties, no amount of money spent to "improve our schools" will ever make a difference.
October 31, 2016: From May to December of this year, the allowable rent increase has been running 0.9% to 1.1%. The rate for December is 1.0%
October 25, 2016: Results from 10/24 Newark Central Planning Board meeting:
1. An enormous warehouse nearly 7 acres in size was approved for construction on Vanderpool Avenue near Port Newark. It will pay property tax and generate upwards of 250 permanent jobs. This project involved settling some litigation over environmental impact and soil contamination issues. The City of Newark will net only $250,000 in the settlement negotiated by Corporate Counsel Willie Parker; and the money must be spent on community improvements. Drew Curtis wants the businesses that will rent the warehouse space to hire Newarkers for the permanent jobs, but the builder doesn't even know who the commercial tenant(s) will be, no less have the ability to force their hand on hiring decisions.
2. Verizon was approved unanimously to gut rehab their historic high-rise building on Broad Street, across from Washington Park. Verizon will retain a large switching station in the building, and there will be retail on the ground floor. The bulk of the building will be converted into 265 apartments. The historic integrity of the building will be maintained. There was some discussion on the % of affordable rental housing, but we won't know the details until the decision is memorialized. Multiple representatives from Newark Tenants United and the Ironbound Community Corp were in attendance, and some spoke. The applicant testified that all boilers, chillers, HVAC, elevators, electrical, and plumbing will be 100% gutted out and re-installed.
3. The rehab of the 25-story Carmel Towers was pushed to the November Planning Board meeting
4. Eric Martindale asked the Planning Board why they do not allow the public to cross-examine the expert witnesses of applicants, and cited another city where this is standard practice. The Board asked him to put the request into writing. This is yet another example of Newark not following the rules.
Some familiar faces at the Planning Board hearings include East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, who serves on the Planning Board, and Maria Hernandez, who serves as Secretary for the Planning Board and even swears in all witnesses who testify.
Amador was upset that key documents for the Vanderpool Ave application were not delivered to the Planning Board members until a few hours before the hearing, but they were date-stamped as received weeks ago. He wants all documents to be delivered 1 to 2 weeks prior to an application, so they can be reviewed.
October 22, 2016: There's talk among tenant leaders of several levels of change to address the problem of the slumlord business plan, which is to collect rents and fix very little.
1. Code Enforcement like Newark has never seen before. We need to create a monster that really has teeth, and then "unleash the monster."
2. A tremendous increase in the Fine Structure. And with escalating fines for repeated violations for the same matters.
3. Incarceration of landlords. We're not talking about the property manager or the property manager firm. We're talking about the Managing Member of the LLC himself. If repairs are not made, and there are repeated violations, there needs to be some standard upon which a felony summons and incarceration is the answer.
4. Government needs to stop real estate investments from being LLC's. LLC stands for Limited Liability Corporation, and the whole point is for no liability to exist to the actual owner for the sins of the LLC. This is exactly what we don't want. The landlords want virtual immunity.
5. Asset Forfeiture. At some point, in the most extreme slumlord situations, government should have the right to seize the owner's other assets, liquidate them, and use the funds to make repairs. Those assets could include his stocks and bonds, and his personal home. There's money there, and that money can be used for repairs.
October 21, 2016: The Sixth Annual NJ Apartment Summit is being held on October 27, 2016 in Livingston, NJ. There's a $250 fee to attend, and it would be great if a tenant leader attended to gather information. The article contains a huge list of guest speakers, and we can compare that list to the campaign donation list for Newark City Officials. Several of the speakers are known to Newark tenants, including Arthur Rosenberg (Azure Partners/The Addison), Robyn Flagler (Kettler Mgmt), and Carmelo Garcia (Newark CEDC).
Article in Crain's New York announcing 10/27/2016 Apartment Summit
October 20, 2016: On Monday, 10/24, investors will be seeking Newark Planning Board approval to renovate and reopen the vacant 25-story high rise known as Carmel Towers. The 216-unit building sits across from the end of Weequahic Park at the intersection of Elizabeth Ave and Meeker Ave. Oct 19 NJdigs.com article
The building, originally built in 1970, had been a privately-owned HUD-subsidized property. The landlord, like so many in Newark, simply refused to fix things, and there were repeated threats by HUD to make repairs or they would revoke their subsidy. Conditions got so bad that HUD did revoked their subsidy, causing the tenants to lose their homes. Now the building is reopening as a luxury market-rate tower, reportedly with 20% of the units to be "affordable".
Lots of questions remain, and it would be more than disturbing to learn if the former owner somehow profited in the deal. There needs to be a forensic accounting showing all parties, their relationship to the other parties, and the money that was made or lost.
The Planning Board hearing is Monday, Oct 24th, at 6:30 PM in city council chambers. Tenant leaders are asked to attend.
An equally important application on the agenda is for the main Verizon Building on Broad Street across from Washington Park. Most of the building will be retrovitted to create hundreds of residential apartments. The amount of affordable housing is also an issue here.
October 19, 2016: Map showing average income needed to rent a 2-bedroom apartment, per State Income map per state
October 18, 2016: From NewarkPulse, the former Hayne's building on Broad Street in the heart of downtown Newark is offering 64 affordable rental units, along with Market Rate units and a Whole Foods on the ground floor. Expected occupancy is January 2017. The deadline to apply is Nov 15, 2016 10-18-2016 Newark Pulse article
October 13, 2016: Most of Newark and large parts of Essex County have some brown in the water due to utility work somewhere
October 11, 2016: Posting an article from NJ.com on tenants rights. The article announces the upcoming publication in the Rutgers Law Review of a study with major recommendations on improving tenant's rights. One of those recommendations is to end the "blacklisting" of tenants. We are eagerly awaiting the actual article in the Rutgers Law Review, which is due out this month. We'll make sure that it's not going to gather dust. Oct 10 NJ.com on tenants rights
Congratulations to Kevin Lopez, an Ironbound resident who graduated from Princeton University with honors a few months ago. Lopez has not yet released his graduate thesis on the Newark Tenants movement. Nobody has read it except two Princeton professors who graded it. Lopez says the thesis is 120 pages long, and concludes with the Hardship Application Hearing for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect. He's waiting to have it published first. Tenant leaders are unable to see it at this time. The professors were especially happy to read that the Newark tenants leaders have been winning.
October 10, 2016: PF Holdings, landlord for The Colonnades, will be appealing the denial of the Landmarks & Historic Preservation Committee for a proposed exterior fencing and security plan (see Sept 7 news, here). The plan is to have one guard at the fenced point of entry and another roving guard, but there is no requirement in any Newark ordinance for a roving guard, and it will be eliminated soon thereafter. The appeal will be to the Newark Planning Board, date uncertain at this time. Tenants at the Colonnades are anticipating a tremendous battle. They barely had time to organize last month, but this time it will be different.
The history of the tenants movement is that every time a landlord pushes real hard for something, there is a counter-move by the tenants and a sweeping change to public policy in the tenant's favor. This would be an excellent time for the tenant leaders to push to update the Security Guard Ordinance and restore the three key words from the 2009 Security Guard Ordinance that were removed in the 2011 Security Guard Ordinance. Those three all-important words are "in the lobbies". The 2011 ordinance, authored by Councilman Luis Quintana, secured additional requirements for security guards, but critically weakened the requirements for security guards to be stationed in the lobbies. The tenants at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect who fought so hard for those words to be added in 2009 were not advised that their ordinance was being changed two years later.
Newark Tenants United and the 380-402 Tenants Association stand ready to work with the Colonnades Residents Coalition (CRC) on a security guard ordinance.
Forest Hill Towers is having a tenant association election on October 19th. Their Chair and Vice-Chair are not running for re-election. There will be new leadership. Forest Hill Towers has the largest tenant association in Newark, with over 100 registered dues-paying members.
October 9, 2016: REVIEW: ALDI FOOD MARKET, Bloomfield Ave, Bloomfield ***** (five stars)
The prices are unbeatable on many items, and they do some really innovative things at the brand new Aldi Supermarket.
(1) No employee cost to gather up shopping carts. The cart has a mechanism where you deposit a quarter to get a cart. The same mechanism gives you back the quarter when you return the cart. If you don't want to return the cart, that's no problem, the next customer will take it from the parking lot, just to get the quarter back when they return it
(2) The lines go super-quick because they've solved the problem of waiting for the cashier and/or the customer to bag everything. Everything is scanned and put back into the shopping cart. Then you pay for it. There's a long counter along the front windows for customers to bag your food after you pay. They do charge $0.10 per bag (for bags that other supermarkets charge $1.00), but they are strong bags that can be reused many times. Reducing bag waste, that's good for the environment.
(3) Some sample prices
Tortilla chips $1.19 per bag, med. size bag
Corn chips $0.79 per bag, med. size bag
Large jar salsa $1.49
dozen eggs $1.09
Orange Juice 59 oz. $2.09 (Not From Concentrate)
Ground Beef $2.32 per pound
Chuck Roast Steak $2.99 per pound
Organic Granola $2.69 (good size box of cereal)
sm. packet gravy $0.35 (it's $1.00 or more everywhere)
sm. tomato paste $0.39
med. pork/beans $0.49
med. kidney bean $0.49 (way better than the can/can sale
at Shop Rite)
All boxed and canned goods are very very cheap. If Aldi can put some of the ghetto little bodegas that we have in Newark out of business, I'd be just fine with that. Or at least force the bodegas to lower their disgusting and predatory prices on boxed and canned goods. Aldi also has some organic foods mixed in that you pay a bit more, but way way less than Whole Foods.
Reducing employee costs to bag food and gather shopping carts is probably what allows them to offer their products for much less money. The future of the cost-cutting supermarket has arrived.
October 7, 2016: INCLUSIONARY ZONING ORDINANCE: Housing Advocate Eric Martindale submits to the Mayor & Council of Newark some comments on the proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. The Ironbound Community Corporation, which supports affordable housing, is the driving force behind the proposed ordinance. Reportedly, the proposed criteria is for all new development (rental or for sale) to provide 20% affordable housing onsite. Developments under 30 units would be exempt and the affordable criteria would expire after 30 years. Here's a summary of Martindale's comments:
1. Require 15% affordable housing for 99 years, not 20% for 30 years. This approximately doubles the number of unit-years of affordable housing, and ensures that there will be affordable housing in downtown Newark in distant future decades. This is a win-win idea. The developers will prefer 15% over 20% because the development will be more profitable with less upfront affordable housing, and that's all they care about. Banks are more likely to offer 30-year financing, and at reasonable rates, if only 15% of the units are mandated as affordable. On both of these latter counts, there will be more construction in Newark, and more affordable housing built.
2. Remove the proposed 30-unit threshhold. Newark doesn't want a whole lot of 25 and 29-unit developments, each exempt from the affordable housing requirement. Every development 6 units are more should provide affordable housing, and those under 6 units should contribute to an affordable housing trust fund
3. Address in the ordinance the situation of developers in the downtown requesting variances to transfer the affordable housing obligation to other parts of Newark. Those wishing to do this must provide a 20% affordable housing component (instead of 15%), and must build within a designated overlay zone covering economically depressed areas of the Central, South, West, and North wards. Of course, the builder can still ask for a variance from this, but it's going to be a tough sell to circumvent the higher affordable housing component or the designated overlay zone.
4. Set parameters which facilitate Newark becoming a receiving district that will accept the affordable housing obligation from other cities and towns in Northern New Jersey. Those communities, or developers in those communities, would build affordable housing in Newark.
5. There is to be no wiggle room for such a gut rehabilitation project (like the Eleven80 building) to circumvent both Rent Control and the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance.
6. There should be no ability for the individual buyer of a new construction condominium unit to rent it out for whatever they want, and then turn around and say it's still covered under affordable housing criteria for a potential resale.
October 5, 2016: Today the Newark City Council passed Resolution 16-1391, which supports a $67,069,008 rehabilitation project for Georgia King Village (GKV) by the NJ Housing Mortgage Finance Program. Georgia King Village is located on Littleton Ave and Market Street just outside of UMDNJ, and constitutes two 18-story highrises and over 100 townhouses. GKV needs help, this is good news.
The $67+ million comes to an average of $153,931 per unit for 422 units. The cost level of the rehab suggests that tenants will be relocated for a complete gut rehab of every unit, and then new tenants (or the same tenants) will re-occupy each apartment. I don't have information to support this, and will report further as information becomes available.
As a contractor, let me say that this figure, $153,931 per unit for rehab, seems impossibly high, even with labor union pricing for the labor. At this price, the $67 million better include replacing every single plumbing pipe and fixture and every single electrical line, plus one good-size slush fund for lots of people who are connected.
Lastly, let's compare this $153,931 per unit rehabilitation expense at GKV to the $5,000 per room requirement for substantial rehabilitation in the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. A landlord would need to spend $20,000 for a typical 4-room vacant apartment, or $25,000 for a 5-room unit, to qualify for a 20% rent increase. For two and a half years, the landlord lobby has complained bitterly to Newark city officials that this substantial rehab figure is too high, that units won't be rehabilitated and that "buildings and neighborhoods will deteriorate and decline" because $20,000 or $25,000 in rehab costs is unattainable. It's becoming clear that the objection is not based on reality, because the cost to rehab units of approximately the same size in Georgia King Villiage is $153,931. Yes, some of the $67+ million will probably be spent on common areas or common utilities, but they are likely still spending over $80,000 - $100,000 inside actual units at GKV for rehabilitation. The $5,000 per room clause in the RCO is fair.
October 3, 2016: Reposting The Permanent Crisis of Housing, an essay ported on the Portland Tenants United facebook page. This is a more radical perspective than we usually post, but it's fair to mix it up a bit for our readers. What's particularly relevant in this essay is that the media's perspective of "housing crisis" kicks into place only when it starts to affect the middle class, which it is now in both Portland, OR and Newark, NJ, among many other places. For the working class and the poor, there is always a housing crisis. A key excerpt:
"What needs defending is the use of housing as home, not as real estate. We are interested in the defense of housing as a resource that should be available to all.
Housing means many things to different groups. It is home for its residents and the site of social reproduction. It is the largest economic burden for many, and for others a source of wealth, status, profit, or control. It means work for those who construct, manage, and maintain it; speculative profit for those buying and selling it; and income for those financing it. It is a source of tax revenue and a subject of tax expenditures for the state, and a key component of the structure and functioning of cities.
Our concern is squarely with those who reside in and use housing — the people for whom home provides use values rather than exchange value. From the perspective of those who inhabit it, housing unlocks a whole range of social, cultural, and political goods. It is a universal necessity of life, in some ways an extension of the human body. Without it, participation in most of social, political, and economic life is impossible."
October 1, 2016: Unsure about the rest of Newark, but heat was indeed activated at The Addison, 380 & 402 Mount Prospect on October 1st, as mandated by law. This is the complex that went most of the summer without air conditioning. Special thanks to the new Property Manager, Nina Parker-Davis.
Reports are that the Newark city budget being approved calls for 25 code enforcement officers. There are currently only 8 for the entire city. The cutbacks, made during the Booker administration, gutted a REVENUE-GENERATING DEPARTMENT, further harming the fiscal health of the City of Newark. That was a brain-dead move, thank you Cory Booker. Looking to see if they are expanding from 8 to 25 code enforcement officers, or expanding from 8 to 33 (an increase of 25).
September 30, 2016: It's COLD !!! It's rainy, it's windy, it's in the 50's. Recent nights have dipped into the 40's. Heating season starts at midnight tonite, October 1st. Landlords are obligated by law to have the heat up and running on October 1st, not Oct 15 or whenever they feel like it.
Barry Carter, Star Ledger reporter, authors an article on the controversy over renaming Edison Place after Don King. We posted on this issue on September 21 and 22nd in this blog. We also contacted the Edison Foundation and secured their involvement, as well as introducing the issue to the Star Ledger reporter. Newark Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins is behind the move to rename the street after Don King. The effort reportedly sources from the same citizen activist that was behind naming a street in Newark after boxer Muhammad Ali, and that did not make the article. Ding Dong Don King Way
September 28, 2016: There were 21 evictions approved today in Landlord-Tenant Court for The Pavilion. Reportedly, most were "no-shows" on eviction notices. Those tenants will still have the ability to come clean and save their units between now and lockout day. There is still a "process" after a court-ordered eviction.
September 27, 2016: Here's your proof that gentrification is happening: The rent for brand new construction apartments at Broadway and Bloomfield Avenues is $1800 for 2-bedroom apartments, in a building squeezed in on a long narrow lot, without an inch of lawn, zero rear yard setback, and with no parking. And it's in a neighborhood with no street parking, and nowhere for a moving truck to park to unload your furniture. Everyone was laughing when they saw residential units going up in such an unsightly, congested, and economically depressed area. People were wondering "who the hell would want to live there". Well, people ARE moving in, and at very high rents. People DO want to live there.
One would imagine that this is close to the outer reaches of walking distance from the North Broad Street train station, which has direct access to mid-town Manhattan, and those trains are a lot nicer than PATH trains. So what does this mean ? Probably everything from the North Broad Street station to the corner of Bloomfield Ave and MLK Blvd will improve dramatically over time, including the side streets. Everything between Route 280 and Park Street, which is east of Branch Brook Park, is subject to gentrification. Most of the old houses in this area will likely transform from Section 8 rentals to market rate rentals. It would be smart to make sure that they register with Rent Control. Some sort of widespread community notification on this will be needed at some point.
Those looking for urban deterioration in the North Ward will probably still have what some call "the North Ward Hell Triangle", which is the area bounded by Park Street, Bloomfield Ave, and Highland Ave. Over the past 10 or 15 years, this triangular area has gotten dramatically worse, with a marked increase in abandoned houses, gang and drug problems, and crime, even as other nearby neighborhoods to the north and south have improved. It's a bit far to walk to railroad stations, so it may never gentrify. It would be sound public policy for the city of Newark to target this triangular area for a massive code enforcement operation, as well as seizing and leveling abandoned houses for construction of affordable 1 or 2-family houses. The people deserve better living conditions, and wherever there are pockets like this, a comprehensive plan needs to be implemented. Affordable housing is more than just the advocacy for new construction. It remains extremely important to enforce property maintenance codes on existing affordable-level housing.
September 26, 2016: How can Newark attract entrepreneurs, who are the job-creators? A two-year old article in CityLab tells all. It's not the direction of most public-policy makers, but once you read it, it makes a lot of sense. CityLab sept 2014 article on Entrepreneurs
September 22, 2016: Got in touch today with Thomas Ungerland, Exec. VP of the Newark-based Edison Foundations. They were unaware that an ordinance is set for adoption on October 5th to rename Edison Place in "honor" of boxing Promotor Don King. They are the authorized representatives of the Edison family, and they carry on his legacy. They are quite unhappy, and they will have a lot to say about this. As always, I don't make problems, I fix problems. Renaming that street is a problem.
It just boggles my mind that Thomas Edison, a great man of global historic importance is going to be pushed away for a street thug turned businessman who's hair looks like he just stuck a fork in an outlet. King took advantage of so many boxers, and almost every one of them sued him for defrauding them. Those cases were settled out of court for huge sums of money, including multi-million dollar settlements. King was never convicted. He advanced a brutal and violent sport, and contributed nothing positive to humanity. I don't even respect the man, no less support naming a street after him. This is just plain disgusting. It's a total disgrace to the City of Newark, and I bet the late night comedians will be all over this one.
September 21, 2016: MAJOR TENANTS RALLY AT NEWARK CITY COUNCIL MEETING. The two-day Tenants Rally on the steps of city hall concluded tonite with a fiery presentation to the Newark City Council at the Hearing of Citizens. Eight community leaders spoke, and dozens of tenants rallied with signs, and chanted at times. The primary forces organizing the event appear to be activist Victor Monterrosa, the Ironbound Community Corp, The Greater Newark HUD Tenant Coalition, People's Organization for Progress, the NAACP, and several tenant activists from The Pavilion.
Newark Tenants United and the 380-402 Tenants Association did not participate, nor did La Casa de Don Pedro, which is a strong supporter of rent control in Newark.
This webmaster, Eric Martindale, wishes it to be clearly known that he is a Bahai. Making fiery or grandstanding speeches, participating in a chanting action with a crowd, marching with signs, protesting against government, being a member of a political party, and even running for public office as an independent are all clearly against the code of behavior for followers of the Faith. www.bahai.us The Faith is focussed on social justice and equality (perhaps more so than any other religion) but the means for change is very different. And yes, Bahai's vote. When speaking in public, Bahai's are to conduct themselves as I generally have over the past two years. Perhaps I stepped over the line once or twice…smile. I have never talked about my Faith on this blog, although it is central to my motivation to advance change in Newark. In this case I feel the need to explain why I sat out the rally, and why I sent a letter of concern to rally organizers a few weeks ago.
Eight speakers pounded the Newark City Council. Lead speaker Avi Richardson said they collected hundreds of names with phone numbers and emails. She demanded that the Rent Control Ordinance not be weakened, and said "We will remove you if we have to", as the crowd chanted.
Felicia Singleton-Alston, who wears many many hats, demanded respect and complained about how she is treated at city hall. She took a strong stand against the planned demolition of Terrill Homes, a public housing project in the Ironbound. Roger Schwartz talked about community organizing and the need for people's stories to be documented and told. "We are hare to announce a new day in Newark", he said.
John Goldstein, an Ironbound resident, talked about the need to have development without displacement. Victor Monterrosa made his most grandstanding speech yet, as the crowd chanted "Power to the People". He made a point to connect tenant organizing with Black Lives Matter organizing, and addressing the city's homeless crisis. As for the demolition of Terrill Homes, Monterrosa boldly stated "It will not happen". He talked about a continuation of community organizing "We are going to fight relentlessly until we see a change", he said.
James Powell has been improving his speaking skills with each presentation. Powell talked about problems with the most recent proposed rent control ordinance. "We are 75% of Newark residents and we're not going away…We are getting stronger", Powell said. Walter Diaz of Bloomfield talked about the struggle of a militant working class.
Richard Ariza of 380 Mount Prospect concluded the presentation with discussion on the Hardship Application defeated earlier this year. Ariza demanded to know who in the administration put the pen to the paper for the most recent proposed change to the Rent Control Ordinance. Chairmen Mildred Crump responded that she will get the answer to that question. No other city councilpersons commented on the presentation.
Following the speeches, Councilman Anibal Ramos again asked the clerk to set up a meeting with the Tenant Association for 380 and 402 Mount Prospect, and other parties. "Let's get this meeting together". Councilwoman Chaneyfield discussed that the council members don't get feedback from the Courts on the resolution of code enforcement complaints.
In other matters, there was major discussion on renaming Edison Place after boxing promoter Don King. It passed first reading with a split vote. The greatest inventor who ever lived, and who's work has redefined human civilization all across the planet, isn't important enough to keep his name on a street in Newark, even though he started his invention factory in Newark. Edison, NJ and West Orange, NJ get all the glory, but it all started in Newark. Edison's factory sits abandoned for generations on New Street near Newark Street in University Heights. Instead, here's who is important in Newark --- a hustler / street thug who promoted a sport based on physical violence between humans; two men punching each other in the face and body with intent to cause injury until one man drops to the floor. Perhaps Edison would have been more appreciated if he donated a lot of turkeys to the City of Newark.
September 20, 2016: 559 BROADWAY LANDLORD LOSES HARDSHIP APPLICATION --- This evening the Newark Rent Control Board denied the Hardship Application for 559 Broadway. the motion was introduced by Ms. Afolo, who is a tenant representative, and seconded by Mr. Elmore, who is a landlord representative. The roll call was as follows
Afolo --- deny
August --- deny
Elmore --- deny
Gray --- approve
Truitt --- abstain
Although only two residents of the building testified on September 13th, their testimony was key to the denial. A woman from Unit #9 who almost didn't testify on September 13th, and who spoke no English, ultimately had the greatest impact on the case. She had testified that her rent was mysteriously dropped from $1200 to $975 in October, 2015. As a result of that testimony (translated into English at the time), Board members August and Afolo took a harder look at the application, and particularly the rental income. It became clear that the landlord was double-dipping on unit vacancies and the superintendent's apartment. They were not including the potential rent in the income category, AND they were claiming the loss of each as an expense. It can only be one or the other; they can't claim both, said August, who is himself an accountant.
