Jersey City Together holds forum, lack of affordable was an issue

Dear Editor:
Comments were made about developers charging excessive rents but that was only part of the problem associated with the lack of affordable housing.
Government spending is a major reason for the lack of affordable housing. I have been attending budget hearings in Jersey City for a long time. My first budget hearing the total the figure was $90 million, it took government over 300 years to go from nothing to $90 million but a little more than 40 years to go from $90 million to the present budget of $580 million. Former Mayor Healy’s last budget was $485 million so you can see Mayor Fulop has increased spending by $95 million in his first term.
Another problem is the low ratable base. After the 1988 Revaluation, the city’s ratable base was around $6.5 billion. Excessive tax appeals brought that figure down to $5.1 billion during the Schundler Administration. It went up to $5.4 and $5.7 billion during Healy’s Administration. It is now $6.2 billon because many tax abatements expired from the 1990s which raised up the ratable base and has protected the massive spending of Mayor Fulop. Tax abatements have massive impact on the ratable base and has a negative impact on the tax rate. Simply stated when government spending is high and tax abatements are used then affordability is low for housing which is exempt from those tax abatements.
Jersey City Together also promoted rent control for houses less than five stories, but Jersey City’s strong rent control laws have compelled owners to convert many older buildings, five stories or greater into condos. They were competing against new construction for tenants and new construction is exempt from the rent control laws. Even new construction of two family homes is now selling as two separate condo units. This trend will eventually lead owners of older two, three and four family units to do the same thing. It is also the reason why so many older buildings were knocked down during the 1980s and 1990s and came back as new construction.
What Jersey City Together does not realize – Jersey City has built hundreds of units of affordable housing. Those units are listed in the Friendly Budget that can be found on line or from the City Clerk’s Office. Building affordable housing does not mean it benefits Jersey City residents. Even the present city council realize this and tried to address this issue but once you accept public funds for housing, those units are open to nonresidents, including foreign nationals in refugee programs. Jersey City residents must wait in line behind others for these units.
Finally, Jersey City prides itself on being a sanctuary city. Mayor Fulop says there are 22,000 nonlegal residents here. That means there are thousands of apartments that are not available to Jersey City residents. A city cannot be pro-immigration and not expect any impact on housing, or a shortage of classroom space and even jobs for its residents.
In order to address the lack of affordable housing, Jersey City must address topics that take political courage. You cannot exempt new construction but expect old construction to bear the rent control laws. Placing rent control on the two to four families will not solve problem, they will be tomorrow’s condos. You cannot ignore the impact of city’s budget or the effects of tax abatements on the ratable base. Finally, you must address illegal immigration. If the city chooses to be a sanctuary city then Jersey City will not solve its affordable housing crisis.

Yvonne Balcer