Letter to the Editor: Rent Control Critical to Keeping Montclair Affordable

We bought homes in Montclair in large part to join a diverse community. We love that Montclair has all different kinds of housing – single family houses, multi-family houses, apartments, condos, owner- occupied and rental houses – which enables people with a wide range of resources and income levels to all call Montclair home. But our Montclair community is changing, and we want to share why fighting for rent control in Montclair can help maintain the community we all know and love.

We believe rent control is critical to keeping Montclair affordable – it’s the right thing to do, so that all Montclair residents can stay in their homes. Additionally, affordability allows for more diversity.

As our town’s current Master Plan explains, “One of Montclair’s unique strengths is its diversity, both economic and social, and there is a danger of losing that diversity due to rising housing costs.” This is already happening.

A few Montclair facts:

Montclair has responded to these trends. The town requires housing developers to set aside 20% of new units as affordable, but this has not been enforced across the board.vi Even if all the required affordable units were actually built, that would still only meet a fraction of the affordable housing needs in Montclair.vii Montclair can’t build its way out of our affordable housing problem.

Beginning in 2019, members of the Tenants Organization of Montclair (TOOM) held monthly meetings, organized and advocated. Their work resulted in the Town Council passing a moderate rent control ordinance this April. However, a group of multi-family property owners funded and formed the Montclair Property Owners Association (MPOA) and successfully challenged the Town in court.

Implementation of the rent control ordinance is on pause while the MPOA collects signatures to put the question to a vote on November’s ballot.

What can you do to help Montclair get its rent control ordinance implemented and help maintain the diversity of Montclair?

  • Talk to your neighbors and friends about why Montclair needs rent control.
  • Visit montclairrentcontrol.org to learn more and sign up to volunteer.
  • Email TenantsOrganizationMontclair@gmail.com & Facebook @toomadvocacy to volunteer.
  • Attend Montclair Town Council meetings and speak up for rent control.
  • Vote for rent control if it appears on the ballot in November!

There is no reason for homeowners to be threatened by rent control. Property tax increases have happened in the past, without rent control, and they will likely continue, unrelated to rent control. Rent control will benefit all of us.

— Louisa Hackett, Liz Perez and Betsy Tessler are longtime Montclair homeowners.

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  1. Most of your main facts are misstated or misleading. You should do your homework.

    I support affordable housing. So I support using government price controls. I also think they should be expanded. This ordinance is not the way to do it. People must cut their reliance on expediting life with this “Ends Justifies The Means” mindset.

    This ordinance is travesty. It makes a mockery of what I believe in and what you espouse. This has been marketed as a form of Obamacare – imperfect, but a good start.

    But, Obamacare didn’t redline. Do you know what redlining is? This ordinance is not red-lining race, it is red-lining age. Think about that a little.

    These are all just my opinions.

  2. Rent control does not now, and has never worked as intended. Constraining landlords as to what prices they can charge leads to property neglect and dis-incentivizes new building. Let the market set rates. A great way to make Montclair more affordable would be to take obvious steps such as offer more liquor licenses so that more tax could be collected on drinks revenue (incidentally making it easier for restaurants to stay in business). This money could be used to provide housing grants to those in need.

  3. Progressives have no problem expressing morally desired goals. The problem and distortions come when trying to defend them with false claims and distortions of reality. When they want others to pay for obtaining, or supporting social goals but then pretend, or wrongly try to justify that there is no real cost to obtain them.

    Yes, maintaining diversity here is a valued and sought after “goal.” But it’s not an economic right. There’s no law that says Montclair must be diverse and it’s government should intervene in the market to enforce that. On the contrary — laws generally direct that decisions should be made without consideration of race.

    We still live in a market economy driven largely by supply and demand. We do not live in a socialist society. Today, there is more high demand to come here. More demand, the market responds. More properties developed to be offered. Better quality of units rennovated. Higher prices all around are generally the end result.

    Forget that some of the market appeal here is our diversity and that allowing supply and demand to run unrestricted could then undermine that long term — counter-intuitively. It’s still not the local government’s job to maintain racial and economic diversity in this township by imposing price controls. Maintaining diversity is just a desired local social goal. The reality is that other low cost housing can be found in the surrounding area. The housing market in the metro NY region is working. So as cruel as it sounds, some may have to move to Irvington or East Orange to get housing that they can now more easily afford. Are there ramifications from that? Yes. Is it the local government’s job to address this? No.

    Many would like to live in NYC overlooking Central Park or have a view seeing the Hudson River. But they can’t afford Manhattan. Even with rent controls there because there are more space limitations for a truly open market. So they move to Yonkers. Same here. There is just no life guarantee even long time residents have a right to stay in a place where prices have now moved too high. Even if 400 years of societal racism has put them in the position not able to afford to stay. That’s an issue that cannot be resolved today on the backs of local residents and taxpayers. It’s a much wider question for compensation.