Assuming this was an honest mistake (haha), if the landlord's application was submitted by a licensed CPA, that mistake would not have happened. And if the applicant was deliberately and dishonestly playing with the numbers (they wouldn't do that…hahaha again), the professional rules of conduct governing a licensed CPA would have deterred any CPA from this double-dipping. The Board adjusted the landlord's application to eliminate the double-dipping, and ran the equation. The resulting numbers indicate that the landlord is already receiving over 9% return on investment which is the threshold for a Hardship in the Newark Rent Control Ordinance, and therefore there is no Hardship to be granted.
Board member Lisa Gray was upset that the serious questions posed by August and Afolo tonite were not asked to the applicant on September 13th. She cast the sole vote against the motion to deny the application, and refused to talk after the meeting. Some of her points were valid, BUT regardless of how the decision-making process played out, the vote to deny was fair. The landlord WAS caught double-dipping and presenting false numbers, and the Board had no choice but to deny the application.
Five tenants from The Addison (380 and 402 Mount Prospect) submitted strong letters of objection over the past few days, which were accepted into the record. Those tenants represented the 380-402 Tenants Association Executive Board and/or Newark Tenants United. The following was accomplished by the tenant objectors from The Addison:
(1) Azure's attorney, Derek Reed, will see those letters. Tenants from The Addison essentially made a statement that WE ARE ORGANIZED, and that the reorganized Tenant Association means business. He'll think twice before coming at The Addison with another Hardship Application.
(2) The letters theoretically helped the Rent Control Board to deny the application at 559 Broadway. However, it would seem that double-dipping issues with the application were what really swayed the Board. Either way, the much feared PRECEDENT CASE did not occur. We are generally defending affordable housing in all of Newark, and blunting gentrification in all of Newark.
(3) I estimate over 90% chance that Andrew Cohen and Derek Reed will appeal the Board's denial to Superior Court. The tenant's letters will be part of the record. Our arguments will be read by the judge. We are defending the Board and the City. We're going to start looking for an attorney who can represent the tenants pro-bono, so we can file a motion to intervene in this upcoming legal case.
(4) We are further advancing the position, the argument, that the Rent Control Board needs to see income tax returns, needs to hire a CPA to audit applications, needs to see the landlords income and expense estimation used to determine if a property will be bought, and more…
(5) One lasting impact of this case is that all future Rent Control "Determination Meetings" will be open to the public per the NJ Sunshine Act. About a half dozen tenant leaders and one reporter attended tonite's meeting, including 3 people from the rally outside.
After the meeting, Rent Control Director Jay Lee said that he and their attorney Victor Afanador are seriously reviewing a recent letter signed by the Executive Board of the 380-402 Tenants Association. The letter asked for a series of reforms as to how Hardship Applications are processed in Newark, and what information can be requested from the applicants.
September 20, 2016: The weather cooperated for the tenant's rally. It appears that the major participants were the Newark HUD Tenants Coalition and the Ironbound Community Corp, with additional participation from the NAACP and POP. There is a DJ there and music, with multiple hip-hop "speakers" alternating with tenant speakers and other activist speakers talking about all sorts of issues. There have been dozens of people there continuously all day, as people drift in and out. The music and artists are clearly the centerpiece of the event. Mayor Ras Baraka and Amiri Jr., as well as Councilperson Chaneyfield and Quintana stopped by briefly during the day. The rally will continue tomorrow, and culminate with an appearance at the Hearing of Citizens, in which multiple tenant leaders are signed up to speak.
September 19, 2016: A minor victory for Newark Tenants United. The City of Newark has conceded that the decision sessions of the Newark Rent Control Board have to be open to the public per the NJ Sunshine Act. We submitted a letter of inquiry on this matter on September 15th (see 9/15 news).
September 17, 2016: Reposting a CityLab article from May 18, 2015 that deals with the economic loss due to the lack of affordable housing in America's more expensive metropolitan areas, including NY-Northern NJ.
Newark Tenants United had included some controversial "economic slides" in the Rent Control - Comprehensive Presentation. The CityLab article backs up the core of our claim, which is that the more tenants save on rent, the more money they have to spend to power the consumer economy. A few excerpts from the article
Even though superstar metros like New York, San Francisco, and San Jose created great wealth in sectors like finance and high-tech, nearly all of those gains were eaten up by the wages used to pay for higher housing costs. Greater New York, for example, was singlehandedly responsible for 12 percent of the nation’s aggregate output growth between 1964 and 2009, but when housing costs are taken into account, that figure falls to less than 5 percent growth. As the authors point out, “the main effect of the fast productivity growth in New York, San Francisco, and San Jose was an increase in local housing prices and local wages, not in employment.”
Instead of fueling productivity and growth, too much of America’s urban economic power is simply being wasted on higher housing bills.
Left to its own devices, without the impediments of higher housing costs and other factors, the U.S. economy would not only be more productive, but far, far more uneven and spikier than it currently is. While cities are certainly crucial to economic growth and while mayors can do a great deal, coping with this kind of inequality between and within places requires a concerted national urban policy.
Essentially, the housing market has become a sink, it's where money circulating around the Newark area, and powering the consumer economy again and again, disappears and falls into the hands of the mega-wealthy who own big apartment buildings. From the perspective of Newark, the money is simply gone --- it goes into the landlord's other new investments in other States or countries, it is used for traveling to exotic places, or it is used to buy luxuries where they live (which is nowhere near Newark). Housing is not the only sink that is reducing consumer spending and holding back economic growth. The other big one is the entire financial industry, specifically banks and their credit cards and insurance of all types. And once again, the money is flowing in one direction from the average person to the mega-wealthy. The whole economy is rigged so that the little guy exists just to power the money-making business plans of the mega-wealthy, including bankers and big landlords. Inequalities are growing, and they are increasingly between neighborhoods in the same cities.
America needs to fix these problems and make capitalism and the consumer economy work. We can no longer allow all of the money to fall into these sinks. If we can't as a country do this, eventually someone like Lenin or Stalin is going to come in and make a much bigger "fix". We saw how the young voters, the Millenials, flocked to Bernie Sanders, the Socialist candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, with over 80% support. That's the future of politics in America, as older voters die off. Regardless of what happens this November, the extreme left is coming to full power in America within 8 - 12 years. And while this future could translate into rent control becoming stronger and more widespread, and other good things like greater environmental protection, the possibility of much more extreme changes looms large. And these changes could extend beyond economic change to threaten other basic Freedoms that many Americans support.
The article concludes with a call for more mass transit, so that people from lower-income areas can reach the urban cores where the jobs are. Rent control didn't make the article. Well, the author's intent when writing the article was to create an argument for mass transit. That's OK, more mass transit is needed, but everything about the article calls for rent control. The full article is here: Citylab May 18, 2015
Also, stay tuned for the next rent control slide presentation. It's almost done, and it's going to be huge.
September 17, 2016: Tenant Activist Victor Monterrosa is busy with his plans for 36-hour "tenant celebration" (aka rally) on the steps of city hall. The rally will be from this Tuesday morning to Wednesday evening. The event will conclude with the group attending the city council meeting. Several groups, including the Ironbound Community Corporation, are actively participating in the event. Unsure what other groups are helping to organize participation. This is in conjunction with a national tenant organizing effort set for Thursday. Evidently Tuesday and Wednesday were picked for Newark to coincide with city council meetings. Reportedly, they will be sleeping overnight on the steps of city hall. In addition, the weather forecast is not cooperating. Heavy rain on the order of 1" to 3" is forecast for at least part of the event. I plan to attend the city council meeting. Maybe I'll come a half hour early just to see what's going on outside.
September 16, 2016: New Jersey leads the nation in the percentage of Millenials 18-24 still living with parents. This is clearly a sign of the housing crisis. NJ.com Article on Millenials living at home
September 15, 2016: A representative of Newark Tenants United has emailed city officials to challenge the policy of the Rent Control Board to have a closed-door session to discuss and vote on various applications. We believe that the Sunshine Law provisions are applicable, and the meeting must be open to the public, to sit and listen only.
September 13, 2016: The Rent Control Board heard a complete Hardship Application for 559 Broadway, and will render a decision on the requested 10.1% rent increase on September 20th. Only 2 of the 19 units appeared to object, far short of the turnout 3 months ago, and nobody reviewed the actual application in the Rent Control office
Their hands are completely tied. The Board is left unable to properly analyze these applications. They need to see the income tax returns of the applicant, and any tax writeoff information. They need to hire a professional CPA to audit the applications and the income tax returns. They need to see the investment analysis that they used to decide to buy the property.
There was very little testimony from the applicant, and they didn't even come down with a licensed CPA to present their case. The only good news is that the owner, Mr. Cohen, said a bunch of things that hurt his case. He opened his mouth, he said too much, including that he incurred the expense to upgrade from oil to natural gas. Excuse me, but he's saving money in the long run by doing that. To claim that short-term expense as part of the Hardship Case, and force tenants to pay 10% higher rent, forever, is an outrage.
September 11, 2016: UPDATE ON HARDSHIP APPLICATION FOR 559 BROADWAY --- After a 3-month delay, the Hardship Application for 559 Broadway resumes on Tuesday, September 13th. The hearing will take place in city council chambers, starting at 6 PM. It will likely go for a few hours. The applicant, Rock Properties, is directly affiliated with the Newark Apartment Owner's Association (NAOA), and provides the mailing address for the latter group. In June, Rock Properties appeared before the Rent Control Board with attorney Derek Reed of Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, & Plaza. Reed is the attorney for NAOA.
Rock Properties is seeking a 10% rent increase for the 19-unit building. The 3-month delay was regarding the matter of Substantial Compliance, similar to the delay for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect earlier this year. Rock Properties was given additional time to come into compliance and secure all the necessary inspections. Unlike 380 & 402 Mount Prospect, observers expect 559 Broadway to secure substantial compliance either directly or conditionally, and that the Rent Control Board will hear the complete application. This is likely to be the first Hardship Application in Newark to have a full hearing in many many years.
If approved, Rock Properties will pursue Hardship Applications for their other properties in Newark, and other landlords will follow suit. It is unknown how strong tenant opposition will be from 559 Broadway. Half of the tenants of the 19 unit building came down to the hearing 3 months ago. It is not known if Rent Control has re-notified them, or if any of them have reviewed the application on file with Rent Control.
September 9, 2016: NJ.COM "sponsored article" promoting gentrification in Newark. Sept 9 Thinking of Moving to Newark.
A sponsored article means it was written by someone in the real estate industry, and it's basically a paid advertisement.
Regarding the September 8 city council meeting, sources advise that no rent control ordinance was introduced.
September 7, 2016: COLONNADES LANDLORD DEFEATED BY TENANT OBJECTORS: A handful of tenant leaders, along with Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United, attended the Landmark and Historic Preservation Committee meeting and defeated The Colonnade's bid to erect a guard booth and new fencing. The Board seemed split on either denying the application or encouraging the applicant to revise the plan, but after hearing public testimony the application was denied unanimously. Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins sent a representative to the hearing, and she communicated earlier in the day with the applicant to investigate the situation.
The Colonnades is actually two 280-unit buildings side by side, with two lobbies and a security guard in each lobby. The landlord's plan was to erect new fencing in front of the building's concrete pad, and create a single gated point of entrance facing Clifton Avenue. What was withheld from their testimony is that this gate and fencing would exactly fulfill the security guard ordinance provision that would allow for one guard to cover both buildings. (Gee, what a coincidence). William Moffett, Regional Manager testified repeatedly that the plan was not to reduce security coverage, but to have one guard in the proposed guard booth and a second guard "roving" around common areas. Objectors pointed out that this second roving guard could be eliminated at any time with no consequences if the application was approved, and that this was the actual intent regardless of what they testified.
Special thanks goes to Matthew Gosser of the Colonnades, a long term resident who is, or has been, a student of architecture. He knows a lot about the original architect, his intent, and his national legacy. Gosser's testimony was exceptional on all points, and helped sway the Board. Four other people spoke, but Gosser could have singlehandedly defeated this application.
September 6, 2016: Colonnades tenants under-prepared for the September 7 hearing. Very few tenants know about tomorrow's hearing, and the hearing is about the removal of their security guards. It's grossly unfair that tenants are not informed about public hearings directly affecting their own quality of life. Tenant leaders had only 2 or 3 days notice, and only because this webmaster saw the hearing notice online. Here's some information on the sale of The Colonnades, from Nov. 24, 2015 Article on Colonnades sale Nov 2015
September 3, 2016: The permitted rent increases for rent-controlled units in Newark are as follows
August 0.9% (9/10 of 1%)
September 1.0 %
Newark Tenants United has reviewed the docket in Legistar for the September 8, 2016 Newark City Council meeting. There is nothing on the agenda for Rent Control Sept 8 meeting - Legistar
September 2, 2016: COLONNADES LANDLORD GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE Newark Tenants United has informed tenant leaders at The Colonnades and Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins that a comprehensive move is underway to remove the lobby security guards from the two lobbies at The Colonnades. The landlord want to extend fencing and build a 60 square foot pre-fab security guard booth generally near the driveway entrance on Clifton Ave, and create a "gated community" with one guard, instead of a guard in each lobby. There may be other levels of approvals needed from city hall, and the status of these is unknown at this time.
The cost savings to them will be enormous, and there is surely no plan to give a rent rebate to tenants even though services have been reduced. The Colonnades is following the same pattern of security reductions already implemented at Forest Hill Towers and The Addison. The Pavilion will surely be next. It is unsure what tenant leaders at The Colonnades will be doing, but this will be discussed at a general meeting of tenants that had been previously set for September 6th.
One key aspect of the approval process is to secure approval from the Landmarks and Historic Preservation Committee at their September 7th meeting. A central planning aspect of The Colonnades when it was built was to have a large wide lawn facing Clifton Ave and Branch Brook Park, not to be a gated community fenced off from Newark. Now this property is on the Landmarks and Historic Preservation list, and the landlord wants to change this signature aspect of the property.
Eric Martindale sent an email to the tenant leaders organizing the planned rally on the steps of City Hall expressing concern that 3rd party political operatives and radicals could have a major showing at the event, and behave so badly, that they will usurp the event and become the focus of media attention. This could harm public perceptions about rent control. Matt Shapiro responded, saying essentially that it won't happen that way, and not to worry about it at all. He's usually right, we'll see.
September 1, 2016: Newark Tenants United is reviewing information provided by Katie Goldstein, a leading tenants advocate in NYC. The information details all the games that landlords play in New York to legally circumvent rent control. The situation in NYC is abysmal, and even worse than Newark prior to our 2014 rent control ordinance. The two cities are moving in polar opposite directions on rent control. This may also be the subject of another video presentation. The irony is that as time goes by, this makes Newark more and more attractive as a residential destination, because people can save money here. Who will come: smart people. And others will follow.
August 30, 2016: New state legislation has been introduced in California to ban landlords placing tenants on blacklist websites if they prevail against an eviction. This is standard practice, and it's a form of retaliation. It ruins a tenant's credit, and effectively prevents them from renting again, because most landlords check the blacklist websites prior to accepting a new tenant. This would be great for New Jersey as well. Anti-Blacklist legislation article
August 29, 2016: Posting 8/23/2016 article from Agorafy about Newark on The Physics of Gentrification Thanks to Drew Curtis for sharing.
August 28, 2016: postings...
1. Posting the Rent Control - Comprehensive Presentation which is 4 min. 19 sec. Very little was changed from the prior draft. Additional presentations will be posted, each with a different focus. Some will be short, some will be long
2. There is a National Renter's Day of Action set for September 22nd. Rent Control advocates are planning action in Newark on the steps of city hall on 9/20 and 9/21. Newark Tenants United is generally supportive of these plans, but it's not our show. Others are putting together this 36-hour event. This event will come about 6 weeks before the Presidential election. It would be great for the issue of rent control and affordable housing to become the subject of discussion among the candidates.
3. Paris, France has a unique approach to rent control; they set a standard rent per square meter and nobody can be more than 20% higher than that. Rents are actually coming down for many tenants. Article on Paris, France
August 27, 2016: Newark Tenants United has begun the process of creating by-laws and formally electing an Executive Board. We are basing the by-laws off those of the 425 Mount Prospect Tenants Association.
Here is the website for the Newark Apartment Owner's Association People can register to receive regular news updates from them. Of note, the NAOA mailing address references a CO to Rock Properties, which is the same group processing a 10% Hardship Application with Rent Control for 559 Broadway. The NAOA President is Andy Cohen, who owns multiple older buildings in Newark and vicinity, plus new construction at 380 Broad Street (not subject to rent control). 380 Broad Street is on the block just north of Route 280. The NAOA attorney is Derek Reed, and the Executive Director is Naomi Burstein.
August 26, 2016: Objections have been raised about a series of slides entitled "What's In It For Newark" in the draft Rent Control Presentation These detail the economic benefits of rent control. The economic slides are NOT going to be removed, as they are the centerpiece of the Public Policy Battle over rent control.
Up until now, the battle over rent control in Newark has been cast by our adversaries as "Tenants wanting to save money versus the economic advancement of Newark". This has been absolute nonsense from day #1. We have always believed that our cause is best for Newark, not just for tenants.
1. The landlord's vision is based on Trickle-Down Economics / Reaganomics / Keynesian economics. Republican economic theorist Alan Keynes believed that maximizing the profit of the very wealthy would invigorate the economy, and that some of this wealth would "trickle down" to the middle class, working class, and the poor, "lifting all boats". In the Newark version of this theory, rents should increase as much as possible, and outside landlords should be allowed to maximize their personal profits. The landlords should be given a huge incentive (20% rent increase) to modernize vacant apartments, and the resulting construction work would generate economic growth and jobs. In order to supercharge this business plan, the landlords want to reduce how much they need to spend in the vacant apartment. This has been the centerpiece of the struggle over rent control for the last 27 months. Let's be upfront and say that the landlord's whole argument is a tough sell in a city that is more than 90% Democrat according to Movoto.com http://www.movoto.com/guide/augusta-nj/best-places-to-live-in-new-jersey-for-democrats-and-republicans/
Not too many folks support Trickle-down economics. Nobody in Newark is loving the 1%.
2. The tenant's vision is based on the principle that the consumers control the consumer economy. The more that consumers have to spend, the more the economy expands and the more jobs are created. When consumers are squeezed by banks, insurance costs, rent, rising food costs etc., they have less to spend to power the economy. This is common sense and sound economics. Thanks to the Rent Control Presentation, we are in a whole new public policy battle. We have to be clear and upfront with everything we say. No matter how obvious some things are, they still must be written and stated.
Rent control positively affects the economy of Newark in many ways beyond what is documented in the Rent Control Presentation. That presentation was just a summary.
August 24, 2016: Article about Transit Villages and affordable housing
August 20, 2016: A few news items
1. Tenant Protest songs were emailed to us by one of our friends working on the national tenant movement. These are also permanently accessible in "Resources to Help NJ Tenants" on our right column
2. Tenant leaders are still finalizing the rent control presentation. The link above the words "Newark Tenant News Blog" is not the final version. This author sees the need for one comprehensive 4-minute presentation, and several smaller and more focussed presentations in the 30-60 second range for those viewers who live on sound bytes and will not process a 4-minute presentation. Sadly, the latter describes most of the younger adult generation. Completing this project will take eve more time. In the interim, the need to have something online is so overwhelming that it is necessary to post a draft presentation.
City officials already know that tenant leaders are planning a major rally, there's no need for us to pretend that it is top secret. It's better that our Newark elected officials understand that the level of tenant opposition to any bad rent control ordinance under development will be far in excess of all previous efforts. The Rent Control Presentation, the Rally, and much greater media coverage are all in the works. Ultimately there could be a political solution to the deadlock between landlord and tenant leaders. The landlords are going to try and buy the 2018 Newark municipal election.
3. Jersey City activist Hakim Hasan has another op-ed printed in the Jersey Journal, which focusses on the depressing effect of litter and chaos upon a neighborhood. Hakim Hasan Aug 20, 2016
August 19, 2016: NY Times article on investment and development in Newark. Talks a bit about the upwards pressure on rents, and cites the high rents of new development in Newark. New construction is exempt from rent control for 30 years. In Newark, A New Chapter Unfolding Aug 19 article
August 17, 2016: Jersey City Planning Board approves mega-development for Journal Square, including luxury towers of 59, 72, and 79 stories Journal Square development in nj.com
August 16, 2016: General article about rent control. Paul Krugman, your wrong about rent control Readers will note that even this article is wrong about capital improvement surcharges. They are not being done everywhere along with rent control. Our groundbreaking ordinance outlawed them here in Newark.
August 9, 2016: Wall Street Journal article from January that details the severity of the rental housing crisis nationwide. Escalating rents further limits the ability of tenants to save money for downpayment and closing costs on a home. January 2016 Wall Street Journal article
Our readers are encouraged to forward us articles about tenant and housing related matters, for posting here.
August 3, 2016: BAD RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE STOPPED AGAIN. The Newark city council voted to send the bad Rent Control Ordinance 16-1109 back to the administration. It is not proceeding. Strong emails were sent to the elected officials by Joseph Della Fave of Ironbound Community Corp, Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United, and Matthew Shapiro of NJ Tenants Organization. Emails were sent by concerned tenants as well. It appears that the primary responsible city official for this ordinance is Willie Parker, Corporate Counsel for the City of Newark. Only one tenant leader has been in touch with Parker. He really hasn't heard our input.
Tenant speakers at today's Hearing of Citizens, in order of presentation, were James Powell, Eric Martindale, Janise Afolo, Carol Bodine, Victor Monterrosa, Jr., and Daniel Joseph Wiley. Six speakers is our best turnout ever for a daytime council meeting.
Councilman Anibal Ramos said he wants a meeting with various offices for enforcement at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect, including tenants. He also said there is a Major Improvement Surcharge application pending for that property, which is a mystery because nothing new that benefits tenants was created.
August 1, 2016, 10:15 PM: Newark's Rent Control Struggle is now America's Rent Control Struggle Final Version(abcs).ppsx
August 1, 2016: Updates on news
1. The docket for Wednesday is in Legistar, and there is no Rent Control Ordinance on it. Multiple tenant leaders are on the docket to speak on Wednesday, August 1, 2016 about rent control and related issues. Tenant organizing continues.
2. Sources say that an ordinance to amend and weaken the Civilian Complaint Review Board will not be heard on Wednesday. Newark reportedly has the model ordinance for the entire country. This city's proactive attention to this matter has been critical in heading off the kind of unrest seen in other parts of America. Any move to weaken it has been strongly opposed by those concerned with Black Lives Matter issues.
3. Resolution 16-0898 is up for adoption on Wednesday. This resolution awards $1,293,505 to Underground Utilities Corporation, located in Linden, NJ, to replace broken fire hydrants. The resolution doesn't say how many will be replaced, but reportedly ⅓ of the fire hydrants in Newark don't work. They are disproportionately in the more distressed neighborhoods.
4. There will not be a Rent Control Hearing on August 9th. Maria Hernandez has informed us that the Health Department has not completed their inspection of 559 Broadway, so their Hardship Application has been pushed to Tuesday, September 13th. Hernandez says no other Hardship Applications have been accepted as complete. Some may be in review.
5. The CPI-based rent increases are 9/10 of 1% for August, and 1.0% for September. For those keeping track, it was 7/10th of 1% for June, and 1.0% for July. It hasn't been over 1.0% since January 2015.
July 23, 2016: No news posted in a week doesn't meet things are quiet. It's actually been SO BUSY that I don't even have time to post. Lots of organizing and planning is going on, and that's all I can report.
July 16, 2016: We have a request coming out of Lakewood, NJ for assistance in possibly amending the Lakewood Rent Control Ordinance. They have a crazy clause in their ordinance that allows landlords to reach back 4 years for retroactive rent increases. The word has reached Lakewood that Newark has a good ordinance. Our contact advises that tenants being gentrified out of Asbury Park and other shore points are specifically targeted to Newark for relocation.
Posting a July 11, 2016 article about the Newark Housing Authority selling a property for way less than market value. And now it's being re-sold for 2.5 times that recent sale price. Central Train station article
July 15, 2016: WONDER WHERE YOUR RENT MONEY IS GOING? Newark Landlord Richard Kurtz, who has been so active in opposing the city's rent control movement, is selling his 30,000 square foot mansion in Alpine, NJ for $68 million. Kurtz actually appeared at a Newark city council meeting to oppose the passage of the 2014 rent control ordinance. Thanks to Avi Richardson for providing this link.
2.5 minute video of Richard Kurtz $68 million mansion
I think it's time to start a Tenant Association at Kurtz's complex. After the big rally, I think the tenant leaders should start organizing more market rate properties.
