MontClairVoyant: The Issue of Rent Makes a Dent

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

A November 30 appellate court ruling might send Montclair’s rent-control measure — blocked by the Montclair Property Owners Association (MPOA) since 2020 — to a referendum next year. Comment?

Sincerely,

Working the Ref

So be it. The modest measure is popular, and could win such a vote. Many residents want Montclair to stay economically diverse — which means more than having $20 bills from different years in our wallets.


DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

But?

Sincerely,

Three-Letter Worry Word

If a referendum happens, the VERY well-funded MPOA would probably spend tons of money to defeat rent control. They’d pull out all the stops, making it impossible to take baths.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

You’re thinking of STOPPERS. When would a possible referendum happen in 2022?

Sincerely,

One Year of Three Twos

I’m guessing sometime between January 1 and December 31. And I assume residents could vote in-person, by mail, or via chips implanted in chocolate-chip cookies.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Speaking of rents, what about the “luxury” apartments in the new Two South Willow building that’s part of “The Arts District”? Some cost more than $4,000 a month!

Sincerely,

The Price Is…Wrong

Not affordable for most artists — even the virtuoso who painted the ceiling of Montclair High’s gym. Yes, Mountieangelo.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

No such painting or person. And why does “The Arts District” have fewer new arts elements than promised by its developer guys?

Sincerely,

It’s Demuralizing

I wonder if their pitch was yet another Trojan Horse to convince Montclair officials to approve what turned out to be the usual upscale project, albeit with some token new arts aspects. If a Who cover band sang “Won’t Get Fooled Again” at the Wellmont, they’d be laughed off the stage.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

But the new “Wellmont Arts Plaza” is a nice open space, right?

Sincerely,

Aria of an Airy Area

Not bad. To increase the arts vibe, it could become a landing zone for helicopters with murals painted on their sides.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Further downtown is the Elm Street-near-Bloomfield Avenue site of a proposed project to replace a one-story building with a five-story one containing office space and 22 housing units. Reaction?

Sincerely,

Site for Sore Ayes

The already-busy area might become a nightmare with that squeezed-in building and the Lackawanna Plaza redo joining existing businesses and Bullock elementary school. Drivers, cyclists, and walkers in a “danse macabre” — French for “dancing macaroons.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

You need a better dictionary.

Sincerely,

Know a Webster

I’m worried that a wealthy MPOA member would overcharge me for a book that includes “apartment.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,

Don’t buy a dictionary from a big landlord; 99 percent of the words in it are “profit” and “gentrification.” Besides, why not use an online dictionary?

Sincerely,

WiFi Ty

I’m scared to do that. If a rent-control referendum happens, many MPOA ads might pop up.

 

 

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.

 

 

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Dave,

    Your class/income analysis of all issues verge on Leninist; those for rent control are revolutionaries. Those opposed are kulaks. Did you read that St Paul developers cancelled housing projects after St. Paul passed rent control? That’s a textbook prediction: price ceilings reduce supply. If you really want more affordable housing, lobby for more, higher rise, development (of course that’s anathema to you because you despise those developers too). The truth is, More supply leads to lower prices, but not vice versa. It’s been shown over and over. Why not forgo wordplay for 30 minutes and educate yourself on the well documented perverse effects of rent control: less housing, neglected maintenance, misallocation, landlord renter conflicts, and inequity (where connected but undeserving renters get the unit).

    And lest you’re worried, You can thoughtfully oppose such a tried-and-failed policy without losing your progressive bona fides. Montclair has plenty of smart liberals that understand that you can’t make something cheap by just capping the price. A more sophisticated analysis by you might raise your stock without branding you a kulak.

    Sincerely

  2. Thank you for the comment, lacamina.

    I’m a social democrat, not a (near) Leninist. I do like The Marx Brothers. 🙂

    Montclair’s currently stymied rent control measure is modest. Landlords can still raise rents each year, and there are exceptions for owners of just a few rental units and for owners of newer buildings. Quite reasonable.

    What’s not very reasonable are things like $3,000-plus and $4,000-plus rents (in some cases) that contribute to the decreasing of Montclair’s economic diversity.

    Sure, there can be “perverse effects of rent control” when some landlords just can’t accept making a modestly smaller profit. There are also “perverse effects” of NO rent control: people who want to stay in or move to Montclair but can’t afford to. People most of us want in town: teachers, artists, blue-collar workers, etc.

