A reader sent in the below letter in an effort to help inform voters regarding Municipal Question 1, commonly known as the Airbnb regulation. We’re open to other residents’ opinions and welcome additional letters. Reach out at [email protected].
If you are as confused as I was on the short-term rental vote on November 5th, this will help you navigate on what the ballot means. Let’s start with how the vote is being articulated which is confusing in itself. If you are against short-term rentals then you should vote YES. Yes means yes to regulations. If you are in favor of short-term rentals the VOTE is NO. No means no to regulations.
The major reason for the opposition of short-term rentals is being blamed on the lack of affordable housing. The reality is that there are 48,617 apartments that are either planned, proposed or under construction at the current time which is a total of 84 buildings. Out of those 84 buildings, only 1 building is affordable housing with a total of 126 apartments. There are 13 buildings that are partially affordable with a total of 649 apartments and there are 70 market-rate buildings with a total of 45,344 apartments that have 0 affordable apartments. That means that 1.3% of apartments being built are affordable housing. (Yardi)
Short-term rentals have nothing to do with the lack of affordable housing nor are they the cause or the solution to affordable housing. In none of the cities where short-term housing was banned/regulated was there a hike in affordable housing. San Francisco for example, passed regulations last year similar to the proposed regulations for Jersey City and even though it cut it’s short-term listings to almost half from over to 10,000 to approx. 5,500 (CNET) there was no boost in affordable housing.
We are in a very peculiar situation being that NYC is our next-door neighbor. We are directly impacted by their housing laws and intricacies. The reason that our city has grown so much is because NYC rents are so high. People migrated west to Jersey City in hopes of better rents. Renters found better rents, homeowners found better prices to buy homes, and investors found better deals to invest in. Now the Jersey City secret is no longer a secret, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. The homeless problem continues to rise and even if short-term housing were to disappear tomorrow, rents would not be affordable.
The big misconception is that Jersey City will become affordable again with the YES vote and that we will become a safe community where we know all neighbors and where children can play safely on the streets because no strangers will enter our city. As nice as that sounds, it is far from reality.
The city has grown so big and so fast that the long-term residents have a hard time coping with all the changes which is understandable. It is a lot of change in a short period of time. We went from a sleepy city that NYC frowned upon to being a destination city such as Brooklyn is. We are now the 6th borough.
The new residents are either are too new to know what is going on or simply not as invested because they haven’t been here long enough or won’t stay here long enough to really care. The old school residents were used to a quiet city, with little traffic, and knowing their neighbors for 30-40 years. I for sure am one of those old school residents, but I cannot fail to acknowledge that those days are gone and that failing to adapt to the changes will only make it harder on ourselves.
There are other reasons for the opposition of short term rentals such as noise, loitering, garbage, safety, parking, crowded public transportation, and not knowing who walks our streets. All of these things can happen anywhere and are especially prone to a city environment. I do not foresee Jersey City becoming quiet, less crowded, having better parking, or being clean because of regulation. When we have so many people living in such a high-density area it is only normal that things of this nature occur.
Back in 2015 Mayor Fulop welcomed short-term rentals with open arms and implemented a city tax of 6% on all short term rentals payable by the visitors at the time they booked their travel. That tax has brought in over $1M in revenue a year for the city (NJ.com). This drove property values up as investors would pay more for a property knowing the income from short-term housing will justify the hefty purchase price. Fast forward four years later and these same investors are being told they can no longer operate as they have been.
Does this mean that investors can just come into a city and turn everything into a hotel? No, of course not. Regulations for these types of operators are necessary. The real problem is the Jersey City residents that use these platforms to make ends meet. Our property taxes have risen anywhere from 25%-50% more in the past two years. Many people, especially the older residents, can no longer afford to live here and are barely getting by.
I happen to work with someone that has a six-family home. He is in his late 60’s and has lived in his property for over 40 years. His building is mostly tenants, but he has two units that his son helps rent online as short-term rentals, and this is how he pays his increased taxes. Under the new regulation, he will not be able to rent those two units anymore as short-term rentals and under rent control laws he will not be able to raise his rents. Therefore will not be able to pay his higher taxes. Now he has to sell his building and it is breaking his heart.
There is a very nice lady that decided to sell her downtown Jersey City brownstone home that she owned for over 20 years. With the profit she bought a primary home in a less hip area in Jersey City and an investment property not too far away from her new home. With the income from her investment home she lives her life and is financially independent in her 60’s. Now with the new regulations she will barely make enough to pay her taxes and bills. After a torrid divorce and selling the home she loved, she is now being told she is going to be broke in her elderly age. So she might just sell and move away.
How about the tenant whose landlord keeps raising the rent? Does he have to move out because he cannot afford the rent anymore? Granted going around renting ten apartments and placing them online to rent them as short-term rentals should have regulations, but not everything is as black and white as it is being portrayed. There is a lot of grey area that is not being talked about.
Instead of the city just saying it is either a yes or no vote, perhaps there should be a committee for non-conforming cases like the ones made above, where people are heard and exceptions can be made. Disposing of the long-term residents of the city is not what Jersey City should stand for. Yes, regulation is needed, but so is taking care of the people that have lived here before we were a “cool” city.
If you are in favor of regulation, you have probably been affected directly by bad guests having parties and making noise in the middle of the night, people parking in area with out of state license plates, or even being kicked out of your apartment because it turned into a short-term rental. Should you be upset? Sure, I would be too.
Regardless if you are in favor or against regulations at least know what you are voting for. Be informed before you vote, because neither do the short-term rentals platforms nor the hotels industry, that are funding the opposite side, have your best interest in mind. All they see is dollar signs, hence why all the propaganda, and the sudden change within the city’s position. They are all fighting for profit and we need to advocate for our community, because no one else will. And let’s please ask both parties to stop flooding our mailboxes with flyers. That alone could have paid for all the teachers that were laid off, but that is another subject for another day.
– Diana Vasquez
Jersey City Resident
Licensed Real Estate Broker-Salesperson