July 14, 2016: Posting some links provided by the Newark Civic Trust, all helpful in reporting code enforcement issues. These links are now posted permanently in the Right Column under Resources To Help NJ Tenants
Newark Lot & Block and Ownership - Newgins
Health Flooding Trash - Newgins
Newark Open Data (tremendous information, mind-boggling)
Newark Code Enforcement Field Inspections
Not sure who is the author, but the following analysis of the crisis situation within Code Enforcement was emailed to us by Bill Bishop >>>
The amount of employees to complaint ratio is 900 complaints to 1 code enforcement personnel.
3500 x 5 days of complaints = 17500 complaints a week. EST time to respond to those complaints are about any where from a month to 2 months.
there are about 2570. abandon buildings in Newark.
They have various issues attached to them one involves the bank the other involves the length of time to resolve a foreclosure and the rights the home owner have to retrieve a house from foreclosure after they are locked out. A lot has to do with cost legal fees which delay time to solve the abandon building issue. Litigation is not simple and all parties involve with resolving who will get the building is a deciding factor how long a building remains abandon.
Newark has about 3500 civilian employees the amount of complaints the city gets a week is about 200 to 1 ratio on a weekly basis.
We as a community has to talk about what "efficiency/progress" means. Business terms it means do more with less. In political terms it means Civil employees is the reason your taxes go up. If we cut civilian employees and privatize that service we will save more. But in any case you do not have that many employees to respond to every complaint that is called in. Privatization means eventually you will pay for that service on a monthly basis. In a lot of municipalities in NJ it is a monthly fee. But then again they are not the largest city in NJ. Passing another legislation in Newark is not going to solve the quality of life issues that occur everyday in Newark.
What will? Gathering information in Fairmount Community and trying to solve all of those abandon buildings to be fixed will take resources and time and that is just one community there are 21 communities in Newark with the same problem. Fairmount community gets 4500 complaints a month. We need to define our expectations. What are we trying to accomplish? What can the community do to help the city? What resources can assist with resolving the issues.
Each year our cost of living goes up. Each year we lose services due to rising costs known as budget cuts or balancing the budget to remain in the previous year range. In reality this add more problems later. Shrinking budgets each year rising costs each year.
The real problem we all are living by a business model. Where economics dictate our lives. No room for error. A spreadsheet today is more important than our livelihood is.
July 12, 2016: Some tenant-relevant news from today's meeting of the Newark Civic Trust. The "Neighborhood Improvement Program" is moving ahead with Fairmount Heights as the pilot neighborhood. We're getting close to collecting the data, and several members of the Newark Civic Trust will be attending their 7/19 meeting. As a courtesy, the group will reach out to city officials and inform them of the code enforcement program, and a presentation will be made by multiple trustees at an upcoming Newark City Council meeting. Once the program rolls out, the workload on code enforcement from just this one neighborhood will be more than their ability to process all the violations. And there's another 19 neighborhoods that are official planning units in the City of Newark. It is an absolute necessity for a major staff increase in Code Enforcement, and to be included in the current budget under review. The only issue is the upfront money, because Code Enforcement is a net revenue-producing program.
The Code Enforcement program will tie in with another program of the Newark Civic Trust, which is a Socially Responsible Banking Ordinance. The banks that do business with the City of Newark can be nudged towards socially-conscious policies, such as advancing repair funds on abandoned houses, and offering low-income mortgages on the repaired properties to Newark residents.
Creating an Auxiliary Police Force is yet another program of the Newark Civic Trust. The organization will be looking to assign one auxiliary officer to the pilot neighborhood, Fairmount Heights. He or she will attend all of their meetings and act as a direct liaison with the Police.
The group will be reaching out to "My Brother's Keeper", and soliciting the involvement of Youth and young adults, perhaps in logging code violations. It is hoped that they will see the progress from their own work, and further develop within themselves a philosophy of volunteering and community-building. One step at a time, Newark is restructuring as a bottom-up grass-roots community. The apathy and defeatism that Newark can never change seems to have evaporated. In order to get things done, the neighborhoods need to become more and more organized, and more and more powerful. It's beautiful to see the pieces of some giant jigsaw puzzle coming together. Newark is really changing, and it's all coming from involved concerned citizens. Proud to be one of them.
The Newark Civic Trust is a program of The Citizens Campaign, based in Metuchen. There are active civic trusts in Newark, Trenton, and Perth Amboy. Plainfield is launching now.
In other news, we made contact with a brand new organization called something like the Essex County Tenant Association Task Force, which is run by Cynthia Afua.
July 11, 2016: Tomorrow's hearing of the Rent Control Board is postponed to the second Tuesday in August. On the agenda is a Hardship Application for 559 Broadway, a 19-unit building.
July 10, 2016: I have a new idea, and I'm calling it the Board of Multiunit Sales. New Jersey needs to set up a Board that approves the sale price for multi-unit buildings that are subject to Rent Control, or will be subject within 15 years. This is needed because buildings are selling for too much money, and that causes the new mortgage to be too high. The result of an excessively high mortgage is that the owners cry poverty, and ask for all sorts of ways to increase rents. Those ways include Hardship Applications, Capital Improvement Surcharges, Tax surcharge applications, and especially Substantial Rehab after a tenant moves out. What those ways have in common is they are all about increasing the rent much faster than inflation. They make tons of money, but it destroys the affordability of the housing unit.
The Board of Multiunit Sales would analyze the rent roll and the full income and expenses for the building to be sold, and then determine a maximum allowed sale price that would allow the affordability of housing to be maintained with a CPI-based rent increase.
July 9, 2016 Rent Control is advancing in some California cities, despite a 1995 State Law putting great restrictions on rent control. Article on Bay Area Tenants
July 8, 2016 A FULL REPORT FROM YESTERDAY'S CITY COUNCIL MEETING. Several things of interest to tenants occurred at the Thursday July 7, 2016 city council meeting
1. The Ramos rent control ordinance (actually written by the administration) was TABLED. The vote was taken, and there was zero discussion about it. At the prior two city council meetings it was deferred. TABLED means it is dead. The vote on the motion to table, offered by Ramos, was 7-0-1, as follows
Ramos - yes
Chaneyfield - yes
McCallum - abstain (reason for abstaining is unknown)
James - yes
Amador - absent
Quintana - yes
Crump - yes
Gonzalez - yes
Osborne - yes
2. The replacement rent control ordinance, also being written by the administration, was not ready for introduction. Just as well, because tenants need to be consulted.
3. The landlord rally was a bust. They had 9 landlords, attorneys, and landlord agency advocates signed up to speak. Only 4 attended and spoke.
- Andy Cohen, owner of 380 Broad Street and several smaller buildings appeared and asked for "a sliver of change" to the rent control ordinance to allow rents to increase 20% for an investment equivalent to 7 months rent (Note: A previous counter-offer from Matt Shapiro of NJTO offered a similar equation, but with a 12-month provision). We are happy that the NJTO equation is being used, but 7 months amounts to vacancy decontrol
- Robert Whitley, Regional Property Manager for Forest Hill Towers, which is the highest-end rental building in Newark, came down from Massachusetts. He boasted that the current owners have owned the building since 1974, (which is 42 years) and they've spent millions in upgrades over the years. He complained that growth in rental income is below 1% over 2 years, but insurance is up 6%, employee health benefits are up 12%, and salaries are up 4%. What he didn't say is that the property itself has no primary mortgage because it's owned for over 42 years, and therefore it is an enormous cash cow. This is one of the most immensely profitable rental properties in Newark, it's like a giant money machine. Whitley also doesn't say is that profit comes first at Forest Hill Towers, and employees and services come second; and therefore the business plan is continually tweaked to maintain the desired profit level. He said they have cut personnel, and he threatened that any further cutbacks will result in loss of services for the tenants. This is not out of necessity, they have plenty of money. It's simply because profit comes first. Whitley demonstrated for the most affluent building in Newark that it's not just the slumlords who think this way; it's an industry-wide abomination. Whitley also wants a change in the substantial rehabilitation section to further maximize cash flow.
- Derek Reed, Counsel to the Newark Apartment Owners Association spoke. He said that no landlord in Newark has applied for a 20% rent increase since the May, 2014 ordinance, which is proof that the $5000/room equation is too high. (He's wrong, a landlord on Mt. Prospect Ave applied earlier this year for 8 units, and was granted approval with no objections from the Rent Control Board). He says that the proposed ordinance does nothing to lessen the protections of existing tenants. (Note: Sounds like he's writing it and giving it to the city council)
- Nikolas Kikas of New Jersey Apartment Owners Association appeared and spoke. He first thanked the city council for the opportunity he has had over the past year or two to meet with them and discuss all aspects of rent control. Says a balance needs to be struck, and the current ordinance is a disinvestment. He wants restoration of capital improvement applications as well as reducing the investment needed for a 20% rent increase between tenants.
- Also present was Rabbi Isaac Frankel, who listed his personal address as a rather deteriorated office building at 50 Union Ave, Irvington. He was registered to speak, but declined.
It's necessary at this point to make a policy clarification. What the landlord lobby wants to do is to increase rents much faster than inflation by doing it when a tenant moves out and repairs are made. That's called VACANCY DECONTROL, and we don't want it. They are appealing to selfish interests when saying that existing tenants are fully protected and won't suffer rent increases. What they don't understand is that the tenants leaders are just not selfish tenants looking to keep our rents low. WE ARE HOUSING ADVOCATES. We want to maintain the affordability of housing in New Jersey. It costs government so much to build affordable housing that maintaining that housing stock that we have should really be the #1 goal. Reposting all of our non-selfish reasons. Maybe this time they will read it >>> Top 10 Economic Reasons to Support Rent Control
In other business, there was again extensive discussion on staffing up code enforcement, especially by Anibal Ramos, John Sharpe James, and Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins. There are currently 8 code enforcement officers for the entire city, which is worse than ridiculous. In addition to staffing up Code Enforcement, Ramos wants 2 aides per council person to be trained and certified in code enforcement, effectively adding 18 part time code enforcement officers. Chaneyfield came right out and said she wants to fine landlords, and says hiring more code enforcement officers will cost a bit up front, but the city will make more revenue than their salaries. "This is called political will" she said.
A "Responsible Banking Ordinance" is in committee. This move is supported by several community leaders.
July 7, 2016: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. A major push by the landlord lobby begins today to undermine and weaken the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. There's not one, but two rent control revisions kicking around. The older one, which we have seen, will be deferred, says Councilman Anibal Ramos. The other is coming from "the administration", which is widely believed to mean Amiri Baraka, Jr. Some sources say it will be an added starter for today's city council meeting, but other sources say it's not ready. Some members of the city council are also objecting to voting on something they haven't seen.
Meanwhile, a half a dozen or so landlords and attorneys are registered to speak at the Hearing of Citizens today. Tenants are generally organized, but not ready for this stealth attack. We have not seen the proposed ordinance from the administration and can only assume it is bad for the very reason that it has been hidden from us, and is being introduced in a stealthy fashion. The following letter was sent this morning to Mayor Ras Baraka and the city council:
July 6, 2016 via email
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka cc: city council members
City of Newark
920 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Ref: There is No Voter Support for Downscaling Rent Control Protections
Possible First Reading on July 7, 2016
Dear Hon. Ras J. Baraka, Mayor of Newark
Give or take a few percentage points, the City of Newark is roughly:
Given these demographics, exactly where is the voter support for downscaling rent control protections? All of the tenants under rent control support rent control. They are happy about their CPI-based rent increases for the last two years. Almost all of the other tenants are going to be supportive, even if it doesn’t affect them.
What about the ¼ that are homeowners in Newark (actually 22%)? Where do they stand on rent control? Let’s consider a few examples.
So where is the voter support for weakening rent control when you have to dig into the 22% of residents who are homeowners to try and identify any subset that may support a move to weaken it?
Of the 22% who are homeowners, maybe there is 10% support, and 12% against. And of the 78% that are tenants, maybe 77% support the 2014 ordinance, and 1% for whatever reason can be fooled into supporting the bad move proposed. 10 + 1 = 11. At most, there’s 11% of the citizens of Newark supporting a weakening of rent control.
The numbers just aren’t there for the landlord lobby, and it’s not even close. Even if only homeowners voted, you wouldn’t have a majority on the landlord’s side. It’s politically stupid to pass an ordinance weakening rent control. The Newark Tenants Movement is stronger and more organized than we have ever been. We are reaching out and educating the public. We are in every Ward. We have organizations, community leaders, and pastors supporting us. We are initiating a major public relations campaign which defines rent control as an issue of social and economic justice.
We know that a few of the landlords and their agents are on the docket to speak at Thursday’s Hearing of Citizens. They will use every scare tactic in the book, and they will try and pit this issue as homeowners versus tenants. Their points are statistically insignificant and can be easily out-debated by myself. The real battle over property taxes is shifting the tax base towards office, retail, and light industrial, and bringing in that development. You all know that, and frankly if one of you doesn’t, you shouldn’t be holding office.
At this point, it’s not about being right (we are right, of course. That’s a given). Today I am not appealing to your intelligence, your compassion, or your logic.
This ordinance is about what is politically smart, and what is politically stupid. You are either for the average person in Newark, or you are against the average person in Newark. It’s that plain and simple.
Mr. Mayor, let my respectfully submit that you’ve given too much latitude to members of your administration to rewrite this ordinance, and they are borderline insubordinate to the extent that they wish to unravel the rent control protections passed in 2014. They are against your ordinance, which is one of your contributions to social and economic justice in Newark. You should be as proud of your ordinance as we are. It already has national attention.
This issue of rent control is not going away, and if anything the city council and members of the administration are going to supercharge it if a pro-landlord ordinance is passed.
Rent control is an inseparable component of affordable housing (aka Workforce Housing) and all issues of social and economic justice. If this administration or this city council wants to make a major public policy decision against social and economic justice, you will be denying the average person of his or her rights. You will be alienating the vast majority of the public.
By passing a pro-landlord rent control ordinance, you will be doing the very thing that the Republican Senate and the Republican House of Representatives does. You will be siding with big business and screwing the average person. If you are sick of the Republican Congress, I don’t want to hear your complaints, I want to see YOUR EXAMPLE. You can talk the talk, now it’s time to walk the walk. Don’t defer the ordinance, vote it down on First Reading.
380 Mount Prospect Avenue, #10-C,
Newark, NJ 07104
July 2, 2016: Tenants interested in seeing great fireworks are encouraged to go to Livingston on July 4th. I've been to several in Essex and Bergen Counties over the years, and Livingston is the best I've seen. it is way better than Branch Brook Park, which was postponed this year due to the weather. No word on that reschedule date.
July 1, 2016: UPDATE ON THE CODE ENFORCEMENT PROJECT. The Citizens Campaign is moving forward with it's Code Enforcement project for Newark. Eric Martindale was tasked to create and submit the spreadsheet which will document the violations. This has been done, and it's been accepted by the group. The project may have a GIS component as well. The pilot neighborhood is likely to be Fairmount Heights, located in the West Ward, a neighborhood which has no shortage of violations of all kinds. The plan is to eventually roll it out for all of Newark, and to use this Code Enforcement Project as a catalyst for community building and community organizing. This is a true "power to the people" initiative, and it's going to have a big effect in the long term. The City is just going to have to staff up Code Enforcement, because the workload coming is going to be mind-boggling. The Urban League has a supporting role, along with the Fairmount Heights Neighborhood Association. The plan is for EVERY violation to be noted, and then the list can be updated monthly.
Extensive research is ongoing for procedural reforms for Rent Control in the handling of Hardship Applications. Matt Shapiro has provided the relevant sections of the Fort Lee Ordinance to document what type of actions a Board may take in gathering needed information from applicants. It might take some time to persuade the Board to move in this direction, and it is unknown if these changes will affect the 559 Broadway Hardship Application on July 12th.
June 29, 2016: The tenant leaders met last night. Among other things, we decided AGAINST posting the Pay to Play Information we are gathering. We're going to keep it in our back pocket, and to use it or forward it when needed. We have a file 2" thick just on Councilman Ramos. We have designated a volunteer to research more elected officials.
June 27, 2016: CITY OFFICIALS BEWARE, FOLKS ARE WATCHING YOU :) Thanks to Carl Hill for his excellent research on Pay to Play legislation, Chapter 51. These documents will be posted on the tenant's website, along with the actual campaign finance reports for elected officials, and their analysis. We will extensively document any potential violations on the part of Newark elected officials taking "too many" donations from landlords and their agents.
June 26, 2016: Tenants at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect (The Addison) are being asked to supplement their security deposit with additional money. This is standard practice EXCEPT that Kettler Management is refusing to acknowledge any additional security given to the prior management, RapAd. Any additional security given to RapAd is considered "gone", and no longer counts on the books even when the tenant produces a copy of the deposited check. One tenant was told by Vonetta Mitchell: "take it up with the prior management". Not so fast. Our understanding is that when a building sells, the entire tenant database including security goes to the new owner.
This is particularly outrageous because we believe that Kettler will soon be terminated. Chances are THEY will do the exact same thing. They are asking tenants for additional security, and good chance they will just take that money and run. These management companies are acting like criminal enterprises. This whole matter will be brought to the attention of Rent Control on Monday.
In other news at The Addison, air conditioning was finally restored. There's an ongoing debate with Rent Control as to whether or not tenants can file for a rent credit for no Air Conditioning.
June 25, 2016: Posting letters from Jacqueline Perry of The Colonades, per her request. She is particularly upset with Councilman Anibal Ramos.
Thanks for this update.
Let me first say that despite the numerous attempts at exploitation of Newark Tenants by the Landlord Lobby, I am so thankful and grateful for all the many past years' victories of the Newark Tenants United in advocating for fair treatment of Newark tenants and ensuring maintenance of tenants' rights under the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. In particular, I thank God Almighty for the "Hearing of Citizens" Team of James Powell, Avi Richardson, Eric Martindale, Janise Afolo, and Victor Monterosa, with Donna Jackson whose speeches were apparently, sufficiently persuasive enough to yield an 8-0 deferment of the Ordinance vote. And as for Councilman Ramos, what and/or who's gotten into him? I never really trusted him before. And without question, he can be sure to forget about any future default votes from me, for any position. Yes indeed, his ordinance-revision proposals are grossly and wholly "outrageous" and, totally "Anti-Tenant". How could he ever even fathom proposing "no jail-time" for Landlords who commit Ordinance violations for which jail-time is the most reasonable and warranted sentence? Are not the Landlords citizens of the United States, too? So how could Councilman Ramos propose a revision that would essentially make violating Landlords "Above The Law"? Moreover, given all of his proposed revisions, how could Councilman Ramos ever possibly expect that any Newark resident could, would or should have any further respect or regard for him as a member of the Newark Council? In fact, it is beginning to appear that he must have some other plans in the works to either relocate or, switch to another team, in the near future. And if so, then so be it--but not at the cost of making Newark uninhabitable for it's residents.
And as for your list of potential requirements that NJTO or NTU might present to the Rent Control Board to consider adopting for the screening of Hardship Applications, I think they are very much on point, long overdue and, perhaps even still not strict enough (because due to the need of outside auditors, appraisers, etc., there may still be enough "wiggle-room left for corruption in the screening of cases") depending on how the outside consultants are selected. Yet again without question, I thank you for them.
In closing, I know that NTU works with many local Tenants Associations in our city, as well as the NJTO. Therefore, you may feel that so much credit should not go to NTU. But, please be reassured that as a tenant of Newark, I thank my God for NTU, for all of your efforts and especially for "hanging in there" and not giving up when not only the Landlords but, even the City Council is going against us. And really, I can only imagine "the worst situation" is where Newark residents would be, if there was no NTU. So once again Eric, I thank you for NTU and, I thank all the speakers who are working hard to get another victory for Newark residents regarding our Rent Control Ordinance. May God Be With & Bless you all And Grant us That Victory! Amen
With my sincerest gratitude,
The Colonnade Apts
In addition to my original letter (below) re: Objections To Councilman Ramos' Rent Control Revisions, I would also like to add that WE MUST PERSUADE THE NEWARK CITY COUNCIL TO VOTE AGAINST RAMOS' PROPOSED REVISIONS BECAUSE:
1) in the long run, they will do major harm to our city. "Absolute power corrupts." And, Ramos' proposals will do just that by essentially giving "a form of absolute power to Newark Landlords". Based on reports and findings of the numerous hearings with the Newark City Council, the Newark Rent Control Board, as well as, Landlord-Tenant Court cases, it has already been unequivocally established that to an inexcusably large degree, Newark Landlords are already failing to provide decent standards of habitability due to long-standing reckless, deliberate, direct and indirect neglect, as well as, through perpetration of much corruption-based violation of and, non-compliance with, several of the standards for housing in Newark and New Jersey.
2) Therefore, in the best interest of our city, the City Council must establish, enforce and, hold landlords accountable to lawful compliance with provision of decent standards of habitability for Newark tenants
3) that serve to secure and maintain the safety and stability of decent and reasonably affordable housing for Newark residents
4) that are in mandatory compliance with Newark Standards and Codes of Housing and,
5) that are be in mandatory compliance with the New Jersey State Tenant's Housing Rights,
6) as well as, meet the health and socio-economic housing needs of their Newark constituents.
7) And finally, failure of the Newark City Council to vote against Ramos' proposed revisions will ultimately only result in two outcomes:
First, there would be mass neglect and pandemonium of our city related to indecent and unreasonably affordable housing which would result in:
a) instability of housing
b) increased homelessness
c) an increase of use of the City's hospitals and health facilities that arealready over-burdened, due to an increase in illnesses related to unhealthy living conditions such as pests, rodents, inadequate ventilation, inadequate heating and cooling conditions, inadequate garbage disposal, etc.
d) an increased demand on the City's Police Department and other Public Safety services due to an increase in the city's crime rates for robbery, drug sales and other crimes committed for the acquisition of money to pay for increased housing costs
e) a decrease in the overall safety of the City, for residents and non-reidents, resulting from the above increase in crimes
f) a potential for increased joblessness amongst Newark residents due to unstable housing
g) an increase in poor educational performance of the students of Newark's Schools due to increased moving, potential evictions and, relocation due to the imposed instability upon the lives of Newark families
h) and an overall decrease in the quality of life for all residents of Newark
Second, Landlords will be the only one's who will reap the gains of unfairly enriched pockets and bank accounts. And furthermore, if Landlords are given "exemption from jail-time" for failing to meet the City and State standards for housing, then they will essentially become "above the law" outlaws
June 25, 2016: Reporting that Wednesday rally at the Essex County Board of Freeholders meeting went well. There was about 10 people in attendance, mostly known tenant leaders. We hope to follow up with meetings. We also made contact with the head of the State NAACP, James E. Harris. We will be working towards a formal letter from them in support of rent control.
June 24, 2016: Reaction in Newark is very very slow to the Christie school funding proposal. This is a major, major issue. The ramifications to Newark, and to tenants, are catastrophic.
June 22, 2016: CHRISTIE SCHOOL FUNDING PROPOSAL COULD CAUSE A TSUNAMI OF TAX SURCHARGE APPLICATIONS. Will Newark tenants be priced out of their apartments by tax surcharge applications ??? Sometimes news is simply beyond belief. Governor Christie has a new proposal which provides "equality" in state expenditures for public education. He wants every city or town to be compensated $6599 per student, whether it's a wealthy suburb that gets little State aid now, or a struggling city without a large enough commercial property tax base to pay for school costs. For Newark, the State currently pays 85% of the public school budget. Governor Christie's proposal cuts 69% of the total state aid for Newark schools. So the Newark school budget will shrink to 41.35% of it's current level. It's just not realistic. I haven't seen the math, but I suspect this would MORE THAN DOUBLE the property taxes for every property in Newark. Any attempt to increase taxes to compensate for the loss of over $585 million in annual state aid will destroy the city, and force people out of their homes. Businesses would start to leave Newark, and none would want to open up here, because property taxes would be too high. Tenants will be forced out of their apartments as the landlords try to pass the tax increase to the tenants with Tax Surcharge applications to the Newark Rent Control Board. What will happen is that the landlords will win, but market rents will collapse the equivalent amount, so the landlords will still go bankrupt. Meanwhile the wealthier the suburban community, the more it would benefit from the proposed plan. It's like Robin Hood in reverse. Nj.Com Christie school funding article
June 21, 2016: LANDLORDS MET TO OUST KETTLER MANAGEMENT FROM NEW JERSEY. Word has reached us of a huge meeting of the landlords in Newark that occurred about a week ago, after the deferral of the Ramos rent control ordinance. Derek Reed was there, Azure Waterford and Rock Properties were there, and important politicians were there. They are strategizing for the adoption of rent control revisions. They want Kettler gone from Newark and gone entirely from the State of New Jersey. Some sort of action is being taken against Kettler. They are blaming Kettler for instigating the tenants movement with the January, 2014 Capital Improvement Surcharge application at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect. Kettler surely has some blame, but they were simply acting upon the legal advice of the very same attorneys who remain at the forefront of the landlord's opposition to rent control.