    Speaking of artists, it’s a bad joke that the new “Arts District” is unaffordable for virtually everyone in the arts.

  3. Dave,

    You know what is going to really suck about a referendum vote? All those renters (the majority) that the Councils and TOOM excluded from the rent control protections. The Council and TOOM flipped them off. You want to guess what TOOM will say to this disenfranchised group? Nothing. Do you want to guess the positions our Councilors will take? Hopefully, they will have the Census 2020 numbers before then.

  4. Thank you for the comment, Frank.

    The rent-control measure does have large loopholes. 🙁 You’re right that that could have some impact on the referendum vote, if there is a referendum. Unfortunately, often a “compromise” is all one can get with legislation. I don’t blame the Tenants Organization of Montclair; they got as much they could get. I wish the Township Council had approved a stronger measure. Of course, there’s no measure at the moment “thanks” to the Montclair Property Owners Association. 🙁

  5. Dave,

    I noted your ongoing criticism of some impactful past decisions by our land use bodies. This coming week you will have the opportunity to see, in real time, the limits of our land use bodies to do right by the township. It is the appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment by the owners of 109 Union St over being denied a demo approval by the HPC. You remember, the “toxic waste zone”. For the record, I think very, very highly of our ZBA. But, they have to be accountable. The justification for their oversight of private property, e.g zoning, is derived from protecting the public interests.

    You will be immediately told there is no public comment because this is an appeal of the facts, findings, exhibits, etc that were part of the HPC hearing. Since the public comments are already part of the transcript record, no further input is appropriate. The ZBA & the applicant will offer additional testimony to affirm or refute whether it was a proper hearing and outcome. But, neither can overreach and create a 3rd bite at the apple hearing to make a case.

    The ZBA will have a report from their engineering expert. I have read this report half a dozen times and I remain alarmed at its scope, its content, and its authority. And that’s me being nice.

    What I understand well is that there has yet to be lab documentation introduced quantifying the extent of the asbestos contamination. Furthermore, the testing lab’s single report presented to the HPC is not part of the ZBA’s appeal exhibits. Too much information, maybe?

    It’s bad. It’s unrepairable. Its cost-prohibitive. I’ll take their word for it. Oh, then maybe the ZBA can insert some stipulations that the new structure can’t have a basement. Logical stuff. Land use stuff. Not technical, scientific stuff. Oh, and the fire hose connection thing…maybe FYI the MFD.

    My issues are two-fold and I have been emphatic in stating them. Don’t blame the HPC for shortcomings elsewhere and take all measures to protect the public from the health threat.

  6. I make the following correction before my above post is published:

    “Furthermore, the testing lab’s single report presented to the HPC is not part of the ZBA’s appeal exhibits. Too much information, maybe?”

    ‘not’ should be ‘the only’.

  7. Thank you for the comments, Frank.

    I’m almost always against a beautiful old home being razed in Montclair, but this might be one of the exceptions. I haven’t studied this situation super-closely, though. Read a couple of articles a while ago…

  8. Few will read the board report, but I do love the authors’ opening sentence, maybe inspired by Beckett’s “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”

    What you might appreciate is the Deputy Mayor that presided over the Demolition Ordinance unanimous passage is the attorney for the demo application.

    The house will be demolished. The bigger issue is the total demolition ordinance won’t survive either. I’m ok with this, too. I always thought it was an unwieldy ordinance that would work to undercut preservation policy. Which it has done with the very first major demo application.

    The ordinance’s survival was predicated on an untested, ‘Maginot Line’-style authority. This report, if relied on in this case, will provide the local precedent for a perfectly legal Blitzkrieg around the ordinance’s purpose.

  9. “This very long, very twisty-turny journey will go on a little longer,” adds Toni Martin of TOOM.

    Yes, like Waiting for Godot.

  10. Thank you, silverleaf! Clever punchline. 🙂

    Meanwhile, “Waiting for Godot” characters Vladimir and Estragon probably can’t afford to rent in Montclair… 🙁

  11. LOL, silverleaf! 🙂 Easier on the budget. And then Vladimir, Estragon, and Sam-I-Am can quickly catch a train to whatever stage they’re performing on. 🙂

Comments are closed.