Letter to the Editor: New Rent Control Ordinance Will Bring Dignity For Essential Workers

The new rent control ordinance in Montclair will bring dignity for many essential workers in our community. I know this because although I am now a Montclair homeowner, that was not always the case. I attended and graduated Montclair High back in 1996 and lived in a two bedroom apartment with my parents and three sisters. Though a bit snug, my mother, a nanny to a lawyer and neurosurgeon in Upper Montclair, was struggling to get home before 8 p.m. on a school night to sit and have dinner with her daughters back in Newark. So my parents (a dual-income household) downsized what seemed like an ample three-bedroom apartment in Newark and moved to Montclair.

I mention all of this because now as we view all the lawn signs throughout our town celebrating the “essential workers,” we can also celebrate Montclair’s new rent control ordinance. These essential workers are the nannies, the grocers, restaurant owners and their employees, cops, healthcare workers, ambulance drivers, cleaners, the cashiers and countless others — all of them — are the heartbeat of Montclair. As residents it is important to have rent control for the heart shouldn’t be pushed out as demand grows to live in our town.

As people flee the city to bigger apartments and green space, the fact is that if my mother had to make this decision today, she probably would not be able to make it. This is because between 2000 and 2018, the proportion of Montclair renters who paid more than 30% of their income on rent increased from 8% to 43%. In addition, from 2000 to 2019 the number of Black residents declined 26%. And lastly, my blue collar essential worker family simply would not afford to live here, since from 2000 to 2018, the number of upper-income households grew by 29% and lower and middle-income households declined by 14% and 12% respectively.

The story continues but under different boxes. My parents, now retired, are in a similar situation, now living on a fixed income. As a millennial that is starting to face the reality of aging baby boomer parents, rent control is dignity FOR ALL. It breaks the stigma of the rat race and protects the most vulnerable. Our lawn signs are not empty words. Having rent control in Montclair (already a reality in our neighboring towns like West Orange, Bloomfield, Verona and many others) will allow essential workers to replenish their cup, after serving our community by sitting at their own dinner table with their family. –

Nadia Liz Estela, Tenants Organization of Montclair (TOOM)

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  1. Back to my favorite subject, and I don’t know, and I am curious.
    Will all 154 housing units in the Lackawanna Plaza development be subject to this rent control ordinance?

  2. Yes, well said personal experience and it reflects too many household situations. The end (price controls) is both commendable and necessary. And if you spoke as an individual, I would let the statistics cited go. But, you spoke as a member of TOOM. And once again, say anything.

    The continuing the manipulation and misuse of statistics offends me. It shouldn’t, I know. But, combined with the ever-present “the ends justifies the means’, I just have to say something. It’s a values thing :}

    I am so proud of my town and the this and the last administrations.
    However, we are seriously numerically challenged. 🙂

  3. Everyone, tenants and landlords alike, should be clear about the peculiar language of this ordinance. Even though dwellings with less than 4 units are excluded from the price controls, landlords still are required to register their rental units. And, to be really precise, this includes owner-occupied households that rent rooms to borders. And, it doesn’t exclude either party if there is not a signed lease. It is called a Periodic Tenant and the Landlord definition doesn’t change. OK, so you see the potential problems? Just maybe, no rush, the Council might want to clean up the language a smidge. Ya’know, align the language with the intent and, of course, align it to the Ends. It would suck if the both the Ends & the Means got mangled.

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