June 21, 2016: RALLY PLANNED AT WEDNESDAY FREEHOLDER MEETING: Tenant leaders and concerned tenants will be attending the Wednesday June 22, 2016 Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders Meeting to take a stand on rent control. This Freeholders meeting is being held at the Montclair town hall at 7 PM, at Claremont & North Fullerton Avenues. We have no choice but to mobilize the masses of working poor citizens of Newark to become politically active to ensure our economic survival. Newark Councilman Anibal Ramos is the point man in Newark for the Essex County Democratic machine, and he was their candidate for Mayor in 2014. The Freeholders are DEMOCRATS. We want to hold accountable the Democratic Party and all of its elected officials in their obligation to represent the economic interests of the working poor, who are also voters. They have a moral obligation to support rent control, affordable housing, and economic justice.
June 20, 2016: Celebrating 2 years of rent control in Newark, NJ. We effectively didn't have rent control prior to the 6/20/2014 Furnari ruling. Here's a very informative article from Philadelphia, PA Decade after housing peaked, owners richer, renters hurting
Also sharing Top 10 Economic Reasons to Support Rent Control
June 15, 2016: OBJECTIONS TO COUNCILMAN ANIBAL RAMOS'S RENT CONTROL REVISIONS
Tenant leaders put on one of our strongest performances to date at the Newark City Council's "Hearing of Citizens" yesterday evening. James Powell, Avi Richardson, Eric Martindale, Janise Afolo, and Victor Monterosa all spoke, and all were upset that some on the city council continue their drive to dramatically weaken the Newark Rent Control Ordinance.
Following the tenant leader's speeches, Donna Jackson (who is legendary for her fiery performances on many issues) spoke and concluded with remarks on the rent control ordinance and the need to organize political action, including the 2018 Newark election. We have also received an email from Donna Jackson today, copied to many parties. She wants our tenant leaders and her network to work much more closely together. This will give both parties more influence.
North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos' name is the only name on the ordinance, but he has others that are supportive of changes. The changes he seeks, on behalf of the landlord lobby, are:
Tenants feel that the landlords are in no position to request any changes, having lost every single battle, including their litigation against the ordinance. They are just so arrogant and so unaccustomed to being beaten that they just cannot accept the results. They think they can continue to throw money and lawyers at the problem until they win. It's disgusting.
Councilman Ramos boasted about being elected three times with at least 75% of the vote. He seems to feel so invincible that he can take whatever actions he wants against his own voters without the possibility of major political repercussions. Tenants need to organize a public relations effort in the North Ward which focusses on the Latino community and advises them what Ramos wants to do to help the landlords, and to harm the hard-working Latino tenants.
The tenant's goal was to have the ordinance withdrawn by Ramos, OR have it voted down at the first reading. Neither happened, the Rent Control Ordinance was deferred again to the next council meeting. The vote to defer was 8-0, with Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins leaving right before the vote, and officially recorded as "absent". She really wasn't absent, she was there for the entire meeting. The 8-0 vote means it's on the docket again, and the tenants will continue to raise hell about it. The tenant's movement is not winding down, it's intensifying.
Tenant leaders will be meeting to formulate a plan of action.
Meanwhile, we got a request from the Bloomfield Tenants Association to partner with them and the NAACP in a class-action lawsuit against landlords. We'll be investigating this possibility further.
June 14, 2014: Three major developments today in the Newark Tenants Movement
(1) Tenant leader Richard Ariza attended today's pre-council meeting and spoke. He had extensive back-and-forth discussions with Mildred Crump and Anibal Ramos. The main objectionable element of the existing Rent Control Ordinance is the $5,000 per room equation. Landlords have to spend $5000 per room in order to secure a 20% rent increase, a figure many feel is unattainable. Ariza reports that the city council will defer the Rent Control Ordinance again on Wednesday, and there won't be a first reading. The changes aren't ready, and more review is forthcoming from "The Administration." It's looking more and more the case that Baye Adofo-Wilson, Deputy Mayor for Economic and Housing Development, is a key player behind the scenes in all the attempts to re-write the Rent Control Ordinance. Tenant leaders have had almost zero interaction with Adofo-Wilson. Four tenant leaders are on the docket to speak at Wednesday's city council "Hearing of Citizens". Tenants are most unhappy with the process, the lack of transparency, and the ongoing heavy negotiating with the landlord's attorneys without even 1/10th the equivalent interaction with tenant leaders.
(2) This evening marked the beginning of the Hardship Application for 559 Broadway, a 19-unit building purchased by Rock Properties in June, 2014. About half the units turned out, which is very impressive. The Rent Control Board would not accept the results of a code enforcement inspection, because it was not done in direct connection with the Hardship Application, and it lacked health and fire inspections. (and it turns out there is an extreme rodent infestation, which is a Health Department matter. During the canvassing Monday night, of the 14 tenants contacted, all 14 reported a heavy rodent infestation). As was the case with The Addison on Mount Prospect, the application was postponed for the landlord to make more repairs and get their compliance documentation together. Attorney Derek Reed was there to represent the landlord.
(3) During the public comment section of the Rent Control Board meeting, Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United unveiled policy and process changes that would improve how the Board processes Hardship Applications, and protect the Board from appeals. There hasn't been a complete Hardship Application in over 10 years, and lots of them are coming now, so the time is right. None of these reforms would require an ordinance change. The Board was very interested in the reforms, and wants it submitted in writing. It will be considered by the Board, the Rent Control Officer, legal review, and
This looks like the beginning of a major project, and I am going to open this up to all the tenant leaders for input, especially Matt Shapiro of NJTO. I would prefer that the final document comes from NJTO, but if that is not agreed upon, Newark Tenants United will submit it. A summary of the suggested actions are:
- The Board may, at its discretion, ask an applicant for their Income Tax Returns, including tax write-off information
- The Board may, at its discretion, ask the owner or Managing Member of the LLC for his personal income tax returns, including tax write-off information that may exist regarding the subject property
The Board may, at its discretion, ask the applicant to supply their full income and expense report that they used to determine that they would buy a property, and the calculations that they used to determine the purchase price. This would be relevant for buildings recently purchased.
- The Board may, at its discretion, hire a licensed commercial real estate appraiser, and bill it to the applicant. The purpose would be to determine the building value at the time of purchase, based on the aforementioned pre-sale statement of income and expenses for 12 months preceding the sale.
- The Board may, at its discretion, hire an independent auditor to audit the application, AND bill it to the applicant. Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustments all over New Jersey routinely hire planners and traffic experts to review major applications, AND bill it to the applicant. The laws governing these Boards are the same. The auditor would review the entire application, the income tax returns, and the full income and expense report. The auditor would identify problems, inconsistencies, and various issues for the Board to review. The Board will make findings based, in part, on the auditor's review as well as their own review and findings.
- The Board was asked to review the Fair Rate of Return Equation because the equation currently used increases the responsibility of the tenants as the equity rises. This is a legal absurdity. As time goes by the landlord owns more and more of the building, so the tenant's obligation should go down, not up.
- The Board was asked to craft a Hardship Formula which ties into the landlord's amortization table, and which calculates a slightly lower obligation to the tenant every month, to reflect the fact that the landlord's principle portion of the mortgage payment increases every month, and the interest portion decreases. The problem is that a landlord could be granted a Hardship Application early in the life of a mortgage (the terms of the rent increase would be based, in part, on the landlord having a high interest payment and a low principle payment), but then that higher rent obligation will carry for decades, even as the landlord's equity increases dramatically, and the principle to interest ration changes much more favorably towards the landlord.
None of these potential actions requires a change in the Rent Control Ordinance. They may not even require a change in the Policy and Procedures Manual. These are all things that can legally be done now, and that Rent Control Boards do all over New Jersey. By relying on these outside experts, the Board's decision will be much more fact-based and professional, and much less likely to be labeled as "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable". The city's decisions will more likely hold up to legal scrutiny, in the event that a landlord sues Newark for denying a Hardship Application. Of course, this is all great for Newark, and as the word gets out, there will be less Hardship Applications.
June 13, 2016: MID-TERM POLITICAL ANALYSIS OF NEWARK: The renewed resolve of the Newark city council to make some unfavorable changes to the Rent Control Ordinance has a lot of folks wondering: Just how strong are they? How strong is each Newark councilperson in their seat ? In only a year or so, the political season in Newark will commence in earnest.
Let's reprint the election results from May, 2014 (* depicts winner)
Ras Baraka 24,358 *
Shavar Jeffries 20,593
AT-LARGE COUNCIL RACE (there are four seats)
Mildred Crump 16,065 *
Luis Quintana 14,223 *
Carlos Gonzalez 10,355 *
Eddie Osborne 10,305 *
Patrick Council 9,399
Wilfredo Caraballo 8,736
Linda Lloyd 8,681
Anibal Ramos 5,780 *
Luis Lopez 1,995
John Sharpe James 6,588 *
Brian Logan 1,202
CENTRAL WARD (no winner)
Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins 1,726
Darin Sharif 2,236
Shawn McCray 1,085
CENTRAL WARD RUNOFF ELECTION
Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins 2,265 *
Darin Sharif 1,361
Augusto Amador 2,239 *
Jonathan Seabra 869
Luis Correira 549
WEST WARD (no winner)
Joseph McCallum 1,624
Patricia Bradford 1,303
Robert Keven Waters 1,114
WEST WARD RUNOFF ELECTION
Joseph McCallum 1,624 *
Patricia Bradford 832
It sure looks like anyone who can get 11,000 votes city-wide can win an at-large seat. That seems very attainable for a team of determined pro-tenant candidates
Another observation is that voter turnout is very low in some Wards compared to others. The highest turnout comes from the North and South Wards, but even those incumbants are not secure. Loss of tenant support would reduce the incumbant's total by thousands of votes, plus a surge of new voters would put those seats in play.
The low turnout in the Central, East, and West Wards shows that those incumbants are clearly the least secure in their seats. Those three council members stand to gain or lose the most in terms of tenant support, especially Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins. She will clearly be voted out if the tenants in her Ward turn strongly against her. Whether or not that happens will be decided by the councilwoman herself.
Any seasoned political activist knows that what really matters is not how many voters switch sides, it's how many voters a candidate brings out on election day. Sure, an election focussed on rent control and code enforcement would bring out the tenants in droves, but there's another really big source of likely voters. It's not only tenants who support the tenants movement.
A high majority of homeowners in Newark were once tenants. Many if not most are philosophically supportive of the tenants movement. They have a social conscience on issues of economic justice in Newark and in all of America. They are opposed to gentrification. And they are damned sick and tired of other property owners in their neighborhood not maintaining their properties, and that Code Enforcement in Newark barely exists to do anything about it. A majority of HOMEOWNERS would turn out, and would vote for candidates supporting rent control and code enforcement. So even if the tenants stayed home and didn't vote (surely not happening in the next election), pro-tenant candidates would probably win.
The city council members who have been supportive of the tenants movements should have the political savvy to understand that they have already been marked for removal by the landlord lobby and the landlord's political friends in Essex County. Weakening the tenant protections in the Rent Control Ordinance is not going to stop the drive of the landlord lobby to try and remove the pro-tenant incumbants from the city council. There are existing city councilpersons who need the tenant's continued support. The tenants are their friends, and have the votes to keep them sitting up there. Alienating tenants by weakening the rent control ordinance would be a costly political mistake. They would be going against the full force of the landlord lobby, and they wouldn't have the full support of tenants, and all the tenant sympathizers who own homes. It's time for the city council members to double-down. Just say NO to the landlord lobby, and support any ordinance changes advanced by the tenants.
In other matters, Maria Hernandez of Rent Control is processing the request of Newark Tenants United that tenants receiving notices for Hardship Hearings be told of the percent (%) increase in the notification letter. Tenants at 559 Broadway were not told, nor were tenants at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect. This will be discussed with others, presumably the Director of Rent Control and the Board members. Regarding 559 Broadway, Maria has confirmed that the increase is 10%. The tenant who thinks his rent is going up $300 is misguided.
June 12, 2016: The proposed Rent Control Ordinance that was deferred on May 26th is back on the agenda for the June 15th city council meeting. It appears to be unchanged. Here it is: June 15 Proposed RCO
Council members had various things to say on May 26th when they deferred the proposed RCO. They said it needed more work and more changes, so if that is true then why is it back on the docket unchanged ??? Of note, nothing materialized with the offer from Councilman Ramos to schedule a meeting with tenant leaders. One thing that has changed since May 26th is that the 45 days to appeal Judge Furnari's decision has expired.
Four tenant leaders are scheduled to speak at the June 15th Hearing of Citizens, which will be an evening meeting.
June 11, 2016: Newark Tenants United distributed a flyer at 559 Broadway urging tenants there to attend their Hardship Hearing. Most didn't know about the hearing at all. One tenant said his rent is going up $300, which is way more than the 10% advised by Maria Hernandez at Rent Control.
Rent Control sent a letter to every tenant at 559 Broadway, but the letter doesn't say the percentage of proposed rent increase. This is simply unacceptable. They did the same thing to 380 & 402 Mount Prospect two months ago. This practice has to end. If tenants are going to have their rent raised to a level that will drive them out, they have the right to know what is the proposed rent increase. This information is deliberately being withheld so that few or no tenants will attend the Hardship Hearings. Maria Hernandez wants the evening to go as smoothly as possible, and that means a low attendance. We will attempt to resolve this directly with Rent Control, and if this practice doesn't change, this matter will be taken straight to Mayor Ras Baraka.
June 7, 2016: HARDSHIP APPLICATION TO BE HEARD ON TUES, JUNE 14. A 19-unit building located at 559 Broadway (just south of Delavan) has applied for a 10% rent increase with Rent Control. If approved, it would have the same effect as the recent application at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect --- it will be a precedent-setting case. In fact, the same owner is in discussions with the Rent Control office for a Hardship Application at another property he owns on Woodside Ave.
Maria Hernandez, second in command at Rent Control, says that the inspections were done and all violations abated. She says there is a report from Tommy McDonald stating that Substantial Compliance has been achieved for 559 Broadway
Hernandez says there are no other Hardship Applications kicking around, but she has taken some calls from other landlords inquiring about the process.
June 4, 2016: NO APPEAL ON JUDGE FURNARI RULING: Matt Shapiro of the New Jersey Tenants Organization has given me permission to announce that the 45 day time period to file an appeal of a Superior Court ruling has expired, and no appeal was filed. Matt Shapiro says he has verified with his sources that no appeal was filed. On April 8th, Superior Court Judge Garry Furnari issued a lengthy decision which declared the Newark Rent Control Ordinance constitutional. Judge Furnari ruled strongly against all of the landlord's claims in that litigation. His decision was so lengthy, and he referenced so many New Jersey Supreme Court decisions that this ruling by Judge Furnari was more than the equivalent of a full-size college thesis. This judge REALLY put a lot into this decision, and his contribution to our cause cannot be understated.
Now that the Court option appears to be eliminated, good chance that the landlords are going to double-down on their strategy of trying to persuade the Newark City Council to revise the Rent Control Ordinance. The City Council deferred a bad ordinance on May 26th, but that move is starting to look like pure subterfuge. The REAL revisions are still coming, and the sponsor(s) on the city council are going to position the upcoming revisions as "a compromise that is halfway between the current Rent Control Ordinance and the revisions that were deferred on May 26th." The tenants are not fooled. We are already calling it out. We will intensify our opposition to a level unseen in the four previous attempts to downgrade the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. We are already mobilizing.
June 3, 2016: The winning argument on Rent Control actually made the media. This describes most tenants in northern New Jersey. Consumer spending is way down because the real estate industry (mortgages, rents) and the financial industry (banks, credit cards, insurance) have become so efficient at gobbling up everyone's money that there's not enough consumer spending to power the rest of the economy. All other industries are suffering, and that's why the recovery is slow and true unemployment is very high. Those two industries have a lock on our government, and that's the real problem. In this case, Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame, because none of them are even talking about this, no less proposing any solutions Article: Sacrifice Spending to pay rent
May 31, 2016: We've been wrong about something for years, and we need to set the record straight. Tenant leaders in buildings all around Newark have been telling their tenants that the real problem regarding repairs not being made is the owner not wanting to spend money, not the property manager choosing not to complete repairs. We're now realizing that it is actually both. At the May 10, 2016 Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Avenue, attorney Calvin Souder stated on the record that it is industry-standard for a Property Manager (in this case Vonetta Mitchell) to be awarded a monthly bonus for hitting the company's financial goals. Let that sink in for a minute.
Financial goals take into effect both income and expense. It now appears likely that it is literally the case that a Property Manager will defer maintenance expenses for the deliberate purpose of earning his or her bonus for that month. They are monitoring the expenses made so far in a given month, and then they just stop spending. The decision is "Do I fix this problem that is harming my tenant's quality of life, or do I let them suffer so that I can earn my bonus this month".
This may also be why Property Manager are increasingly stealing one or two weeks at the beginning and end of the heating and cooling season, because running boilers and chillers costs money. They'll activate the boilers in mid-October instead of October 1st, and they'll activate the chillers sometime in June instead of May 15th.
May 30, 2016: For Memorial Day, I'm posting:
TOP 10 ECONOMIC REASONS
TO SUPPORT THE TENANTS MOVEMENT
Tenants and other concerned parties should never concede to the landlord’s position that the tenants movement, or the Rent Control Ordinance in particular, is about economic prosperity versus tenants saving money. That is a false dichotomy. Rent Control and affordable housing is good for the entire economy, for the following reasons:
1. INCREASED ECONOMIC ACTIVITY: If rents are lower, tenants have more money at hand to spend. The consumer economy works strongest when consumers spend. That’s been known for generations, and it is uncontested. Tenants in particular are notorious for spending every possible dollar, and saving nothing. More spending means more purchases of all kinds, and more purchasing means more jobs will be created. (This same argument can be made regarding reducing bank interest rates and fees reducing consumer spending). The banking and real estate industries are acting as sinks. They are consuming all the wealth in America, and the resulting reduction in money being spent by consumers is keeping the whole consumer economy from thriving.
2. MORE STATE & FEDERAL TAX REVENUE: Increased economic activity means businesses will pay more taxes to the State. There will be more sales tax revenue, more payroll tax revenue, etc. More jobs also means more people will pay more Federal and State income tax.
3. MORE BENEFIT TO LOCAL ECONOMY: The landlords make the counter argument that if tenants spend more on rent, the landlords will spend more and generate economic growth. Well, support has completely collapsed for Keynesian “trickle-down” economics. It’s a proven failure, and even many Republicans are starting to doubt it. Money just concentrates with the ultra-wealthy. Spending by the wealthy (in this case landlords in other States) doesn’t help us at all. The best analogy is Colonialism, in which the European powers extracted wealth from the Third World, and then all the spending and economic activity happened in Europe. It’s better for our State to have the tenants save on rent money and spend more, and have all that money stay in our State, and recirculate within our economy.
4. BLOCK WATCH: Tenant Associations are invariably against gangs and criminal activity. They act as a Block Watch to support police activity in buildings, and to remove the criminal element. Gang activity and crime harms buildings and neighborhoods, and the whole economy.
5. REPAIRS TO BUILDINGS: Tenant leaders often bring in Code Enforcement action. Deterioration of units and common areas is addressed, and the quality of life improves. This is typically the only way repairs are ever made, as the landlords otherwise just collect rent and fix almost nothing. The more a property is repaired and the more the quality of life improves, the more it is worth, and the more taxes it pays to the municipality.
6. STABILIZES NEIGHBORHOODS: Low annual rent increases and vacancy control (vacancy control means to stop or limit rent increases when a tenant moves out) encourage tenants to stay and to put down roots rather than give up their rent-controlled unit. This stabilizes buildings and neighborhoods and creates a sense of community that is more conducive to a pro-family environment and children learning in school.
7. ENCOURAGES BUSINESSES TO COME, OR TO STAY: The availability of affordable housing is a major factor in business making decisions where to be located. Big employers strongly consider the housing costs of their employees. They know they have to pay a higher salary to an employee in New Jersey than somewhere in mid-America. This problem encourages businesses to move out of New Jersey, or not expand here.
8. LESS GOVERNMENT SPENDING ON SOCIAL SERVICES: The more that housing of all kinds is unaffordable, the more that Local, County, State, and Federal agencies spend on social services. And we’re talking about more than homeless programs. In a very real sense, most social service programs are to subsidize housing costs. If the housing costs are lower, government pays out less, and taxpayers save.
9. AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND RENT CONTROL IS FOR EVERYONE: Everyone includes young adults fresh out of college, families with young children trying to save money to buy a house and participate in the American dream, and even elderly Republicans living on a fixed income and counting every penny.
10. LESS OPPOSITION TO DOWNTOWN GROWTH: Strong rent control means less community opposition to economic growth in the downtown. There is a great fear of an upwards pressure on rents city-wide caused by upscale downtown development such as office towers and high-end apartments. If the threat of rents increasing cannot be held in check with rent control, community leaders will instead put great pressure upon city officials to reduce economic development downtown. Reducing economic development in the downtown means less jobs and less tax revenues to support police, schools, and social services of all kinds. The answer is rent control, not stopping growth.
The intent is to persuade elected officials to better understand which aspects of tenant organizing, rent control, and affordable housing are compatible with economic growth. In addition, Tenant Associations are against political corruption, and for open government.
May 28, 2016: Day 4 of the heat wave, 96 degrees today in Newark and the humidity is up as well. Still no air conditioning at The Addison, 380 and 402 Mount Prospect. Many tenants suspect the landlord has not activated the main chillers as retaliation for defeating the 17% Hardship Application rent increase on May 10th, and for defeating attempts by the landlord lobby to weaken the rent control ordinance on May 26th. The ordinance we defeated on Thursday would have removed air conditioning as something that must be in 100% compliance, and it would have removed the entire 90% substantial compliance section that was used to defeat the Hardship Application.
May 27, 2016: The 425 Mount Prospect Tenants Association reports that, to the best of their knowledge, their landlord violates the CPI-based rent increase with every new lease signed. New tenants are signing at about $100 more than the previous tenant's leases, an increase of about 10% - 12%. The tenants association has been flushing these new tenants out by talking with them and inquiring what their rent is. They are directing these new tenants to Rent Control to get their leases adjusted and their accounts credited. Maria Hernandez at Rent Control acknowledged on Thursday that five tenants from 425 have complained in recent months, and she got the landlord to adjust all five accounts without a Rent Adjustment Hearing. But the basic problem is unresolved; other tenants who are not in touch with the tenants association or Rent Control are paying too much. The landlord is simply renting units and violating the law with complete arrogance and impunity.
This landlord deserves to be prosecuted and given jail time. If he's that arrogant, he needs to be broken. And he told William O'Donnell, Chair of the 425 Tenants Association that he is not fixing the violations from the April code enforcement blitz. Evidently the fines are a lot less than the repair costs, and it's just the cost of doing business. This is just a sample for what is going on all over Newark.
This landlord is Exhibit A for why the fine structure needs to be increased in the rent control ordinance, and why we need a sit-down meeting between Mayor Ras Baraka, a few tenant leaders, AND the municipal judge that handles code violations to set a stronger public policy.
May 26, 2016: RESULT FROM CITY COUNCIL MEETING: The tenants won again. The city council voted 8-0 (Chaneyfield not present) to defer the rent ordinance. The existing ordinance remains on the books unchanged. There could have been a first reading, but instead it is dead. Our previous 3 victories in defeating bad Rent Control Ordinance changes were made the same way, a deferral. The only thing different this time is it didn't drag out for days or weeks; the city council gave up quickly. Several on the council mentioned emails from tenant leaders and tenant organizations, and noted objections on the record. Special thanks to Avi Richardson for her quick work in organizing the tenant leaders to oppose these changes, and to Matt Shapiro for so quickly putting together a powerful rebuttal and emailing it to the Newark City Council
Councilman Ramos promised Eric Martindale a meeting with tenant leaders to discuss the Rent Control Ordinance.
