I was in the NJ Appellate Court in New Brunswick on September 10, to see if last year’s rent control election result would be reinstated. The ballot question involves amendments to the rent control law which would permanently remove units in buildings with up to four units from rent control when the current tenant moves out, and completely decontrol rents in buildings with five or more units upon each subsequent vacancy. The people voted to keep rent control in place with a 52 vote win, but moneyed interests did not like the outcome and succeeded in convincing the lower court to overturn the election.
The appellate judges did not reinstate the will of the voting majority, so there will be a re-vote of the same Hoboken public question that was voted on last November. For the first time a Hoboken election has been overturned because various developers and realtors had enough money to successfully do so. Apparently the 52 vote lead was not considered valid enough due to a freak storm called Sandy. They used that storm to create a false doubt in the ability of our town to provide adequate voting opportunities by questioning whether all Hoboken citizens had the ability to vote on Hoboken’s three public questions, despite the fact that all 14 voting polls were open and one could vote electronically up until Friday, three days after the election. All the water was gone from Hoboken on Election Day and the electricity was restored for the voting booths as well as almost all of the residents’ homes. Yet neither the county and state officials who were supposed to defend the election nor the lower court judge who overturned the election sufficiently scrutinized the list of 114 provisional voters presented as evidence that enough Hoboken voters, displaced by Sandy, were prevented from voting on the rent control question to possibly change the election results. Five of the names on the list were duplicates, and many of the remaining 109 were not even Hoboken voters; they had moved from Hoboken and voted in other polling places where they now lived. The “evidence” was not sufficient to overturn the election.
If the ‘yes’ vote in November of this year prevails, a horrible, drastic social experiment will have been set into motion. Drastically removing the limits to how much a rent will go up after a tenant moves out of any of the thousands of rent controlled units will be devastating to the housing stock. Many tenants already lose their homes every month due to various circumstances and most have the opportunity to find another apartment, albeit paying more than before, but it is doable. It will be impossible to find a new apartment if the apartment they are trying to move into has been decontrolled and the rent becomes extraordinarily expensive. Consider the human factor when voting again this November and please vote 'no'.