Letter to the Editor: Montclair Renters Need More Protection

As we write this letter, tenant advocates and some landlords are meeting to negotiate a new rent control ordinance. If an agreement is reached and approved by the Town Council, Montclair can avoid running a special election on rent control. While we wait for the results of these discussions, we want to explain why Montclair needs rent control.

Forty-two percent of Montclair’s households are renters. They need more protection than they currently have. Landlords in town masquerading as homeowners are trying to convince us these protections aren’t necessary. This is not true. One reason our town needs rent control is the percentage of rent burdened tenants increased by 35% between 2000 to 2018. Rent burden is defined by a household spending more than 1/3 of their income on rent.

Rent control works in Caldwell, Verona, West Orange and Morristown. It can work in Montclair too.

According to Montclair’s master plan, one of our town’s unique strengths is its diversity, both economic and social, and there is a danger of losing that diversity due to rising housing costs. Sadly, this is already happening. The percentage of Black residents in Montclair decreased by 26% between 2000 to 2019. At the same time, upper income households increased by 29%.

Landlords are pushing the false argument that rent control means Montclair’s taxes will go up. Towns that have rent control all have lower property taxes than Montclair. Property tax increases have happened in the past, without rent control, and they will likely continue, unrelated to rent control.

There are many reasons New Jersey has high taxes. Rent control is not one of them.

Homeowners don’t need to be threatened by rent control. If we are asked to vote, make sure to support rent control.

Michelle Ashley
Gillian Eigo
Nadia Estela
Louisa Hackett
Keith Hefner
Elizabeth Perez
Betsy Tessler
Members of the Homeowners Committee of the Tenants Organization of Montclair

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  1. “Landlords in town masquerading as homeowners are trying to convince us these protections aren’t necessary.

    A line after my own heart. Love it.

    “The vast majority of rental units in Montclair would not be covered under the current law as it leaves out single homes, two and three family dwellings and new construction since 2008 (think Valley & Bloom, Seymour Street, the Vestry).” – Councilor Yacobellis

    The ordinance is covering just 14% of all households. The ordinance ensures affordability/diversity in less than 1% in the First Ward households and 3% of households in the Second Ward. The ordinance concentrates affordability/diversity controls in specific parts of the 3rd & 4th Wards.

    In either scenario, whether by ordinance or referendum, we can expand the scope of price controls later. We can also expect this issue will be part of our 2024 Council election and candidates can campaign on it – as they did in the 2020 Council election.

  2. Help me with the math. If rent was $100 in 2000 and Rent control was in effect with 4.25% maximum increases (and landlords actually raised rents the maximum allowable amount), then rent would be $211 in 2018. Rent would’ve grown by 111%. The median household income only went up 39% in that same time period. Rent Control would’ve done nothing to prevent the increase in rent burdened households. I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, I’m just saying Rent Control isn’t going to solve it. We should be looking for real solutions here and not using buzz words that make people feel good.

  3. 3rdwarder,
    The problem with that scenario is that it doesn’t take into account a town becoming more desirable during that 20 years. Shouldn’t a property owner be able to realize the increase in the value of what they own? Would single family homeowners be happy if after 20 years of owning, maintaining, and paying taxes would only be able able to realize an increase equal to the percentage of household income as oppose to the doubling or tripling of their homes value? Anytime values are artificially controlled someone loses. Usually everyone…

  4. Gee, they looked all the way to Verona for evidence that rent control works. If it works so well, why not control home and food prices as well?

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