In other matters, at the same council meeting Ras Baraka appeared before the city council and spoke about economic development and gentrification. He supports development in the downtown, and noted that national retailers are looking for growth in Newark as part of a decision to open a store here. The Mayor said that 90% of the housing built in Newark in recent years is affordable to low and moderate income households, so we are not experiencing gentrification on a city-wide level.
May 25, 2016: SHOCKING NEWS: There is a revised Rent Control Ordinance to be introduced as an "added starter" at a special city council meeting on Thursday 5/26. We found out with less than 24 hours notice. We were able to secure a copy of the proposed changes, and Matt Shapiro of NJTO worked on short notice to send a detailed rebuttal to the Mayor & City Council. The proposed changes are extremely bad, and in many cases worse than the versions we beat in 2014 and 2015.
The changes include removal of the 90% substantial compliance clause just used to defeat a precedent-setting Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Avenue. The city council would be effectively voting to subject those tenants to a new Hardship Application.
The 2014 ordinance included a groundbreaking concept of decoupling the IRS definition of capital improvements from "major new improvements". And then the "Major New Improvements" section was found constitutional in Superior Court. This is of national significance, and sets a precedent for other cities and States looking to improve or launch rent control. It protect tenants from having to pay a rent surcharge to cover building system replacements that need to be done every few decades, like boilers, roofs, elevators, etc. The national lobby wants this squashed like there's no tomorrow. The new wording restores the IRS definition and leaves a giant vague loophole for these type of projects to be charged to tenants.
And there's more changes that are really bad. Tenant leaders have been upset before, and scared before, but in our years of organizing we have never been more ANGRY. Folks are furious at this move after the city spent nearly two years defending the ordinance in Superior Court, and then WON in Court with a tremendous victory on April 8th. And now they are going to just throw it all away ? If this proposed ordinance is passed as written, it would represent a complete betrayal by our elected officials.
If it is introduced and passes on First Reading tomorrow, the second reading and public hearing will be on June 15th, and that's a day-time city council meeting. The timing is all planned, the introduction as an "added starter", and then the final hearing at a time when most tenants are working and cannot attend.
May 24, 2016: I am in communication with Joseph Della Fave of the Ironbound Community Corp regarding the May 20th posting, below. I have requested a meeting with him to discuss their possibly amending their proposed ordinance. I am also honoring his request to post a cover letter he wrote to announce the initiative to community leaders in Newark. The cover letter doesn't mention the "multiplier" issue that I have concerns with, for whatever reason. See below:
Ironbound Community Corporation has submitted to the City a draft Inclusionary Zoning (Affordable Housing) Ordinance. We have been discussing this with the City and they have expressed their support. We are hoping that you and your organization will be supportive of this as it - hopefully - moves forward.
Simply put, the draft Ordinance would mandate affordable housing set-asides in new development projects as follows:
We are motivated by development trends in Ironbound as well as our housing justice principles and a vision of a City that is affordable to all in the future in every neighborhood. We are also wary of the impact of gentrification, including displacement, at least in Ironbound, in the coming years.
Ironbound has seen more than 600 market rate units approved - but yet to be built - that will be marketed to higher income households not residing in Newark - you know, marketed to NY, Hoboken, etc. Additionally, there are many more development projects on the table. The potential, actually the likely, impact on rents and the soul of the community is frightening. Conversely, we believe that community improvement and transformation means uplifting, not uprooting, the people of Newark. This includes protecting people in their homes while trying to support them in meeting their needs and aspirations.
This ordinance is one of the tools we are using to protect our community and ensure affordability and diversity as Newark moves forward. As you will see in the attached summary, the goal of the ordinance is to dissuade high density projects (at least in over-crowded Ironbound) that impact livability and ensure a give-back on large “as of right” permitted projects by mandating affordable housing set-asides as a condition of approval. In addition, to protect people in their homes, we also will be staunch defenders of rent control and promote various tax policies for long time homeowners who occupy their homes, as well as other policies and continuing our organizing, housing justice, and community building work.
This is the second Ordinance we have been part of providing to the City. Recently, along with the NJ Environmental Justice Alliance and former Sustainability Officer Stephanie Greenwood, we drafted for the City a Cumulative Impact/Environmental Justice Ordinance that will require applicants of large industrial projects and others to provide environmental information as part of their application to the Planning or Zoning Board. This will give the Environmental Commission the opportunity to review this info and provide at their discretion an advisory opinion to the Boards – and also give the public more info in the process. The goal, of course, is to protect and advance public health. We and the City have have agreed on a final version that has moved into Legistar.
We hope that in your travels you will speak positively about an inclusive, affordable, and healthy Newark, an ever improving Newark that moves its residents along and does not push them aside, that focuses on and transforms people as well as place in its revitalization – and support the Inclusionary Zoning and the Cumulative Impact Ordinances as two of the means to achieve this.
Joseph Della Fave
Ironbound Community Corporation
317 Elm St.
Newark, NJ 07105
May 23, 2016: An update from the 425 Mount Prospect Tenants Association. They had a Code Enforcement Blitz in April, and 10 pages of violations were found and documented. The landlord has begun retaliation against the tenants. They have begun renting to extremely disruptive tenants, each of which is there only a few months because they don't pay rent. In addition, management has stopped accepting packages, and they just distributed a flyer stating that they will no longer accept rent checks onsite, and instead all tenants must mail their rent checks to Brooklyn. Some good news: 1. They added someone from La Casa De Don Pedro onto their Executive Board, and 2. Their collective action has resulted in the intercom system being fixed. www.425tenants.org
May 22, 2016: The allowable rent increase for Newark has been published for July. It's hit 1.0% for the first time in about 18 months. Here's July and the most recent months
July, 2016 = 1.0%
June, 2016 = 0.7% (7/10th of 1%)
May, 2016 = 0.6%
April, 2016 = 0.8%
May 20, 2016: The Ironbound Community Corporation is proposing an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance to require that 20% of all development is affordable housing. Well, it sounds great and I'm sure they are well-meaning, but as always the devil is in the details. The proposal includes a 1.5 multiplier if a developer wants to build the affordable housing component offsite, and a 2.0 multiplier if the development site is in the downtown, and the affordable housing is to be built offsite. For instance, a developer proposing 100 units in the downtown can either build 20 units of affordable housing onsite, OR build 40 units somewhere else in Newark. The latter option is completely uneconomical, so it will never happen, and that is surely the goal of that clause.
However, let's think about that for a moment. Isn't there a real need to encourage economic development and new construction IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS. Isn't that what Ras Baraka has been talking about ? Bringing growth and investment not just to the downtown, but to the neighborhoods ? The outer neighborhoods, especially those that are struggling, really need new housing that is clean, safe, and affordable. Wouldn't such housing represent an improvement over 100+ year old houses that have been subdivided into apartments, and many of them are aging terribly with outdated floor plans, kitchens, and bathrooms? Don't the people in the outer neighborhoods deserve this affordable housing ? And won't this construction help fill up the schools that are closing down one by one ? Why discourage the private sector construction of affordable housing on Central Ave ? Or South Orange Ave, Clinton Ave, Hawthorne Ave, etc. The Mayor and the City Council really need to think about this one long and hard. It's coming from the Ironbound Community Corp, which is a great organization, but not necessarily fully in tune with the needs of the South and West Wards.
I'm going to take it one step further. Maybe the answer is not a 2.0 multiplier on the affordable housing obligation downtown, but a 0.75 multiplier if they want to help rebuild a struggling neighborhood ? Maybe the city needs to encourage that growth to shift from the downtown to the outer neighborhoods. The downtown is doing just fine, and can take care of itself. And the more it grows, the more it can be taxed so the rest of Newark can have more police and social services. Growth in the downtown means more jobs for the rest of Newark, and last time I checked that's the number one issue in Newark.
The "threat" of downtown Newark becoming a very upscale community is not realistic. There will always be a strong presence of low-income people in the downtown because so many social services are there, including homeless shelters, soup kitchens, Cura, Integrity House, and the YMCA. In addition, there is a low-income Muslim micro-neighborhood on Branford Place adjacent to Broad Street. Low-income people from all over Newark will continue to work in the downtown, and they dominate the sidewalks as well as the buses that link the downtown to everywhere. The "luxury" housing under construction on Broad Street a few block south of city hall is actually middle-income housing. The sign saying "luxury" is just marketing. There actually is luxury housing in the planning stage, but it hasn't been built yet. The downtown of Newark is becoming a place for people of all income levels and all racial and ethnic backgrounds. It's hard to be opposed to that vision, and I am not.
AS LONG AS NEWARK HAS A STRONG RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE, and we do, there should not be resistance to economic growth and development in the Downtown. The ordinance protects us. And that being said, if the ordinance is ever substantially weakened, then the downtown development would actually be a threat towards pushing up rents all across Newark.
After recently coming up with a list of 9 solid reasons why rent control and affordable housing is good for the economy, it's very distressing to see other forces creating a battle between affordable housing and economic development.
May 18, 2016: TENANT ACTIVISM AT NEWARK CITY COUNCIL MEETING OF MAY 17th
1. Three tenant leaders who have been active in the Newark Rent Control movement attended and spoke about the recently defeated Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect. Those speakers were Eric Martindale, James Powell, and Janise Afolo, in that order. Eric gave a brief summary, identified some of the key missing documents not provided to the Rent Control Board and a few of the applicant's accounting irregularities. He discussed the possibility of the landlord suing Newark, and that we have all the documentation that the city would need. James Powell also thanked the City.
Janise, who serves on the Rent Control Board as a tenant advocate, discussed some of the Board's deliberations and thoughts, especially related to Substantial Compliance, and that a building should always be in compliance. She was particularly disturbed by the landlord's claim that they needed the money for repairs, and stated that a Hardship Application is for profit, not repairs.
Janise then reiterated a pledge made in a December 2015 meeting between tenant leaders and Ras Baraka, Anibal Ramos, John Sharpe James, and Gayle Cheneyfield-Jenkins. That pledge was to show any new draft Rent Control Ordinance to the tenant leaders before introducing it. There's again talk of changes, and it might have something to do with Bloomfield. The landlord lobby is very upset that Bloomfield very nearly adopted a mirror image of Newark's ordinance, and that the movement to restore Rent Control in Bloomfield (after 22 years of no rent control) was in part energized by folks in Bloomfield reading about Newark adopting a stronger ordinance. As long as Newark's ordinance is on the books unchanged, that's considered an existential threat throughout New Jersey.
I say it's an existential threat nationwide, and we Newark tenant leaders should all be proud of it. Only 4 States currently allow rent control, and of the cities and towns that do in those States, there's more of them in New Jersey than the other 3 States, combined. The landlord lobby really hates the Newark Rent Control Ordinance.
After nearly 2 years of hearing non-stop complaints from tenants all over Newark at city council Hearing of Citizens, it's becoming clear that the new city council members, especially Councilman McCallum, generally believe the tenant's claims that landlords are collecting rent and fixing nothing. And they are getting sick of it. There was talk from the Council about hiring more Code Enforcement officers in this year's budget. Their support of tenants is much stronger now than after 3 or 6 months of their incumbancy. And the credibility of the landlord lobby is down, because so many tenants independently have very similar stories.
Three tenant leaders from 301 Irvine Turner Boulevard appeared and spoke at length about their problems, which include rodents, unmet repairs, and rude treatment by management and other staff. Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins is organizing a Code Enforcement Blitz, top to bottom for the entire complex. She along with two others on the Council spoke openly about rescinding the property tax abatement. "We'll sell it to someone else", said Chaneyfield-Jenkins. They have a Tenants Association there, and we look forwards to working together.
May 17, 2016: Last night the Township of Bloomfield became the second municipality in the history of the United States to restore rent control after having abolished it. Bloomfield went 22 years without rent control, and the rents have skyrocketed. To be honest, their new ordinance is simply terrible. It's so weak that it's little better than having no rent control at all. There are no vacancy control provisions other than producing a letter stating that the prior tenant wasn't forced out. In addition, they exempt ALL houses 5 units or less, even if there is no landlord living there. Eric Martindale attended and made a well-received speech about the positive economic impacts of rent control. We made some good contacts with tenant leaders there.
The Bloomfield Property Owners Association has a website full of the standard lies and scare tactics about rent control. The landlord's spokesperson had the nerve to blame the urban deterioration in Newark on Newark not having complete vacancy decontrol. And that lie worked well because the Bloomfield Council doesn't know that Newark has only had vacancy controls since June, 2014. (We all know the urban problems of Newark go back generations, they didn't start in 2014.) You see, that's all the landlords do everywhere is lie and twist things. www.savebloomfield.com
May 16, 2016: Power outage affects most of the North Ward and parts of the Central Ward
May 12, 2016: The 380-402 Tenants Association had it's election tonite. Newark Tenants United wishes to congratulate the outgoing Board members and officers and thank them for their accomplishments. None of the incumbants ran for re-election. They were Fidelia N. Uzoukwu-Odutola, Chair, Janette Ravelo-Torres, Vice-Chair, Cietta Augusta, Treasurer, Richard Ariza, Public Relations, America Espinosa, Secretary, and Frank Augusta, Board member. This board was the 4th incarnation of the 380-402 Tenants Association, which was founded in 2007.
The 4th incarnation of the 380-402 Tenants Association Executive Board accomplished the following:
1. Re-constitution of the 380-402 Tenants Association, which had been suspended for about 1.5 years
2. Defeat of the $1.8 million Capital Improvement Surcharge (CIS) application by RapAd/Azure Waterford, LLC in early 2014
3. Drafted and lobbied for a new Rent Control Ordinance, and secured it's passage
4. Defeated, several times, proposed amendments which would have weakened the new Rent Control Ordinance
4. Worked with city officials to secure implementation and enforcement of the new Rent Control ordinance
5. Correction of reported rents to the city Rent Control Board
6. Removal of the illegal security guard booth
7. Attention to building code violations, and improvements in code compliance
8. Played a leadership role in the alliance of tenant associations which filed to intervene in the litigation between the Newark Apartment Owner's Association and the City of Newark. This filing was instrumental in deterring an unfavorable settlement between the Plaintiff and the City, and set the stage for the City to win the litigation outright.
9. Defeat of the Azure Waterford, LLC Hardship Application for a 16.85% rent increase
10. Secured State inspections (coming soon), and a greater intensity of city code enforcement inspections than would have occurred
11. Amendments to the group's Constitution and By-Laws
12. Established very strong working relationships with various city officials and departments.
13. Was instrumental in generally advancing the tenant's movement in the City of Newark.
Although they no longer serve with the organization, the most active members will remain involved with the tenants movement in Newark, and may have the opportunity to defend the interests of tenants and affordable housing in other capacities.
Today is their day in the sun. We will report soon on the new officers elected.
May 11, 2016: NJTV airs a piece on last night's Hearing, which concluded with a discussion on the tenants movement in Newark. There's been a mixed reaction, but we have to be clear. The broadcast was a win for the tenants, and here's why
1. We have been under a virtual media boycott, and we got in the news
2. The story accurately reported that the tenants won. Bottom line: we won, and that was in the news
3. The broadcast included Fidelia's argument that this is a precedent-setting case, and then reported that the case was denied. That was the perfect lead-in.
4. They included Eric's argument that the application is smoke-and-mirrors and holds back the income tax return, that is "the real juice".
5. The broadcast accurately reported that there are hundreds of violations and maintenance issues.
Now, let's be real, the media has to report both sides. In this case, the landlord lobby's air time was at least twice as long as the tenant's. The broadcast assumed the validity of the landlord's argument that they need to increase rents to make repairs. In addition, landlord attorney Derek Reed, who was not present at the hearing, somehow got air time. How did that happen? The opposition was better than us at following up with the reporter and getting more folks to provide input. AND Derek Reed was allowed to state that rent control in Newark shifts the tax burden from large buildings to homeowners, and there was no opportunity for tenants to rebut. This is pure nonsense, so let me rebut here.
The tenant's agenda relies heavily on increasing code enforcement and making landlords repair buildings. We envisions millions of dollars in additional annual revenue to the city EVERY YEAR, due to code enforcement actions and fines against landlords city-wide. And that revenue doesn't have to wait until a property re-evaluation that could happen in 10 or 20 years.
Now, at some time in the future, there WILL BE a property re-evaluation in Newark. Reed thinks rent control will depress values. Well, here's another angle: buildings and apartments that have been renovated due to code enforcement actions will assess for more than run-down buildings under the status quo of collecting rent and fixing nothing. If one wanted to ensure that as many possible multi-unit buildings re-evaluate for less in the future, the best way to do that is for Newark to stick with having only 8 code enforcement officers. That will guarantee that most of the multi-unit housing stock will become run-down. No matter how dedicated or professional they may be, 8 people can't handle code enforcement in Newark.
I am now realizing that the landlords actually have THREE incentives to defer maintenance costs, not two reasons.
1. The first is the obvious and immediate bottom-line incentive of cutting repair costs to maximize profit. Every dollar spent on repairs is a dollar less off the bottom line.
2. The second incentive is to lump all the repairs together in some way, and then try to stick it to the tenants, or even litigate against the city. Now that capital improvement surcharges are gone, they are trying to link the current wave of repairs as justifying a Hardship Increase which was actually for a prior 12-month period.
3. But the third incentive is much more insidious, and it is only now emerging. By deferring maintenance and running down the buildings, they will evaluate for less in a future property tax re-evaluation. And that will cut their property tax costs. Thanks Derek Reed, for getting us to think in this direction.
May 10, 2016: THE TENANTS WIN BIG AT TONITE'S RENT CONTROL HEARING. After considerable debate and discussion, the Rent Control Board voted unanimously 5-0 to deny the application for a 16.85% rent increase at The Addison, located at 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Avenue. The denial was based on failure to secure substantial compliance, per the wording of the 2014 Newark Rent Control Ordinance. Tommy McDonald testified again tonite, and repeatedly said there is no letter of substantial compliance. Several of the inspectors were also in attendance. The re-inspection after the repairs were supposed to be complete generated 398 violations.
An applicant is expected to be in substantial compliance when the application is submitted, and if the Rent Control Board requests an inspection by Code Enforcement, the buildings should pass. Judge Garry Furnari was clear in his April 8, 2016 ruling that the expectation is that buildings should ALWAYS be in substantial compliance.
Tenants at The Addison submitted 17 letters and emails to Rent Control over the past week. These were accepted and date-stamped by Maria Hernandez, and they are officially part of the file. In the event of legal action by the applicant (which is very likely), those letters are part of the official record on this application. The letters were a key part of the Board's decision, and their presence on file could serve to deter the landlord from trying to file an appeal.
The City of Newark went above and beyond the call of duty on March 8, 2016 to give this landlord an additional 60 days to perform repairs and secure substantial compliance. They weren't even close to securing it, and now the whole process of inspections has generated violations, court appearances, and fines. So, not only did the landlord fail to win the 16.85% rent increase, they had to fix a lot of things, and the final tally will be tens of thousands of dollars in legal, accounting, and repair costs. Furthermore, fines are likely in June. And now the State inspectors are coming as well. It's hard to see any scenario in which Azure Waterford will want to keep Kettler after what happened tonite. I wonder who's dime this is on, Kettler's or Azure's.
The message from Rent Control to the landlords of Newark is crystal clear: If you are going to try for a Hardship Application in the City of Newark, you will first need to secure a letter of substantial compliance from Code Enforcement, and that will trigger the whole process of inspections, violation reports, repairs, re-inspections, and fines. So you better get your financing together and fix everything first, and then file your application. And that is so similar to what Judge Furnari said.
The landlord's attorney, Calvin Souder (who is our neighbor, right around the corner), was very upset and spoke openly about suing Newark in Superior Court over this. He feels it is unfair that his client has been penalized by having to spend so much money on repairs, and after months and months of preparation for the Hardship case, the end result is that the Rent Control Board won't even hear the application. Plus the whole process of inspections, violations, and fines has commenced, and now his client is now even deeper in the hole. He says that what has happened is against the concept of securing a rent increase in order to make repairs. Souder repeatedly stated that the Hardship Application was to secure more revenue to fix things. However the rent control ordinance says something very different --- Hardship Applications are for profit, not repairs.
In theory, this webmaster is NOT unsympathetic to the logic of Souder's argument, but the problem is that we've reviewed their accounting. After we factored out all the accounting irregularities, the Addison is not only profitable NOW, they are earning over the 9% return on investment standard in the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. Basically, the application is all about pure 100% greed.
Reporter Michael Hill of NJTV was there, at our request. Good chance something will be aired Wednesday at 6:30 and 11:00
May 10, 2016: The Addison was before Judge Grant in Municipal Court this morning for the 398 violations found to be unabated when the Newark Code Enforcement performed the re-inspection after 2 months of repairs by Kettler at The Addison, which is 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Ave. The inspection process was part of their bid to secure Substantial Compliance for a proposed 17% rent increase. Judge Grant granted them 30 days to fix the 398 violations, and then fines will be issued.
May 10, 2016: The new Director of Rent Control took over at midnight, just in time for the big Rent Control hearing today. Known to his friends as Jay-Lee, Mr. Jacques Lee was a paralegal for Housing & Economic Development before his transfer to Rent Control. My first impression is that he is honest, professional, concerned about Newark, and generally a good guy. Jay-Lee is also a tenant who lives in Newark in one of the major buildings with a tenant's association, The Pavilion. He has had zero involvement with the Tenant's movement or the local Tenants Association there, but it's still great to have a Newark tenant as the Director of Rent Control. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 6, 2016: Lawsuit filed against a senior's home in Bloomfield. It was unseasonably warm on Dec 31, 2015, and the landlord (Marzulli, a notorious slumlord) failed to turn off the heat. Two senior citizens age 77 and 82 baked in their apartment and one died after his body temperature reached 108 degrees. The litigants are blaming the combined heat/cooling system, similar to that in most large buildings in Newark.
NJ.com May 6 lawsuit on defective heating system
May 5, 2016: Changes made to the Tenants Agenda for Newark, on the right column, a bit down. Most importantly added a section for reforms to the Hardship aspect of the Rent Control Ordinance.
May 1, 2016: The allowable CPI-based rent increase for May in Newark is 6/10th of 1%, according to the chart published by Rent Control. We also know the June 1st rate, 7/10th of 1%. The figures for 2016, so far have been:
Jan - .004
Feb - .006
March - .007
April - .008
May - .006
June - .007
The lack of 4% rent increases for nearly 2 full years has had a substantial positive impact. Instead of increasing 8%, most tenants have had increases between 1% and 2%. The average savings of 6.5% is as follows:
YOUR SAVINGS AFTER TWO YEARS
MONTHLY RENT DUE TO 2014 RENT CONTROL ORD.
$800 x .065 = $52.00 x 12 months = $624
$900 x .065 = $58.50 x 12 months = $702
$1000 x .065 = $65.00 x 12 months = $780
$1100 x .065 = $71.50 x 12 months = $858
$1200 x .065 = $78.00 x 12 months = $936
$1300 x .065 = $84.50 x 12 months = $1014
$1400 x .065 = $91.00 x 12 months = $1092
$1500 x .065 = $97.50 x 12 months = $1170
$1600 x .065 = $104.00 x 12 months = $1248
$1700 x .065 = $110.50 x 12 months = $1326
$1800 x .065 = $117.00 x 12 months = $1404
$1900 x .065 = $123.50 x 12 months = $1482
$2000 x .065 = $130.00 x 12 months = $1560
$2100 x .065 = $136.50 x 12 months = $1638
$2200 x .065 = $143.00 x 12 months = $1716
$2300 x .065 = $149.50 x 12 months = $1794
Note that the savings after two rent increases under the 2014 ordinance is about double from the first year. And for each tenant's THIRD rent renewal (that will be starting July 1st), the annual savings will be even higher. If the CPI stays about where it is now, your savings will be about 50% higher than the chart above !!!! From the beginning, we said that the CUMULATIVE impact of the May, 2014 Rent Control Ordinance would be really powerful. The more years go by, the more tenants can save, and re-spend that money in our local economy. Now everyone can see it. You are saving a lot of money, so make sure you pay your dues to your local tenants association, most are charging $12 - $20 a year. Without Newark Tenants United and all of the local tenant associations, tenants wouldn't be saving all this money.
Some tenants who were thinking of moving out of Newark are ALREADY deciding to stay in Newark, to not let go of the rent controlled unit.
