If You Pay Rent or Taxes, Be Careful How You Vote

Citizens of Hoboken:

If you pay rent, you may want to consider carefully your Mayoral vote on May 8th, since two of the three candidates, present Mayor Anthony Russo and Councilman Dave Roberts, have tried to take away tenants' rights under Hoboken's Rent Control (RC) law.

RC was inroduced in the early 70's to deal with escalating rents resulting from a housing shortage. The situation is worse today: rents have skyrocketed. Although changes in state law decontrolled all housing built since 1987, RC still protects hundreds of Hoboken tenants from being priced out of their homes.

In 1989, 1994, and 2000, the Mayor and Council attempted to undermine RC with "vacancy decontrol" (VD) amendments. VD is the decontrolling of rent on vacancy; it encourages landlords to get rid of their current tenants so that the new tenants will pay a much higher decontrolled rent. This is especially dangereous for tenants in 1-3 unit buildings which are not subject to state eviction protections. The 1989 amendments, decontrolling condos on vacancy, was introduced by Dave Roberts. The 1994 amendments, vacancy decontrolling buildings with 1 to 4 rental units, was sponsored by Russo, and Dave Roberts (who was on Russo's team) voted for it. The 2000 amendments, vacancy decontrolling 2 unit owner occupied buildings and most of the formerly federally subsidized housing such as Applied Housing, was sponsored by Russo. Roberts and Russo each pushed through VD amendments twice.

Fortunately for tenants, in all three cases I led referendum petition drives protesting the amendments. Because of hundreds of hours of effort by citizens who circulated the petitions, and thousands of citizens who signed the petitions, all three amendments were suspended before they could go into effect. The City Council then had a choice: repeal the amendments or put them on the ballot. All three times, the council repealed them, knowing that since the majority of Hoboken's citizens are tenants, the amendments would be defeated at the polls, and their betrayal of the majority exposed.

Russo claims that he is fighting to keep Hoboken "affordable". Far from it: rents are going through the roof. Aside from his attempts to undermine RC, Russo is allowing hundreds of units of formerly federally subsidized housing, including units of Applied Housing and Clock Towers, to have their rents jacked up to market rates. This is being accomplished with agreements between the landlords and the state Department of Community Affairs. These agreements are illegal because the City of Hoboken, having given these landlords huge tax abatements for decades, must approve any such agreement and the City has not done so. If the City went to court, the agreements could be overturned, and then the units would go under RC at a much lower rent, thereby preserving affordable housing.

But instead of going to court, the City continues to give the tax abatements so that a few favored tenants will be able to retain low rents.

The same sort of thing happened at the April 18th Council meeting: Frank Raia's application for a tax exemption amounting to $1.67 million was granted by the Council to "provide affordable housing". Raia had been given the right to develop almost 1000 units of housing as part of a redevelopment plan in 1999. Despite the negative impact of cramming more buildings, cars, and people into Hoboken, the Mayor and Council gave these concessions to Raia with no obligation to provide ANY benefit to Hoboken. The 100 units of affordable housing comes at a cost to Hoboken's taxpayers of almost $1400 per affordable unit per month. Add to that the tenant's contribution of $500--$600 per month, and the actual rent recieved by Raia on the affordable units is $2000 -- full market rate! So not only are we being forced to endure the impacts of the development, we are being forced to pay for its only benefit -- affordable housing -- to the tune of $100 per taxpayer per year.

The two resolutions which granted these huge tax exemptions were both on the consent agenda. If I had not asked to have them taken of that agenda, they would have been voted through with no discussion whatever.

It's clear that Russo and Roberts have represented landlords and developers at the expense of tenants and taxpayers. That is their record. But who represents you? I have spent hundreds of hours working to protect your rights and to empower you at the polls. I am running for Mayor because I believe that you deserve to be represented, too.


Daniel Tumpson