    Regardless, local racism is not behind the Montclair’s gentrification today. It’s just market demand.

    So many of the underlying premises of this op ed are factually and philosophically off. Rent controls will add to higher taxes — in and of themselves. They will shift, what will be subsidized unequal rent roll revenue tax collections, from one class of real estate to another. But only for a seemingly desired social goal — not economic needs or reasons — making some pay more (single family home-owners, smaller, multi-family rental property owners and commercial owners) as a result to compensate.

    This does not “benefit” us all as argued. It benefits those who believe that diversity here is a goal that must be maintained and who believe others should unequally pay more for it — to maintain this.

  4. There are about 3 dozen apartments in the North End that would come under this really bad ordinance. 3 dozen.

    In the South End, maybe a ½ dozen fall under the ordinance. 6!

    If you doubt me, ask your Councilors. Ask your Community Planning Dept. Ask TOOM. Ask the NAACP Housing Subcommittee.

    Or, maybe, just ask questions.

    This ordinance will coral seniors into designated zones in the central part of town. And then their housing will go away.

  5. I am a firm advocate for affordable housing and want to see Montclair maintain its economic, social and racial diversity. Rent control is not going to help and has not worked in other communities. Here as some basic points — It is not income based; wealthy tenants are just as protected as low income tenants. It will weaken the housing market by keeping tenants in apartments that are too big or too small because they are below market. It will stifle investment in all kinds of residential development; now some think that is a good thing but its not — there will be less supply. There is reduced motivation to keep an apartment in good condition; that isnt a great solution. The key to maintaining affordability is a competitive market where supply and demand are in balance. Most landlords are responsible; there are ways to resolve the disputes and keep bad actors in line, short of a unworkable bureaucratic burden.
    Finally, I read that the authors are all proud homeowners. Good for you but how about sharing the costs of affordability on all housing owners in Montclair — not just apartment owners. Its so easy to pass the responsibility to apartments which are a minority of the housing units in town and far less valuable than homes. How would homeowners feel about legislation that limited the sales price of their home so that they remained affordable? Or imposed a flip tax for a housing trust fund? I cant hear you homeowners.
    Its pretty easy to be virtuous when its someone else who is bearing the problem. Please, think this through so that we all take a role in keeping the town open to a wide variety of residents. Rent control is by its nature very unfair and will be very ineffective.

  6. Namaste Professor.

    I would just add some market manipulation context…Redevelopment. Redevelopment is when the people’s government steps in to manipulate the real estate market for economic gain. It is not a free market device.

    Affordable Housing is the yang to redevelopment’s yin.

    The Township has been doing continuous, serious redevelopment since the 1990’s. Juicing the market. Breeding land speculators. One could also argue the BoE did it, too.

    Just adding some context.

  7. On a related topic, that Bloomberg study of the 100 U.S. richest communities that included Upper Montclair. Based on the U.S. Census. The one that Patch peddled.

    Funny part (note to Rep Sherrill) is what the U.S. Census considers Upper Montclair. They include Kipps Ridge (the 042). They include 56 Highland Ave (the 042). As a matter of fact, they include all Highland Av properties South of Watchung to #56 (the 042). They include the West side of Upper Mountain from the “Take The Fork” road to Watchung (the 042). They take over $200MM in one of the most expensive neighborhoods (in the 042) and call it Upper Montclair. Don’t believe me? Go to the Census.

    Tell Montclair Proper to please take back their $200MM worth of households, and the income that goes with it so we can all understand where the elite wealth is concentrated.

  8. We are going to have debates in this community about rent control, an elected school board and a variety of other issues that are going to generate strong opinions, both from people that live in this town, and people that don’t live here but have a stake in these decisions. I believe Baristanet does a disservice to the quality of the debate and first amendment values when it allows people to post without using their names. The current policy encourages cowardice and trolls. We should have learned that important lesson for our emocracy and the damgers of unidentifiable posters in the last Presidential election and since. It matters!

  9. I unsubscribed from the Township’s alert system. I have done this in a proper timeframe – 3 full days ahead of the judge’s compliance order. Essentially, I opted out of the whole mess. The judge chose to ignore an opt-in approach. I get it. The Council took the same opt-out choice with the energy aggregation plan. Yup.

    I full expect the Township to remove my personal information from the list they submit to the court. Frankly, I have real concerns the township will, for various reasons, still provide my personal information even though I have opted-out.

    If they do, they risk a class action. Apparently this involves 14,500 individuals that shared personal date with the Township.

    Thanks Council for the putting us “between a rock and a hard place.”

  10. And for anyone who is interested, I suspect this personal data will now technically be part of the municipality’s public domain…and likely subject to Open Public Record Act requests.

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