In addition, local merchants are already benefitting from tenants having more disposable income. For instance, this webmaster rented a storage unit, in Newark, for over $135 a month. That would not have been possible with the 4% rent increases.
April 30, 2016: On April 29, Eric Martindale emailed Mayor Ras Baraka and the city council thanking the mayor for moving Code Enforcement from Neighborhood Services to Building & Engineering. The email also set expectations for future phases of progress regarding the ramp-up of Code Enforcement, and was widely circulated among community leaders. Here it is:
"Word has reached Newark Tenants United that the city has very recently transferred Code Enforcement from Neighborhood Services to Building & Engineering. I was advised today by a senior code enforcement officer that Tommy McDonald, Acting Manager of Code Enforcement, now reports to Philip Scott.
We consider this to be a very positive move, and compatible with the desires of a great many community leaders to ramp up Code Enforcement. Severe issues found during code enforcement inspections are very often the direct concerns of Building & Engineering. Information can now readily flow better, and it's all under one Director.
Thank you for this positive move. The change is obvious and way overdue.
Code Enforcement is, and has always been, a revenue-generating department. I fully support hiring dozens of new inspectors. Why not, there's no net cost to the city. Their salaries and benefit packages are more than compensated by the fines.
In addition, I would encourage an increase in the fine structure set by the City of Newark, and meeting between Mayor Baraka and the judge to encourage an increase in the fines levied by the Court for each violation.
A plan is under development by the Newark Civic Trust for a streamlined process for concerned neighborhood organizations to submit monthly reports to city officials to document all violations in their districts. I am active with this organization.
The ramping up of Code Enforcement will generate millions more in revenue for the city, create dozens of jobs for code enforcers, and resolve the concerns of residents who deserve clean apartments, clean buildings, and clean neighborhoods for themselves and their families. A central part of the plan, at least in my mind, is to improve the self-esteem of our Youth, and create a belief in their minds that people in authority care about them and their neighborhoods, and that "the system" of education, employment, and opportunity is realistic and works for them. Only positive things will flow from there, both for our Youth and our cities. Otherwise, gangs continue to be the preferred option.
In addition, the repair work prompted by the violations and fines will generate millions of dollars in economic activity in the City of Newark. We know from the landlord's economic impact statement prepared in opposition to rent control that if "x" dollars are spent in construction and repair, "y" jobs and "z" revenues are generated for local businesses. Through code enforcement, we can have that economic activity without a greed incentive for landlords to raise rents. That reduces tenant's buying power, which further hurts the local economy.
The landlords will quickly learn that "business as usual", which is to collect rents and fix nothing, is no longer a viable business plan due to inspections, violations, and fines.
Sincerely, Eric Martindale"
April 28, 2016: Launching a page here soon for the Security Guard ordinance. Compiling information from the archives. This is in preparation for a possible push on this issue.
April 27, 2016: Property taxes will be going way up in Newark for the second straight year. This is of concern to tenants for 2 reasons (1) city officials may become less sympathetic to tenants regarding Hardship Rent increases, and (2) landlords could file tax surcharge applications against their tenants.
Note, however, that despite the increases, Newark's taxes are dramatically less than Irvington, Orange, and East Orange, three cities who's tax base relies on a much lower percentage of commercial and industrial ratables. Lots of houses in Newark, especially in the South and West Wards, pay only about $4,000 - $5,000 a year. That is incredibly low for Northern New Jersey, and it remains a big incentive for home buyers to purchase in Newark. Plus Newark clearly has a future, while those other three cities have a greater struggle ahead of them. Baraka on Newark Taxes
April 24, 2016: Want to know why nj.com (aka Star Ledger) didn't do a story about the conclusion of Newark's rent control litigation. It's because the City and the tenants won. If the landlords had won, there would have been a huge story about landlords "securing justice" and rolling back "unfair regulations that harm the economy". nj.com cares about their advertisers, which are realtors and apartment buildings, not the tenants who read nj.com and the Star Ledger. In addition, about 20 or 25 years ago, the great newspapers of America figured out that the internet would end their glory days. Many of their owners decided to diversify their portfolio by dabbling in real estate. Can't say for sure which newspaper owners own real estate, but this remains a huge obstacle for the tenants movement nationwide.
The conclusion of Newark's rent control litigation should have been NATIONAL news. Newark has the strongest rent control ordinance of any major city in America. It was upheld in Superior Court, and the response from the media was a deafening silence. Not even a blurb from a tiny local newspaper. It's like it didn't even happen.
Here's an example of a prominent Newark landlord taking out a whole page ad in nj.com to promote their building, which has actually cut back on amenities and gone bankrupt twice. Newark Tenants United still has plans to set up a tenants association in this building. Eleven80 ad 4/18/2016
April 19, 2016: Announcing that the Newark Civic Trust group, which is part of The Citizens Campaign, now has a neighborhood that wants to be part of the pilot program to ramp up Code Enforcement city-wide. Eric Martindale, a Newark Civic Trustee, made a presentation to the Fairmount Heights Neighborhood Association in the West Ward. They voted YES, unanimously, to participate. The Fairmount group is really organized and has some dynamic leaders. They are operating under the guidance of the Urban League, plus a faith-based component. Fairmount Heights is one of the most struggling and neglected neighborhoods of Newark. Additionally, the Urban League wants to facilitate more neighborhoods to work with the Newark Civic Trust. The Newark Civic Trust is gearing up to facilitate community-building city-wide, with a "no blame approach". One strong focus will be on multiple neighborhoods making mass-reporting of Code Violations on a monthly basis. The group has other goals, including an Auxiliary Newark Police force, and a code of conduct for students in the school system.
The neighborhoods of Newark need to be organized, empowered, and focussed on maximizing response from city hall on everything from potholes, broken street lights, dead shade trees, and non-working fire hydrants to property maintenance violations, vacant lots, abandoned properties, and the horrendous living conditions inside many rental units. If enough neighborhoods participate, our city leaders will have no choice but to ramp up Code Enforcement.
There needs to be a meeting of top city officials with the Newark judge that handles code violations. Everyone needs to be on the same page…. (1) that fines should be dramatically increased, at least quadrupled, (2) that the system itself needs to be streamlined and prepared for a major case load increase, (3) that many more code enforcement workers need to be hired, (4) that many neighborhoods will be submitting monthly reports of problems and violations to be addressed, and (5) that the full expectation is that Code Enforcement will be a net revenue-generating operation. The chaos that we know as Newark exists, in part, because there are only 8 code enforcement officers, and the enforcing court system is weak. Newark once had over 80 code enforcement officers. We need to really put the teeth into code enforcement. Code enforcement needs to be a pit bull, not a lap dog.
Right now, property owners don't care; they know the enforcement system is weak and understaffed, and if they happen to get a fine, that's just the cost of doing business. They'll pay the fine (maybe), and still repair little or nothing. The apathy neglect needs to end. People deserve better. Our children deserve to live in clean, safe, quiet neighborhoods. Our youth need to see that the system works, that neighborhoods can function, and that people care about them. Otherwise, gangs will continue to fill that role. This change under way is something that can only happen bottom-up, organically.
The quality of life can and will improve. Millions of dollars can and will be spent, by the private sector, to fix homes, apartments, and other buildings throughout Newark. And along the way, this economic activity will generate hundreds of jobs. We know that from the landlord's Economic Impact report submitted in 2014 in opposition to the Rent Control Ordinance. If "x" dollars are spent on construction and rehabilitation, "y" jobs are generated. The only difference is that the community leaders are not giving the landlords the greed incentive that they have openly requested. They want to increase rents 20% if they modernize apartments, and their economists have calculated how much jobs and economic growth will occur in Newark. Sorry, it's not going to happen that way. Yes, we're going to have the economic activity and jobs, but it's going to happen through Code Enforcement against them, not through their greedy business plan.
And rents need to be kept low, so that tenants have disposable income to power the consumer economy by spending it locally on things other than rent. For the most part, rent money is just sucked out of Newark. The rental apartment industry is a modern-day form of colonialism. The colonial powers of Europe sucked money out of the Third World countries, leaving them poor and destitute, while lining their own pockets with money. That's the closest analogy to landlords from New York and other States sucking money out of Newark, leaving tenants with no money to spend in Newark stores and restaurants. And on top of the social injustice, they are not even maintaining their properties. All of this chaos has got to end. The landlords think they have seen the worst of tenant activism. They are in for a rude awakening.
April 16, 2016: Reporting from the April 11 Newark Civic Trust organization. Newark still only has 8 code enforcement officers for the entire city. Newark's Superneighborhood program has dwinded to only 2 or 3 active groups. The Civic Trust has a new program that they are promoting, which could either work hand-in-hand with a Superneighborhood, or replace that initiative. It focusses on identifying problems and creating reports. They are looking for a model neighborhood, perhaps Fairmount or Lower Broadway, both of which have community organizations.
April 15, 2016: Posting April 10th article from NY Daily News, about 50,000 units returning to rent control in New York. The news isn't as good as it sounds; what's really happening is New York is getting so lax with rent control that they aren't keeping track of which units are supposed to be on rent control. Nice work, DeBlasio. April 10 NY Daily News article
April 13, 2016: Tenants at The Addison will be back in Rent Control on May 10, 2016 to fight the 16.85% rent increase. It is still unknown if the landlord will secure a determination of Substantial Compliance by then. Complicating the situation is confirmation, from a city councilman, that the landlords (Kettler/Azure) completed multiple steps in the parking tower repairs at 402 Mount Prospect WITHOUT securing inspections from the City of Newark Building Department, and passing those inspections. Critical work has been done, on a load-bearing structure, without the needed inspections. All work is halted, and the landlord has lawyers working on this. Tenant leaders maintain that this problem precludes the possibility of securing Substantial Compliance.
April 8, 2016: Newark Rent Control Ordinance upheld in State Superior Court. Observers were expecting NJ Superior Court Judge Garry Furnari to make a ruling on several motions, but instead he issued a final decision on the case of Newark Apartment Owners Association v. City of Newark. The judge ruled in favor of the City of Newark in his 60-page decision. He spoke for over an hour today in court, ripping apart every legal argument put forth by the Plaintiff, including concerns over the CPI-based rent increase, Substantial Rehabilitation (the $5,000 per room equation to get a 20% rent increase on a vacant unit), the Major New Improvement definition, and other matters. His strongest words were regarding the Substantial Compliance clause of the ordinance, which restricts a landlord from seeking any rent increase, including the annual rent increase, if the building is not in Substantial Compliance with building codes.
Today's decision was a catastrophic defeat for Derek Reed, attorney for the Newark Apartment Owner's Association. The landlord's group was hoping to use the ongoing litigation as leverage to pursuade the City of Newark to reverse course on key provisions of the Rent Control Ordinance, last updated in May, 2014. Now there is a decision, and they haven't won a single point, and the ordinance is now battle-tested with a Superior Court win.
The ruling on Substantial Compliance is specifically a win for The Addison (380 & 402 Mount Prospect). Landlords are attempting to secure a 16.85% Hardship Rent Increase. A setback on the matter of Substantial Compliance would have removed an obstacle currently facing the landlord.
April 5, 2016: Newark Tenants United has received an email blast from a concerned tenant to inform concerned parties that the New Jersey Superior Court will be hearing oral argument in the Newark Apartment Owners Association v. City of Newark lawsuit on Friday, April 8, at 10:30 am. This is the lawsuit filed by the landlords against the 2014 Newark Rent Control Ordinance.
Reportedly, Judge Furnari will be considering all pending motions currently before the court, including:
1. The tenant groups' motion to intervene.
2. The landlords motion to:
a) Add the Rent Control Board as a defendant
b) Amend the original complaint
The hearing will be in courtroom 211 in the Historic Courthouse at 50 West Market St., Newark, corner of MLK Blvd. There is a large pay parking lot across MLK Blvd, to the south.
The informant said in his email that he doesn't know if the judge will be ruling on the main action or not. The answer to that is a firm NO, he will not rule on the main action. This hearing is one step in a long legal process. Yes, it's an important step, but not the last step. Things may speed up, but there's certainly months to go, and maybe a year or more.
April 3, 2016: Reposting April 1, 2016 article from The Bergen Dispatch. He sure fits the profile of a bad landlord, just collect the rent and fix nothing. What's astounding is that he thinks his business practices have no bearing on his level of trust to serve the citizens of Teaneck as a Township Councilman. Teaneck Councilman is a Slumlord
April 1, 2016: Abandoned apartments on lower MLK Blvd to be renovated. $16.7 million sale for 249 units and 2 commercial storefronts. It is yet unknown if they will be covered under rent control njbiz: $16.7 million sale on MLK Blvd
March 27, 2016: Lidya Radin of the Occupy The Courts movement is assisting Gerard Clark, an African-American landlord who owns several properties. Clark is a victim of mortgage fraud. He wants his bank, Countrywide Mortgage, prosecuted for racketeering. Mr. Clark is seeking to get in front of a federal grand jury to pursue the matter.
Landlord Gerard Clark YouTube video – Occupy the Courts
Below is Lidya Radin of Occupy the Courts. She is explaining how citizens have the right to bring any violation of civil rights or racketeering matter directly to a federal grand jury. These rights are being denied by the legal system despite court rulings that she has cited. In addition, any right that an attorney has to pursue a legal matter is also the right of a private citizen to pursue without an attorney. Ms. Radin maintains that the information in these two video’s is much more accurate than my prior blog posts.
Lydia Radin YouTube video – Occupy the Courts
Ms. Radin says that she intends to prosecute Newark Rent Control Board Attorney Victor Afanador. She claims that he struck and damaged her video equipment and tried to deny her right to film the March 8, 2016 Newark Rent Control Board meeting. Also in her sights is Tommy McDonald of Newark Code Enforcement. Ms. Radin will be closely following the Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Ave, and looking to see if any additional wrong-doing occurs.
March 24, 2016: Today's article cites that rail improvements in Essex and Morris County a number of years ago that created a direct one-stop ride to NYC caused the average house within ½ mile of local train stations to increase $34,000 in value. Presumably much higher within 2 blocks. The article didn't mention the impact to rents, but we all know it was gigantic. This is more reason for Rent Control, so there is no conflict between economic development and keeping housing affordable. March 24, 2016 article
March 22, 2016: Newark Tenants United supports efforts in Bloomfield to adopt a rent control ordinance and set up a rent control board. Bloomfield had rent control decades ago, but abolished it. Now it's coming back.
March 21, 2016: Lidya Radin claims that the March 18th post, below, is not accurate. She cites a case in 1985 in which an attorney (not a private citizen acting as an attorney) was successful in convening a federal grand jury, in some other State. I have challenged her to provide a precedent case in which an actual PRIVATE CITIZEN has successfully convened a federal grand jury. This would be excellent news, especially if it happened within the last 10 years, and preferably in NY or NJ. Will post any such information if it is provided.
Ms. Radin has worked hard to support tenant's rights as well as the civil right to a federal grand jury. She speaks of tremendous gains that civil rights groups such as the Black Lives Matter movement could secure if they were successful in convening a federal grand jury to investigate multiple reports of excessive force by police. Groups in New Jersey pushing these issues, most notably the People's Organization for Progress, have been unsuccessful in getting the support of Attorney General Paul Fishman to investigate abuses by police. This is a civil rights matter. There are 5 police shooting cases that POP is pursuing in New Jersey, which have barely secured media coverage. The POP group is protesting weekly on Broad Street in front of the federal courthouse. POP is the voice of the Black Lives Matter movement in NJ. If the Black Lives Matter movement, either personally or through an attorney, can bypass Fishman and take their case directly to a federal grand jury, that process itself would be national news. Ms. Radin is encouraged to continue to pursue all of these matters, and find a way to make it happen.
March 18, 2016: Reporting that citizens DO NOT have access to a Federal Grand Jury, as described by activist and film producer Lidya Radin. I accompanied Ms. Radin today to the federal Courthouse in Newark, and we were told firmly by U.S. Deputy Marshall Gerald Sanseverino that there is no mechanism for a private citizen to contact the Federal Grand Jury and request an investigation. Her request in a sealed envelope will not be delivered to the Federal Grand Jury, but will instead be kept in a file they have on her.
In 1992, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a majority opinion in US v. Williams, in which he explained, among other things, the public's civil right to the Grand Jury Process. Despite a Supreme Court ruling, it's not being implemented. The best analogy I can make is what happened after Newark revised the Rent Control Ordinance. The law was on the books and completely ignored by landlords and Rent Control for months, until Mayor Ras Baraka laid down the law.
There is a core of right-wing "tea party" and "constitutional" activists in New Jersey and other States that is approaching federal courthouses all over America, looking to find someone who can successfully navigate the process and secure the civil rights outlined by Judge Scalia. They are trying to get a case in front of a Federal Grand Jury without going through the US Attorney's office or the District Clerk's office. So far, it hasn't happened. Ironically, the greatest beneficiaries of these new civil rights will be minorities and the poor in America's cities, and especially the Black Lives Matter movement. At the current time, these civil rights are not secured, and the process is completely blocked. This could change if a Presidential candidate supporting this movement wins in November. Unsure of the candidate's positions, but the idea of private citizens directly petitioning a Federal Grand Jury is very much a right-wing cause. Perhaps there should be a broader base to this movement to open up the Federal Grand Juries.
March 16, 2016: Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United spoke at tonite's Hearing of Citizens, and addressed several matters regarding the 17% Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect: Eric speech March 16, 2016
1. Explained to the city council that tenants have not rallied at city council meetings or sent tons of emails to protest the proposed 17% rent increase because there is a great Rent Control Ordinance on the books that protect us, therefore the city council is not subject to any kind of community organizing
2. Updated the city council on the status of the application, that it was not heard on March 8th, that inspections were ordered, and the landlord has 60 days to fix violations, and to come into substantial compliance
3. Described that an attempt was made to violate our civil rights, by preventing the filming of the Hearing. Advised that Lydia Radin accused Victor Afanador of striking and damaging her camera equipment. Eric asked that Afanador be recused from this Hardship Application when it continues. Councilwoman Mildred Crump stated that they will look into it and consider the suggestion. Councilman Ramos objected to the criticisms of Mr. Afanador. I wonder if Ramos was involved in securing the position for Afanador ?
4. Expressed concern over the ability of Code Enforcement to be fair to tenants in calculating a Substantial Compliance determination.
Earlier today, Lydia Radin visited the offices of Mayor Ras Baraka and Business Administrator Jack Kelly to discuss her interactions with Victor Afanador on March 8th. She was successful in meeting with both of them for several minutes each.
March 15, 2016: At the Wednesday evening city council meeting, Eric Martindale of Newark Tenants United will be updating the Newark City Council on the status of the Hardship Application, and noting a few issues that have arisen. This will be a passive and informative presentation. It's been 5 months since any of the tenant leaders have spoken at a Hearing of Citizens.
March 13, 2016: Article on Where Young College Graduates Choose to Live. A strong case is made that an influx of recent college graduates advances the improvement of depressed urban areas, and results in job creation for the whole city. God knows we need JOBS in Newark. How can Newark have this progress without causing an escalation of rents that harms working folks already maxed out on housing costs? The answer is rent control. Newark has the best and strongest rent control ordinance of any major city in the United States. Our city officials need to be proud of it and talk about it much more. Rent control is actually something that could be used to attract recent college graduates to move here, or to stay here.
Newark's ordinance is arguably better than NYC's, which has ridiculous vacancy decontrol provisions that become permanent once the cumulative sum of small annual rent increases hits a particular threshold. Tens of thousands of units in NYC are breaking free of rent control, and this is severely hurting the entire metro area.
March 13, 2016: Case Law on video-recording police officers and public officials. It talks about Fordyce v. Seattle, which was specifically referred to at the March 8, 2016 hearing, as well as other case law specific to NJ that we didn't know about. The link is also being stored on the right column in "Resources to Help NJ Tenants" Digitalmedialaw
March 12, 2016: Kevin Lindahl of the Bloomfield Tenants Association wrote us the other day: "Bloomfield New Jersey is about to become one of a handful of towns in the United States, to ever restore rent control after having lost it. The first reading will be March 21st at 7pm in town hall. We are very excited and would love to see you at this historic event. The final reading will be April 18th. :) If anyone would like to meet with me, please don't hesitate to email me. Thank you fellow tenants!" We are interested in reviewing their ordinance, since Newark is way ahead on the learning curve regarding any potential problems with how it might be worded.
March 11, 2016: The March 10th post is incorrect. Independent film producer Lidya Radin is NOT done with Victor Afanador. She has serious concerns over his demeanor and professional conduct. There's more to say, but I'm keeping quiet on it for now. Meanwhile, tenant leaders are not done with Tommy McDonald either. Nobody is thanking him. Instead there's widespread contempt for McDonald. Stay tuned, more will happen.
Posting from the NY TImes on March 8, 2016 The Eviction Economy. It hits on lots of good points, but this is still the NY Times, so there was no mention of rent control. The print media prides itself on not having "sacred cows", but they do. And this one is "though shalt not cross the financial interests of your advertisers". The real estate industry pays for advertising in newspapers, and they do not want stories about rent control.
As I read the article, it is dawning on me that the lack of rent control has serious ramifications for the economy, and it would be possible for conservatives to make a strong case for rent control, on a few grounds
(1) This country is spinning into catastrophic debt, now over $19 Trillion. A good chunk of that is social spending for various programs. Essentially the government is subsidizing for the lack of rent control. That's the smartest way of looking at it. Government on all levels would spend much less taxpayer money to help those in need if rents were lower. For instance, the Section 8 program subsidizes tenants in the most depressed parts of Newark at extremely high rents. The Section 8 landlords don't deserve so much money. A 3-bedroom apartment in Newark should rent for half a 3-bedroom apartment in Bloomfield, not 85%.
(2) Lack of rent control in enough cities and towns, and lack of stronger rent control creates a tremendous need for Mt. Laurel Housing. Those units are subsidized at a cost, and government is picking up part of the tab. And the Mt. Laurel program, as it has been implemented with the "builder's remedy", is an existential threat to open space preservation and farmland preservation. It creates a greed incentive to destroy the environment and farmland.
(3) Tenants are maxed out on rents, and don't have enough money to spend to power the consumer economy. This makes the whole economy sluggish.
(4) High rents and high subsidies for Section 8 are causing sale prices in the most depressed parts of Newark (and other cities) to be higher than they should be. If two-family houses in Newark sold for what they are really worth, about $50,000, huge numbers of people would buy houses, breaking the chain of poverty there and increasing the percent of owner-occupied housing stock.
March 10, 2016: Lidya Radin has clarified that any physical contact on the part of Rent Control Attorney Victor Afanador was incidental, and she won't be making an issue out of it. It was the camera itself that was hit so hard that it spun around on it's little stand. It was the closest thing in Newark to the swipe of grizzly bear. Ms. Radin is evaluating her camera to determine if all the parts are in good working order. She could be seen at the meeting for some time adjusting the camera, and trying to get it to sit right on it's stand.
As for Tommy McDonald of Code Enforcement, tenant leaders aren't done with him. Let me give an analogy. Imagine for instance, that a mugger was attempting to steal your pocketbook. Then a group of civic minded citizens comes to the rescue and surrounds him. Seeing no good way out, he gives up and says he was never trying to steal the pocketbook in the first place. Do you thank him for that. Uh….no, I don't think so. McDonald deserves no thanks at all for coming clean and clarifying the status of what Calvin Souder calls a substantial compliance letter. I've known Tommy McDonald for over 9 years. He has always been untrustworthy, and reactive instead of proactive. Any help he gives is half-hearted, but then he expects to be thanked and praised. Give him one point for consistancy. Tommy McDonald is Tommy McDonald, and he has never changed.
March 9, 2016: RESULTS OF THE HEARING >>> It was pure chaos. The 3 issues covered were a Freedom of Speech controversy over the videotaping of the meeting, the testimony of Tommy McDonald, and a decision on substantial compliance
(1) The action began as Rent Control Board Attorney Victor Afanador aggressively confronted independent producer Lidya Radin, grabbing at her camera and Ms. Radin's arm, and ordering her out of the room. It was close to counting as assault and battery. Afanador then directed a police officer to order Ms. Radin out of the room. Eric Martindale stated that she was allowed to film a Rent Control Board meeting in 2012. Afanador cited an email stating that filming would not be allowed. Radin held her ground and cited case law and Freedom of Speech philosophy while Janice Grenadier of Arlington, VA googled case law on filming public meetings. Ms. Grenadier, founder of Pro Se America, had come up to support Newark Tenants United, and to testify. She found a good case and showed it to Afanador on her iPad. Afanador and other officials then informally discussed the matter in closed session (without declaring a closed session), and they came out and said quietly and reluctantly that she will be allowed to film the event.
