The residents of Hudson County are at a crossroads. Gentrification began in Hoboken in the 1980s and is now traveling into other communities, but presently it is most noticeable in Jersey City. There is no doubt about it, gentrification has some value, but it also has a negative impact on longtime families of a community, most of which are tenants. When Hoboken began its gentrification, it recognized the need to provide adequate housing at a reasonable cost for longtime residents. However, those programs have been ignored for many years and the federal and state subsidies for those residents are expiring. There is not a reasonable amount of effort being made to find ways to create new subsidies or to extend the ones that were put in place many years ago.
What seems to be forgotten is the importance of middle income families to a community, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck and their apartment is their home. They may not own it, but it is their home, as is the neighborhood and the corner store they visit each day. Our political leaders in the community grapple each year with their budgets and look for new revenue sources that gentrification brings to them. When reviewing their budget, they have been overlooking the most important product: the tenants that live in these apartments.
At election time they will make promises to take action to protect the middle income families, but most of these promises will actually do more harm than good. They may sound good, but they never accomplish what was promised. All they have to do is look at Hoboken and see what worked and what did not work, but they are blinded with the revenue that is generated with gentrification.
If you live in Jersey City you know that gentrification is almost completed in Downtown and is now undergoing a rapid expansion into the Heights, Journal Square, and Bergen Lafayette sections of the city. It is not that the elected officials are not concerned or that they have no compassion for middle income residents, but they are so consumed with self-preservation: the ballot box. This causes them to brag the tax rate is being maintained, and the creation of new programs to increase revenue that only wind up displacing more and more families.
The Jersey City officials are being tested now, but the elected officials in Hudson County should recognize that once gentrification has been completed in Jersey City, their communities will be next.
All Hudson County elected officials should look at the history of gentrification in Hoboken over the last 40 years, especially those in Jersey City, and remember the words of Edmund Burke “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
As always, the Liberty Board of Realtors will make itself available to help our community leaders in serving their residents.
Joseph W. Hottendorf
Executive Vice President