(2) As soon as the case was called, Tommy McDonald of Code Enforcement was sworn in and testified that the controversial letter he signed does not constitute a letter of substantial compliance for either building. Nevertheless, landlord attorney Calvin Souder repeatedly replied that it did, right to his face. The board firmly quizzed McDonald and his repeated determination was that the city has NOT declared substantial compliance. Calvin Souder wanted a limited inspection from 2015, which was initiated by tenants, to be considered THE inspection for the purposes of allowing the meeting to move forward.
(3) The Board then went into Executive Session to discuss a course of action, meaning how to proceed with an applicant that was NOT in substantial compliance. The decision, agreed to by landlord attorney Calvin Souder, was that the case would be tabled for 60 days until the city determined that the buildings are in substantial compliance. Newark Tenants United and the 380-402 Tenants Association were both upset with this outcome. We wanted the case to move forward with its proofs or lack thereof, to complete the opposition testimony so that all items of objection can be addressed by the Rent Control Board and the applicant between now and the next meeting. Newark Tenants United has tremendous objections and a long list of paperwork for the applicant to produce.
March 8, 2016: Tonight's Azure Waterford, LLC presents a Hardship Application to the Rent Control Board. This is the first such application since the 2014 revisions to the city's Rent Control Ordinance. They want a 16.85% rent increase. This is potentially a precedent-setting case for the City of Newark, and could open up a giant end-run around Rent Control the likes of which have happened in NYC and Hoboken. Tenant opposition is tremendous. The hearing will start at 6 PM in city council chambers, and is expected to go to 11 PM.
March 5, 2016: Tommy McDonald of Code Enforcement signed a letter recently declaring 380 & 402 Mount Prospect to be in substantial compliance, with respect to the upcoming epic March 8, 2016 Hardship Hearing. This is an extremely controversial and sickening move by the City of Newark. This is not the only criteria for the landlord to win, but this hurts the tenant opposition. McDonald's letter is based on what tenant leaders strongly believe to be a bogus inspection on February 2nd. Win or lose on Tuesday, this is a developing story and much more will happen.
March 1, 2016: Tenant leaders are organizing for the big hearing on March 8, 2016. A landlord is seeking to circumvent the Newark Rent Control Ordinance. They are looking for approval for a rent increase of nearly 17% for 219 units. If approved, this sets the precedent for landlords all over Newark to bypass the low annual rent increases in the 2014 Rent Control Ordinance. The 380-402 Tenants Association and Newark Tenants United both plan to make presentations.
February 19, 2016: Newark Code Enforcement does not answer their phones for an emergency tonite, a massive raw sewage flood in the parking garage of 380 Mt. Prospect. The number, 973-733-6471 is also the no-heat hotline. Nice job, Newark.
February 18, 2016: The Neighborhood Council Initiative (above link) has been substantially changed, again, but this time to reflect that The Citizens Campaign is spearheading the initiative to create Neighborhood Boards or Neighborhood Councils in Newark. Several tenant leaders are affiliated with The Citizens Campaign.
There is also movement on another link up top, the National Tenants Leader Database. To be announced...
February 15, 2016: One year later, results of the Valentine's Day vacant lot sale. 100 city-owned vacant lots were given away for $1,000 each to families who want to build a house. Looks like only 5 houses are getting built. Feb 15 Nj.com valentine's day sweetheart deal
February 14, 2016: Our right column now has a listing called News Resources and Blogs for Newark. This is for information purposes, we are not necessarily endorsing any of their content.
This morning it dropped at least as low as 0 at Newark Airport, -1 in Central Park, and -4 in downtown Newark. Wind chills are averaging -15 to -20. The No Heat Hotline for Newark is 733-6471.
February 12, 2016: NY Times article today about the gentrification of Jersey City. Evidently it's all about being within 500 feet of a major rail transit station connecting to Manhattan. The JC Waterfront is all filled up, so buyers and renters who are priced out of NYC and the JC Waterfront are taking the PATH further out to Journal Square. If Newark is eventually going to have this kind of growth, we'd better have a rock-solid rent control ordinance without loopholes big enough to drive a PATH train through them. NY Times Feb 12, 2016 Moving to Jersey City, Join the Club
February 12, 2016: NEWARK CODE ENFORCEMENT HAS NO TEETH Expressing an additional concern from the Feb 9th Rent Control Board meeting. Calvin Souder talked extensively about the need for higher rents so they would have money to make repairs in tenants apartments. Observers thought this was extremely objectionable for three reasons
(1) the application sought, a Hardship Application, is specifically for the owner to make their 9% profit, and line their pockets. It is not for them to make more money, and then fix things.
(2) the very notion that profit comes before repairs is an outrage. If they fixed things, there wouldn't be so many vacant units, existing tenants would stay, and new tenants would quickly fill vacancies. They choose to run a sloppy operation, and that's why they make less profit.
(3) They must fix things, or be hit with violations. They must be laughing at the violations from Code Enforcement, because they now know that the Courts in Newark don't follow up with serious fines. It's much cheaper to just consider the violations and the meager fines as just the cost of doing business, and they will still fix nothing. And it's not just our buildings, this is happening all over Newark. Our answer: the next front is outlined for us. There needs to be a joint meeting of tenant leaders, the mayor, the judge, and Code Enforcement. Newark has to start getting serious about code enforcement, and about using it as a money-making department. Right now, I'm about as happy as Adam Cruz, as to how things are run in Newark.
February 11, 2016: Adam Cruz, Director of Rent Control, revealed today to a tenant leader that he has resigned his post. He made comments about being unhappy with how things are run in Newark. Gee, what a surprise. This change gives some power and influence back to Maria Hernandez. Ras Baraka removed Maria Hernandez as Director of Rent Control in December 2014, but she was kept in employment at Rent Control as the senior staff member. She had served over 30 years at Director. Now we've gone through two directors in only 14 months, first Mark Smith and now Adam Cruz. It would be great if Newark selected a tenant leader as the new Director. After all, this Department is called "Rent Control", not something neutral like "Landlord and Tenant Relations".
One thing for sure, there will be an eruption of discontent and tenants protesting at city council meetings if Maria Hernandez is named either Interim Director or restored to her former post as Director. This also means that Adam Cruz will not be in charge for the March 8th Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect, and Maria will be more involved.
February 11, 2016: Latest update on the homeless issue that we have been following. Newark officials are protesting the transfer of homeless from Jersey City to Newark. Jersey City is gentrifying, and basically they just want to dump their less desirable residents into Newark. The long-term impact is to transfer the responsibility of needy folks from Hudson County taxpayers to Essex County taxpayers. Newark officials are taking the very position initially expressed by Newark Tenants United in our Dec. 30, 2015 blog entry. http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2016/02/newark_officials_question_plan_to_move_hudson_coun.html
February 10, 2016: Concern has to be raised with how strongly the Rent Control attorney was seen directing the Rent Control Board at last night's hearing. Typically attorneys of various municipal Boards only speak when asked questions by the Chair. This attorney does not follow that model.
February 9, 2016: The Hardship Case for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect was postponed until March. The attorney for the tenants, Ariadna Montero, debated with landlord attorney Calvin Souder, who refused to concede to the adjournment. The 15-day notice from the mailing of the public notice to the hearing date is simply not enough time to review the massive amount of documents. The board voted 4-0 to postpone the case. Several Board members also strongly desired a postponement, to review all the documents. The hearing will be the second Tuesday in March, which is March 8, at 6PM in city council chambers.
February 3, 2016: ECONOMICS ARE THE ROOT OF CRIME Is Rent Control part of the big answer to the problems of Newark? A fresh look shows that this might be true. The realization is setting in that the crime rate in Newark, especially murders and robbery, is a direct reflection on how much city residents are squeezed economically. For the most part, wages and income haven't increased in ten years. In 2006, the housing market tanked, and in 2008 the Recession hit. The National Recovery has been very very slow, in large part due to the impact of Obamacare on the business community. Meanwhile, costs have risen tremendously. Everything from milk, beef, and fresh vegetables to insurance and rent has gone way up. Rent is the biggest line item for just about all families. Rents went up 20% to 31.6% in market rate housing in Newark from 2007 to 2014, when Rent Control was effectively reinstated in Newark.
Rent Control has been on the books for almost 2 years in the market rate housing stock, with very low rent increases. This helps, but rents are still increasing in the subsidized/HUD units, which generate most of the crime in Newark. Market rate units generate crime at a lower rate, and owner-occupied houses and condominiums even lower.
There's an economic aspect to crime, and this is long known to sociologists. Crime, by David D. Friedman The more people and families are stressed economically, the more people turn to illegal activity and the underground economy, especially drug dealing, and the more we see domestic violence. Yesterday's headline was that 3 recent murders were all domestic violence, as if it doesn't count against Newark because it wasn't gang-related. Domestic violence murders Wrong answer, it does count against Newark. Meanwhile, a 22-year old African-American young man from The Colonnades was killed on New Street, and another man is reportedly clinging to life in the same attack.
Our city officials do focus on the murder rate, and on crime and safety as the top issue in Newark. Our issue, rent control, is relegated to the bottom of the list. But really, its all connected. The issue of rent increases, in all types of apartments, is an underlying issue to crime in Newark. The cost of living is going up, and income is not. That's a recipe for increased crime, and for urban neighborhood deterioration in those most troubled parts of Newark.
January 27, 2016: We created links at the bottom for 2015 and 2014 news, and you can download that blog history. Everything prior to 12/1/15 is deleted. The web hosts is complaining we are using too much space.
January 27, 2016: 16% RENT INCREASE BATTLE TO COMMENCE. A date of February 9, 2016 has been tentatively set for The Addison (380 & 402 Mt. Prospect) to present a Hardship Application to the Newark Rent Control Board. They are seeking an increase of 16% on all rents, and as the Chair of the 380-402 Tenants Association pointed out, the extra money won't even be used to fix everything that needs to be fixed in the units and common areas. The rent increase is specifically sought to secure the desired profit level of the corporation. It's the ultimate audacity. Basically they paid too much for the building 25 months ago, and now this gigantic international company, which owns over $800 million is real estate assets, wants the working-class and middle-class tenants of Newark to subsidize their high mortgage with a giant rent increase. If approved, this money will be sucked out of one of the poorest cities in America and into the pocket of some absurdly wealthy mega-millionaire (or billionaire) who doesn't even live in New Jersey. Azure Partners' other investments include Brandenberg Park, a 250 acre commercial development in Berlin, Germany, and dozens of residential and retail properties in the United States.
This is the first Hardship Application in Newark in so many years that nobody remembers the last one. They are claiming that the 2014 Newark Rent Control Ordinance is unfairly limiting their profit. Tenant's chance for victory on this is highly in doubt, and the battle won't be won without everyone coming to the hearing. Tenant leaders from around Newark should plan on coming. For more info: 380-402 Tenant Assoc. newsletter January 2016
January 26, 2016: The post-blizzard parking catastrophe continues as the City of Newark is unable to plow all the residential streets. Thankfully the County roads are plowed by Essex County, and they are in excellent condition. Mayor Ras Baraka is bringing in the NJ State Dept. of Transportation for snow removal assistance.
January 25, 2016: LAUNCH OF NATIONAL TENANT LEADER DATABASE. We have launched a database for all tenant associations and tenant advocacy groups in the United States. Evidently, nobody has done this before. Let folks communicate, and we'll see what happens. See above tab or click here: National Tenant Leader Database
January 24, 2016: Tenants all over Newark have their cars snowed in on the streets. The Pavilion Tenants Association has complained on Facebook that tenants are unable to comply with a city demand to remove cars off the street to allow for snow removal, and they reposted a widely circulated Jan 22, 2016 Patch.com article on snow removal. We are reposting for information purposes only, its a news article and it's public information.
The highest snow total in Newark is the official reading of 28.1" at the airport.
We're estimating 26" for the North Ward, based on proximity to an official reading of 26.5" in Kearny, and knowledge that snow totals dropped off westwards towards the Oranges. The least snow fell in the westernmost parts of Vailsburg, which we are estimating at 24.0", based on proximity to West Orange, where only 21.0 was officially recorded. The most snow in the NY/NJ metro area was 31.5" on Staten Island, which is not far from Newark Airport.
January 23, 2016: Blizzard of 2016. Video taken from an upper floor of 402 Mount Prospect Ave Blizzard of 2016 in Forest Hill
January 22, 2016 7:50 PM: Letter To My Landlord, a song by David Rovics of Portland, OR, uploaded to YouTube today. This is great, it's hysterical. Rents have doubled in Portland in 9 years.Tenant advocates accuse the Democratic political machine in Oregon of being corrupt and catering to the interests of landlords, and ignoring tenants. Sounds familiar. They have it worse, as Oregon does not allow rent control.
January 22, 2016: Interesting article on landlord-tenant relations: Musician Woodie Guthrie versus Trump's father
January 21, 2016: The allowable rent increase for February is 0.6% (6/10 of 1%), and 0.7% (7/10 of 1%) for March. The CPI is edging upwards, but it's still way below historical averages.
January 20, 2016: Congratulations to Armando Aviles, who was selected as the new Chair of the Forest Hill Towers Tenants Association this evening. Armando has excellent connections, and he strives to build a sense of community, and to maintain a positive relationship with their management. Numerically, this group is the largest tenant association in Newark, in terms of registered members. Armando Aviles replaces the founding chairperson, Ms. Rowena Rose, who has retired and moved out of New Jersey. In 2014, Newark Tenants United and the 380-402 Tenants Association worked directly with Rowena and a few other volunteers to launch their group. Her leadership and her advocacy will be missed. Forest Hill Towers Tenant Association Facebook page
There was a city council meeting tonite, the fourth this month, which is unusual. Nothing important on the docket.
January 19, 2016: Kiplinger's list of the 10 most inexpensive cities in America. Note that the AVERAGE rent for an apartment in the United States is $893 a month. I guess that's for a small 2-bedroom apartment ?? Some cities on this list offer AVERAGE rents as low as $577 a month. Why are rents so high in Newark, with the quality of life so low ? I think that part of the problem with rents in Newark is that the government SUBSIDIZES too much money, basically allowing a landlord in the worst parts of Newark to get $1200 or $1500 a month for a good-size unit. And that's creating an upwards pressure on rents city-wide.
Kiplinger's list of the 10 cheapest cities to live in
January 18, 2016: Today's big breaking news: For the first time in years, a Hardship Application has been filed in the City of Newark. Rent Control is pouring through the application, reportedly 60 boxes of documentation from Kettler Management, which seeks a rent increase for The Addison, 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Ave. It was reported to us that, if approved, tenants there will see rents increase $100 to $200 a month. These are the very same buildings that defeated a $1.2 million capital improvement application in early 2014. That battle directly led to successful campaign to revise the city's Rent Control Ordinance.
January 17, 2016: post on towing controversy removed Jan 18, 2015
January 17, 2016: A representative of the Pavilion Tenants Association advises that the last day for Kettler Management at The Pavilion will be January 29, 2015. Until very recently, the embattled property management firm managed many of the largest buildings in Newark. All of the most active tenant associations in Newark were Kettler properties, which may have been a reflection more on the law firm that the properties use than Kettler. It is interesting that the owners are all dumping Kettler, but keeping the law firm. Now it looks like The Addison (380-402 Mount Prospect), their most recently secured client, will be their only property in Newark.
January 15, 2016: The no-heat hotline is 973-733-6471. Thanks to The Pavilion Tenants Association for providing the link to this article Jan 15 Patch Landlords Must keep apartments warm
January 15, 2016: post on towing controversy removed on Jan. 18, 2016
January 14, 2016: post on towing controversy removed on Jan. 18, 2016
January 13, 2015: post on towing controversy removed on Jan. 18, 2016
January 12, 2016: At tonite's meeting of the Newark Civic Trust Organization, which is part of a statewide organization called the Citizens Campaign, State Chairman Harry Pozycki announced that they are investigating ways to have Neighborhood Improvement Boards in Newark. A heavy focus would be to work with the police and code enforcement, and facilitate continuous neighborhood-based input to all levels of city government. It was discussed and agreed that these Boards should include tenants, and not be based on land ownership. This is so close to our own Neighborhood Council Initiative that the Citizens Campaign will be evaluating our draft. I'm very happy about this. Good chance that a plan will be developed (a plan that I would call "Phase I") that incorporates many ideas, including ours. They want a pilot program to be up and running fairly quickly in Newark. I think their vision is to do this in urban centers all over New Jersey.
The Citizens Campaign is active in Perth Amboy, Trenton, and Newark. Expansion is planned for Plainfield and Jersey City, and some talk of Asbury Park.
A guest speaker from Jersey City outlined the Neighborhood Improvement Boards that were active under the reign of Mayor Cunningham, especially from 2000 to 2004. Journal Square and Jersey City Heights were among the most active neighborhoods. JC's Boards were very successful. The downfall of the program was that the Boards were appointed by Mayor Cunningham, so when Mayor Healey took over, the program was disbanded and dwindled away in order to break up what was perceived to be a rival political organization. No surprise, this was exactly the downfall of Newark's Superneighborhood program, which were widely perceived to be political outreach committees to each neighborhood for Cory Booker and his team of Councilmen. There's no question that any effort in Newark must be bottom-up, and that the Boards (or Neighborhood Councils) must not be appointed or they will be tainted politically and suffer the same political fate in the future.
January 8, 2016: Our steam roller continues !!! Matt Shapiro of NJTO says that the "Eviction for Any Cause" state legislation is dead. It will not be posted for a vote on Monday, which is the last legislative session. Evidently there is no such thing as a "late starter" at the State House. This is a major defeat for Ronald Rice, Sr., the State Senator from the West Ward of Newark who co-sponsored the State legislation. Rice has had a mixed record for years on tenant's issues, and this may have been his worst legislation ever. Rice has been around for 30 years in the State Senate, he's grown complacent, and it seems that he no longer respects his own voter base, the tenants. Ronald Rice legislative profile
January 7, 2016: An update on the "Eviction for Any Cause" State legislation co-sponsored by State Senator Ronald Rice (Sr.), of Newark. The last possible date for it to appear on the docket for a vote is Monday, January 11th, in Trenton. The Coalition of over 32 opposing organizations is hopeful that Senate President Stephen Sweeney will not post the Bill for a vote, and it will die. We could know as soon as tomorrow if it will be posted or not. The legislators who want this bad Bill will have to start from scratch, because the new 2-year legislative session starts on January 12th. Thanks in advance to the NAACP, which has been instrumental in taking a strong position with Sweeney on this very bad legislation.
January 6, 2016: Matt Shapiro of NJTO thinks that revisions to the Rent Control Ordinance are forthcoming soon. This has been an ongoing battle for a year and a half, literally since the last revisions were passed on May 20, 2014. Tenant leaders are hopeful that the oppressive revisions in the past versions that we successfully lobbied against will not be present in the upcoming version.
January 3, 2016: post on towing controversy removed on Jan. 18, 2016
January 2, 2016: Our Neighborhood Council initiative (upper right corner of this webpage) has been revised. The tragedy of Sonia Rogers losing 3 sons in 3 shootings in 4 years underscores the need for this initiative. Jan 1, 2016 Star Ledger article on Sonia Rogers If would be a shame for those young men to have died for nothing, instead let this tragedy be the impetus to move this far-reaching project forwards. Let the tenants and the neighborhoods be empowered, let the 25 neighborhoods be the basic building block of government in Newark. Let all the power in Newark be bottom-up. Ras Baraka championed these concepts, without knowing anything about the Neighborhood Council Initiative. When something is right, lots of people see it, or something very similar.
January 1, 2016: The issue from our Oct. 7, 2015 posting has been resolved in favor of the tenant at 380 Mount Prospect. She signed a lease for 16% more than the previous tenant. At the advise of Newark Tenants United, she protested to Newark Rent Control. All the excess rents have been credited back. Instead of scheduling a hearing with the Rent Control Board and mailing out a legal notice to the landlord and tenant for a hearing date, Maria Hernandez of Rent Control contacted the landlord and got them to concede. I believe Hernandez is repeatedly overstepping her duties, and this is further discussed in the Dec 22 and Dec 18 posts, see below. All she needs to do is send out the legal notices. The Defendant (landlord) will have plenty of opportunity to contact the tenant to try to resolve the matter prior to the hearing date. It is NOT Maria Hernandez' job to negotiate the matter.
What's most amazing is that Hernandez repeatedly tells tenants "I can't give you legal advise", but then she gives the landlords so much advise that they don't even need an attorney. She tells them when they should concede to a tenant. This prevents the scheduling of Rent Control Board cases, and allows no chance for important rulings that could provide evidence helping the city's position in the ongoing litigation. As a result of her repeated intervention, there is very little evidence in the form of Rent Control Board hearings, that landlords have abused the new Rent Control Ordinance.
2013 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2012 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2011 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2010 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2009 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2008 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
2007 NEWS - 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect
Rent Control - Comprehensive Presentation 4 min. 19 sec
City Lab's The Great Rent Squeeze validates our economic arguments
Speech on Rent Control - March 1, 2017 about 6 min.
(scrolling text at the end was solely by Lidya Radin)
Income Inequality and Rent Control about 6 minutes
Freedom Bremner's Call to Action - March 6, 2017
We can be reached at email@example.com
KEY DOCUMENTS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
Speech on Rent Control March 1, 2017
The Great Rent Squeeze City Lab Nov. 11, 2016
Support Letter from 15NOWNJ - June, 2016
Summary of the Rent Control Battle - June, 2016
Top 10 Economic Reasons to Support Rent Control
Tommy McDonald controversial letter of Feb. 26, 2016
Hardship Application of January 21, 2016
Press Release of August 19, 2015
Matt Shapiro email of August 19, 2015 (comprehensive case)
RCO proposal dated August 5, 2015
RCO proposal on Legistar June 17, 2015
Law Dept. Memo of July 29, 2015
Matt Shapiro's comments on 6/17 Rent Control Ord.
Resolution of June 17, 2015
Eviction for Unjust Cause Bill
March 25, 2015 Flyer against changes to RCO
March 18, 2015 Objections to the Ramos-Chaneyfield RCO
Nov 2, 2014 Powers of the Rent Control Board
Sept 30, 2014 Econsult Report against Newark RCO
August 27, 2014 Letter of Support - La Casa De Don Pedro
Aug 28, 2014 Newark Policy Directive to implement RCO
Aug 6, 2014 City of Newark Resolution on Rent Control
May 20, 2014 Newark Rent Control Ordinance
May 20, 2014 Record of Newark City Council vote on RCO
OUR ALLIES - SUPPORTERS OF RENT CONTROL
Ironbound Community Corp
La Casa de Don Pedro
Peoples Organization for Progress
425 Mount Prospect Tenants Association
Colonnades Residents Coalition
RESOURCES TO HELP NEWARK & NJ TENANTS
Newark Rent Control Office Website (a treasure of information)
Newark Legistar (to see pending ordinances and much more)
Newark Office of Planning, Zoning, and Sustainability
Newark Lot & Block and Ownership - Newgins
Health Flooding Trash - Newgins
Newark Open Data (tremendous information)
Newark Code Enforcement Field Inspections
My Newark Software (report issues and problems to Newark)
New Jersey Tenants Organization
Rent Reconciliation Form (make your case to your landlord)
Another database on Newark Rent Control (The Colonnade's)
NJ State Legislators full contact information by NJEL
Propublica: The Rent Racket (series on rent control in NYC)
National Community Reinvestment Corp
Rent Savings Calculator for the May 20, 2014 Newark RCO
NJ DOC Landlord Tenant Law
NJ Eviction Law
NJ DCA Habitability Bulletin
2012 Tenants Rights in NJ
2013 Online Voter Registration Form
NJ DBI Form to Complain About Landlord's Leasing Agent
1977 Court Ruling - 515 Associates vs. City of Newark
(see also the Tenant Resource Directory tab up top)
National Map of Rental costs
Letter to my Landlord Song by David Rovics Jan 22, 2016
Newark Civic Trust (part of The Citizens Campaign)
Tenant Protest Songs
Case Law on Videotaping Police Officers and Public Officials
Lydia Radin YouTube video – Occupy the Courts
Landlord Gerard Clark YouTube video – Occupy the Courts
NEWS RESOURCES & BLOGS FOR NEWARK
Star Ledger NJ.com Newark News
Brick City Live www.brickcitylive.com
Newark Tenants News Blog www.newarktenantsunited.org
TapInto Newark www.tapinto.net/towns/newark
Local Talk Newark www.localtalknews.com
The Newark Report (Eric Dawson) www.thenewarkreport.com
Essex County Politics www.essexcountypolitics.com
The Local Source www.thelocalsource.com
Glocally Newark (Derek Ware) www.glocallynewark.com
Newark USA Blog Craig Schoonmaker
Bob Braun's Ledger Bob Braun
Newark Speaks Newark Speaks
Community Justice Blog Community Justice
NJ Policy Perspective www.njpp.org
Blue New Jersey www.bluenewjersey.com
Cloaking Inequity www.cloakinginequity.com
NJ Spotlight www.njspotlight.com
INFORMATION ON THE LANDLORD LOBBY
Newark Apartment Owners Association
New Jersey Apartment Owners Association
National Apartment Association
Newark Apartment Owners Association --- Derek Reed
Ehrlich Petriello Gudin & Plaza
Bruce Gudin's Landlord-Tenant Bench Manual Order Form
Yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha
NEWARK TENANTS UNITED INFORMATION
As of March, 2017, Newark Tenants United is run by a Steering Committee composed of Eric Martindale, Carl Hill, and Freedom Bremner.
Newark Tenants United an alliance of people and organizations which support tenant rights and Rent Control. A Steering Committee comprised of tenant leaders from three different properties was established on May 7, 2015. A plan for growth has been laid out which includes all five Wards of the City of Newark.
Newark Tenants United has a specific focus on lobbying. We are committed to taking a firm stand on the issues. Elected officials should expect to be lobbied, to feel pressured, and to know that they will lose tremendous support from the community, and thousands of votes on Election Day, if they act against the interests of tenants as defined by our organization.
Newark Tenants United sets very high standards for the elected officials of Newark. Elected officials must conduct themselves in an ethical manner at all times, refrain from destructive political and interpersonal tactics, steer clear of the corrupting influence of the landlord lobby, cringe at the thought of adding loopholes into city ordinances that undermine the protections for tenants, work cooperatively with those who seek to improve public policy, and address community leaders with respect.
We are committed to growing the tenants movement, with the firm understanding that those involved should act in a professional manner at all times. We, as an organization, are actively participating in the process of advancing positive change in the City of Newark. In addition, we are watching and documenting everything, and we are creating a lasting public record online. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
There appears to be a growing consciousness about economic justice matters. Three separate issues appear to be forming the nucleus of a new political consensus. Those issues are
- rent control
- $15 minimum wage
- banking reform, esp. high interest rates on credit cards, and high bank fees
What these issues have in common is the need to put more money in the pockets of working class and middle-class people, or keep it from being stripped away by predatory forces in the financial industry. As that money is spent in the general economy, it will cause tremendous economic growth in America. People and families will prosper, and social mobility will resume. Essentially, this political consensus is the polar opposite of Keynesian "trickle down" economics.
The tab up top called TENANT RESOURCE DIRECTORY advises how a tenant can solve any problem, especially unit repair and code enforcement issues. This website serves as a clearinghouse of information on how to get things done, and how to organize a tenant association in the City of Newark, NJ.
Our current major initiative is the revised Newark Rent Control Ordinance, it's enforcement, the proposed changes, and the ongoing litigation.
TENANT'S AGENDA FOR NEWARK
Disclaimer: The Tenant's Agenda for Newark was originally written by 3 tenant associations in 2011, and continues to change. Some victories have been removed, and some new issues have been added. NJTO has chosen not to suggest edits, but this document is subject to their editorial review at any time.
To reach us: email@example.com Issues affecting tenants are still very low on the city's priority list. Renters compromise 78% of the population of Newark, NJ, and for the most part we are all totally un-empowered and disenfranchised. The following is a summary of city-wide tenants issues:
(1) CHANGES TO RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE --- At our urging, the City of Newark passed an amended Rent Control Ordinance on May 20, 2014. The final vote was 6-1 in favor, after over 2 hours of public testimony from tenants and landlords. The ordinance went into effect on June 20, 2014, when Superior Court Judge Garry Furnari rejected a TRO restraining order filed by Forest Hill Terrace and the Newark Apartment Owners Association to block the implementation of the ordinance. Until Sept 3rd, the Newark Rent Control Office had refused to enforce one of the key provisions of the law, which is to set annual rent increases to the most recently published percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for NY, northern NJ and Long Island over the past 12 months. A Policy Directive dated August 28th was issued to Maria Hernandez of Rent Control with specific instructions on how to calculate the rent increases. The Policy Directive states that it is effective June 20, 2014.
Oct 14, 2014 Star Ledger article
STATUS 5/5/2016: Superior Court Judge Garry Furnari issued rulings on June 20, 2014, November 21, 2014, and his final ruling on April 8, 2016. All three were victories for tenants and the City of Newark. Landlords sought a restraining order to prevent the ordinance from going into effort on June 20th. They lost. Landlords then sought a ruling to strike down the CPI-based rent increase on November 21th, and to have the court declare that leases written before they received the policy directive could remain at 4% or 5%. They lost. The second ruling means that landlords and the City of Newark must provide CPI-based rent increase. Tenants filed a motion to Intervene in the ongoing litigation between the City of Newark and the landlords, and it was delayed on January 25, 2015. In February and March, 2015, landlords have increased pressure to roll back 3/4 of the victories won by tenants in 2014. Attempts in June, July, and August, 2015 to amend the rent control ordinance with changes largely beneficial to the landlords were met with overwhelming tenant opposition. A second reading never occurred, and the May, 2014 ordinance remains in effect. In October 2015, the judge wanted to move the case forward because the Plaintiff's claim that the matter will be settled with new legislation is not happening. On April 8, 2016, the case was concluded with a resounding victory in favor of the City and the tenants.
(2) COMPLETE TRANSPARENCY IN CODE ENFORCEMENT VIOLATIONS --- Newark needs the type of software and database that is used in New York City. HPD online database. You can type in any NYC address and see the history of all violations as well as any open matter. It’s amazing and empowering. The City of Newark is not utilizing Code Enforcement as a revenue-generating program, and as a result, tenants are completely disenfranchised by the process, as follows.
- There is no software tracking a violation from the day it is issued through the court system. The Court system adds it's own court docket # for any violation that goes to court, which is fine, but they are not communicating the results back to Code Enforcement. It is virtually impossible to correlate a violation # to a court docket #. We’ve been told that the Courts are now reporting some information back to Code Enforcement and notes are being added on some cases, but the real answer is with the software described above.
- Tenants who secure inspections from Code Enforcement are not notified of: (a) which issues became actual violations, the Municipal Court Docket Number, the court date, judge’s name, and courtroom number, and (b) the Court decision. Collectively, this gives them the impression that "the city did nothing" or “the city doesn’t care”. This disenfranchises tenants and disaffects voters.
- Lack of information on Code Violation Court decisions makes it difficult for tenants to process Small Claims Court cases because there is no “proof”.
STATUS 5/5/2016: Bill Bishop, computer programmer for the City of Newark, has created software, but the changes needed require STATE legislation. This issue has the attention of the Newark Civic Trust organization.
(3) ALLOW JOINT APPLICATIONS FOR RENT CREDITS --- The Rent Control Board should allow tenant leaders and/or Tenant Associations to make joint applications to the Board on behalf of all tenants in a building, whether they are in attendance or not. These applications include requests for rent credits when it has been documented by Code Enforcement that central heat or central air was down for the entire building. It is absurd to make each tenant physically go to city hall to file their own case, and all the separate cases are a total waste of the Rent Control Board’s time and resources.
This is actually allowed, but former Rent Control Director Maria Hernandez simply refused to allow tenants to do it.
STATUS 11/19/2015: Any gray area on this should be included in another round of changes to the Rent Control Ordinance advanced by tenants in the lawsuit negotiations.
(4) CHANGES TO THE RENT CONTROL DEPARTMENT --- The Director of Rent Control shall be a tenant advocate. He or she shall not be a neutral person because the very intent of rent control is to control rents, which favors the tenant. He/she should also serve as an intermediary with both City and State code enforcers, compile information on landlord/tenant law and case law, give an annual report to the Mayor & Council, and have adequate knowledge of legal matters to give tenants good advice on landlord/tenant disputes. The Director of Rent Control shall also monitor the actions of Landlord-Tenant attorneys, and document any excesses. Powers of the Rent Control Board created by Eric Martindale on Nov 2, 2014. This is a blueprint, a detailed plan of action, for the Rent Control Board to take control and run the Rent Control Department as intended in the Rent Control Ordinance. (Note: The sections detailing the powers of the Rent Control Board were NOT changed in the ordinance adopted on May 20, 2014.)
STATUS 11/19/2015: Changes to the composition of the Rent Control Board have made it more tenant-friendly. Two tenant leaders now serve as "tenant representatives" on the 5-person Rent Control Board. Those tenants are Samuel August and Janise Afolo. One of the new landlord reps is a homeowner in the South Ward with no apparent connection to the big landlords. Maria Hernandez went on "administrative leave" for at least one month, effective approximately December 9, 2014. See news blog for associated entries around this time. Maria Hernandez returned in January, 2015, and now serves as a staff member for Mark Smith, new Director of Rent Control. Mark Smith has pledged to run the Department by the books. Smith was replaced by Adam Cruz in November, 2015
(5) LEASE VALIDATION COURT PROCESS --- Landlords are increasingly adding clauses to leases which are illegal and unenforceable, but their presence on the lease disenfranchises tenants who don’t know their rights. A process needs to be set up in which a tenant or a tenants association can request a judge’s review of a questionable lease. If found to be faulty, landlords would then be ordered to rescind and rewrite all the leases for the entire building, and to post a notice in a common area for tenants to see. N.J.S.A. 46:8-48, entitled Truth in Renting Act, outlaws illegal lease clauses, however the act is vague and has no teeth. Furthermore, the recourse in NJSA 46:8-48 is for each individual tenant to have a lease terminated. We're not looking to move out, that's not the answer.
STATUS 3/29/2015: NJTO has advised that the ability to secure state legislation that will protect tenants interests in this process is questionable under the current political climate.
(6) SECURITY GUARD ORDINANCE --- A new security guard ordinance, drafted by the 380-402 Tenants Association, was passed on April 1, 2009, and became active on May 15, 2009. It required, among other things, that each individual building over 100 units must have the security guard in the lobby. The ordinance was changed again, without our knowledge in 2011. The key words "in the lobby" were taken out. The 2011 ordinance increased requirements for security cameras. Tenants are upset that our sponsor in 2009, Councilman Anibal Ramos, did not notify us that our ordinance was being changed.
In addition, some individual buildings over 100 units still have daytime guards that are not employed by outside licensed security firms, or they are not complying with the armed guard provision for the overnight shift. And there are still some groups of buildings of two or more buildings (each less than 100 units, but they total over 100 units) that are in complete non-compliance, including 311 and 330 Mt. Prospect Ave. Enforcement actions are necessary.
STATUS 10/2/2015: At-Large Councilman Eddie Osborne is pursing this as Chair of the Housing Committee. The meeting of 3/25/2015 with Kettler was postponed at the request of Kettler. As of October 18, 2014, residents at 380 & 402 Mt. Prospect are now served by only 1 security guard for 16 hours a day. Changes to the ordinance were promised by Councilman Ramos and Councilwoman Chaneyfield-Jenkins, but this has not happened. City council members talked about it again in August, but still no action.
(7) SUPERINTENDENT IDENTIFICATION ORDINANCE --- The name and unit # for both the Superintendent and the Black Seal Boiler Operator must be posted in the entrance of each building so that tenants, police, and fire personnel can reach them in the event of an emergency. If it is the same person, that’s fine, but the information posted should specifically state his name, his Superintendent registration number, and his Black Seal Boiler Operator’s number. This proposed ordinance should be considered to be a matter of public safety.
STATUS 3/29/2015: This remains a concern on our agenda, but tenants have not yet decided to make this a priority effort
(8) RESTORE CODE ENFORCEMENT STAFFING LEVELS --- The 2010 Budget crisis hit disproportionally upon the staff of Code Enforcement. This budget crisis was an opportunity for city officials to shave down Code Enforcement at the request of landlords and Corey Booker. Restoring the staffing levels will allow tenants issues to be addressed. The landlord-commissioned Econsult Report documents that millions spent on building rehab investment means jobs and economic gain for Newark, and therefore the landlords need a vacancy decontrol incentive to rehab their apartment. This has led tenant leaders to counter that a strong push for Code Enforcement will yield the same results. Under the Enhanced Code Enforcement Scenario, landlords will indeed have an incentive to spend money to rehab units, but it will not be a greed incentive; the incentives will instead be to resolve violation notices, to keep tenants from moving out, and to avoid hefty fines.
STATUS 3/29/2015: Code Enforcement staff levels are up for the fiscal year 2014, and more planned for hire in 2015. The Code Enforcement office was moved back to its former location in the old fire station on Mount Prospect Ave, on the block nearest to The Colonnades. This may have been done for space considerations for planned staff expansion, but the physical location of code enforcement in city hall itself made it easier for city officials to visit on behalf of constituent complaints.
(9) REVISE HARDSHIP ASPECT OF RENT CONTROL --- The 2016 Hardship Application for 380 & 402 Mount Prospect Ave has revealed flaws in the ordinance. Most significantly, tenants receiving the legal notice to attend a hearing are NOT told how much their rent will increase, or even the percentage of the increase. The following changes are needed, some of which could be accomplished through the Rent Control Policy & Procedures Manual
1. The mailing announcing the hearing must state the percentage of the increase and the actual dollar amount increase for each unit
2. There needs to be 30 days notice, not 15 days notice. By the time tenants meet to discuss the problem and hire an attorney, there's only a few days to the hearing, and not enough time for the attorney to prepare
3. The landlord's application must cover a full calendar year from January 1st to December 31st, not some time period from mid-year to mid-year
4. The landlord should be entitled to a 7% return, not a 9% return
5. The applicant must show their IRS tax returns for the Hardship year applied for
6. The equation itself used by the City of Newark is faulty because it increases the tenant's obligation as the landlord pays down their mortgage. This is a legal absurdity, and must be changed.
(10) PARKS --- Push for more parks and playgrounds, and the Riverfront Walkway. This is a quality of life issue.
(11) ABANDONED PROPERTIES --- Identify abandoned houses and buildings, which mar the city’s neighborhoods and detract from the Quality of Life, and work within the city administration for their demolition.
(12) ESTABLISH ELECTED NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS --- Newark could implement some version of New York City's setup of Community boards to allow for local control and direct community empowerment of every portion of the city. See http://www.nyc.gov/html/cau/html/cb/about.shtml Each Borough of NYC is segmented into "communities” with a local governing structure.
STATUS 10/2/15: This movement is evolving out of the tenant's movement. The Neighborhood Council Initiative currently has it's own page on this website. This project is intended to break free and advance independently by those advocates committed to this issue.
THESE ISSUES HAVE BEEN REMOVED FROM TENANT'S AGENDA FOR NEWARK
(6) LEGAL FEE EQUALITY --- Every lease has a boiler-plated clause that the tenant pays the landlord’s legal fees if they lose in court. However, the reverse is typically not granted, which is unusual in the field of law. If the lease has the legal fee clause, then the lease should also state that tenants would be entitled to legal fees if the tenant wins in court. Passage of such legislation was based on the basic principle of fairness and equity, and it could prompt many landlords to remove the clause from their leases in its entirely. That would help to lead society in a less-litigious direction. This was the major initiative of the NJTO in 2012 and 2013
STATUS: State Senator Brian Stack (D-Hudson Co.) introduced Senate Bill S-2018 on May 31, 2012. This legislation was advocated by the 380-402 Tenants Association, and written by the New Jersey Tenants Association. YouTube video of Eric Martindale discussing the proposed legislation (since introduced). Scroll ahead to 26:00. This legislation was passed and signed into law by Gov. Christie in January, 2014. There has been no legal challenge from the landlords.
EFFECTIVELY END TAX SURCHARGE APPLICATIONS --- The change to the Rent Control ordinance that The Pavilion and The Colonnades won in 2012 to allow appeals to the Mayor & Council of Rent Control Board decisions on these matters could be revoked. Landlords have been asking, but the city council has not adopted a new ordinance.
See YouTube Video, Eric Martindale of 380 Mt. Prospect Ave (Mt. Prospect Towers) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LwuInts4LA
See YouTube Video, Carol Bodine of 51 Clifton Ave (The Colonnade) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tm9fXF9GW00&context=C4f87b96ADvjVQa1PpcFOoLCMpGYc28ifOHVX173T7HKio-4P65fc=
STATUS 3/29/2015: Ordinance changes were passed 5/16/2012. Councilmen Darrin Sharif, Ron Rice, and Anibal Ramos secured the support of the City Council in passing an ordinance to resolve unfair issues associated with tax surcharge applications. The Rent Control Board now has the ability to say "no" and to consider tenant-related issues associated with any property. An application for a tax surcharge for the Colonnade, Pavillion, and Hallmark House was defeated in the Fall of 2011. Special thanks to Carol Bodine for her critical contribution to that tenant victory. Tax surcharge applications can be appealed to the Mayor & City Council.
TENANT'S AGENDA FOR NEW JERSEY
Newark Tenants United will be coming up with a Tenant's Agenda for New Jersey. In the meantime, we refer readers to the NJTO website. They are the group responsible for setting the Tenant's Agenda. www.njto.org
There has been talk about a Uniform Residential Lease Application so that every landlord and every tenant will be bound by the same lease terms. The lease will be in complete accordance with NJSA 46:8-48, the Truth in Renting Act. This will end all the abuses and all the nonsense with illegal lease clauses put forth by landlords. And it will practically put landlord-tenant attorneys out of business, they'll have very little work because there won't be so many gray area legal matters. In the meantime, we'll defer to our parent organization (NJTO) on all state-level matters.
OUR VISION FOR NEWARK
Disclaimer: This section was also approved by 3 tenant associations in 2011. In 2014, NJTO asked to review and provide edits, but none were made.
Although individual tenants can and do have opinions to the contrary, the majority of our supporters want Newark to become safer, more economically vibrant, and a less economically depressed in the city's downtown. We are against crime, drug problems, and gangs. There is a vision of downtown Newark becoming a thriving and diverse place, like the centers of every major city in America. Development and economic prosperity means jobs for Newark residents, and it means less families will be the victims of crime, joblessness, and seeing their family members turn to gangs and the drug culture. Economic development would strengthen the city's tax base, reduce the tax burden paid by homeowners in established neighborhoods, and add to the diversity of the existing housing stock. There should be no conflict between economic development and rent control, but that can only be achieved with a very strong rent control ordinance to protect tenants. A weak rent control ordinance means the economic development will place a burden on tenant's right to fair and reasonable rent.
It is also important to address the constant loss of wealth in Newark. Our city has a hard time retaining residents who advance themselves economically, largely because there isn't enough housing or neighborhoods in Newark that meets their needs. Therefore, people move out of Newark and take their money with them. This weakens neighborhoods. Another great reason to support new construction is that it also requires an affordable housing component, whether it it built onsite or the monies are used to invest in the city's deteriorated neighborhoods to build new quality affordable housing there. Creating new clean affordable housing is a very good thing for tenants and for Newark.
Diversity is also good, both culturally and economically. There should not be a situation where neighborhoods are effectively segregated and "reserved" for any particular ethnic or racial group. What holds true for suburban towns also holds true for the urban neighborhoods. There cannot be double-standard in which everyone should celebrate the suburbs becoming more diverse, but urban neighborhoods should remain segregated enclaves dominated by one racial or ethnic group. Everyone has the right to live everywhere, based on their preference or economic situation. What's most important in Newark and in the world is that the human condition improves and civilization advances. This involves people of all different languages, races, and religions collectively involved in the local community building process.
It is important to recognize that any positive changes in the city's downtown and vicinity could also cause a ripple-effect in the surrounding areas which, in the absence of rent control and other laws to protect the citizens, would price people out of their homes and neighborhoods. This concept is common knowledge throughout Newark. It is very important to strengthen Rent Control so that existing tenants are not negatively affected. Under the best case scenario, tenants living near an improved downtown would improve their safety, quality of life, and employment opportunities, but not suffer increased rents beyond the annual increase.
Can we trust "the system" in Newark to make this happen. Right now the answer is a firm NO, and that's a big part of the reason why this Tenants Agenda for Newark must advance. Tenants must be protected, AND the economic engine of downtown Newark must also advance. These goals are not in conflict. - Economic prosperity means jobs for Newark residents - Economic prosperity means lower taxes for the rest of Newark, - Economic prosperity means less dependency of Newark upon state funding - Economic prosperity means less crime and urban problems, and - Economic prosperity translates into greater pride in Newark, and more people staying in the city rather than moving out when they get a little money . It is possible for both to happen, for tenants to be protected AND for economic prosperity to advance in the downtown. The irony is that under the "decline scenario" tenants are being driven out of their apartments not by rising rents, but by gang and drug activity, crime, deterioration, or the buildings becoming fully abandoned and boarded up. Somehow that problem doesn't register in the world view of some other tenant leaders in Newark who are not part of our alliance.
Our founders at 380 and 402 Mt. Prospect Avenue started this effort by campaigning to prevent two of the best buildings in Newark from falling into neglect and disrepair. There is now a strong coalition of four tenant associations. Tenants who demand a high quality of life shouldn't be driven out of any building in Newark. We want stop buildings from falling into a deepening spiral of crime, poverty, neglect, and disrepair. We know these problems feed upon each other, and they worsen as concerned tenants give up and more. As problems worsen, the history of Newark is that many privately-owned apartment complexes have been abandoned and boarded up. In the last few years alone, many complexes have been lost. There are 4 problems with this.
(1) That's a total business loss for the owners.
(2) It destroys the tax base of the city. The loss of tax revenue hinders the ability of the city to provide needed social services for it's citizens,
(3) Buildings on their way down cause a much greater burden on city, county, state, federal, and non-profit resources, including police, fire, code enforcement, courts, education, and social services of all kinds. The cost to the taxpayer becomes astronomical, and
(4) Tenants who are caught in declining buildings have their lives tragically affected in so many ways: - Their quality of life is affected by code violations inside their units such as leaks, crumbling plaster walls and ceilings, mold issues, no heat, broken appliances, etc, or due to the deterioration of common areas including hallways, lobbies, elevators, etc. - They feel insecure, and they live in fear of thugs and gangs, or vicious dogs, - They or their friends, neighbors, and family members become the victims of crime, - They watch as their children or grandchildren abandon the values of their families or their faith, and they become part of the gang and street scene. Many become incarcerated, involved in troubled relationships, or wind up as a gun violence statistic. Others, especially men, become poor examples as a parent, perpetuating a cycle of troubles to the next generation, - It's generally a cultural, moral, and spiritual drain on the human condition. - Ultimately tenants are forced to move as their building becomes too unsafe and unbearable, or it becomes completely abandoned. We feel it is important for our readers to have an understanding that all four problems exist, however it is the tenant problems (explained here in #4) that we are focussed on.
There was no organization in Newark directly focussed on these tenant problems before we came onto the scene. Landlords typically don't care about these problems or are lacking in vision. They just want the rent to be paid on time, and nothing else matters. Their law firms are getting more ferocious, sometimes abusing the law and over-stepping the bounds of attorney ethics. The legislature of the State of New Jersey no longer has the committment to tenant interests that it had in the past.
We generally support social services of all kinds and we agree that creating more housing stock for the economically disadvantaged is important for Newark; it just isn't our focus. There are dozens of organizations which focus on those problems. They are doing good work, and we want them to continue what they are doing. To a large degree, all the public and private social service organizations are focussing on the results of what happens when buildings and neighborhoods decline. We want to stop it from happening in the first place. Our goals are similar, we're just attacking the problem from different ends. Ben Franklin once said: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Before our formation, there was no organization in Newark who's primary focus was on Code Enforcement, Quality of Life issues, safety issues, and the prevention of crime, especially as they pertain to tenants. Our goal is to fill this gaping void in Newark's network of activists and non-profit groups. Our focus is strongly on our QUALITY OF LIFE. We want to keep our buildings and our neighborhoods CLEAN, SAFE, and QUIET for ourselves, our neighbors, and for our children. Most of our supporters are working-class and middle-income tenants who believe that Newark has turned the corner, and stands ready to become the jewel of the Garden State.