Jersey City thumbs its nose at Airbnb

Property owners to see more regulations for short-term rentals; school board members elected

City emerges victorious in campaign for more regulations on short-term rentals.
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City emerges victorious in campaign for more regulations on short-term rentals.

Come January, property owners in Jersey City will have to abide by new regulations on short-term rentals after residents voted overwhelmingly in their favor on Nov. 5

This marks the first time on the east coast that Airbnb has lost a referendum regarding short-term rentals.

The new rules, which will take effect Jan. 1 2020, prohibit short-term rentals for more than 60 days in properties where the owner does not live onsite. It prohibits short-term rentals entirely in buildings with more than four units, and renters are not allowed to serve as short-term rental hosts.

To operate short-term rentals under the ordinance, property owners are required to obtain a permit through the city’s Division of Housing Preservation. Each permit is valid for one year and must be renewed annually.

“Today we sent a message that despite the $5 million [Airbnb] spent that despite the misinformation and despite the fact that they tried to mislead Jersey city residents day in and day out for the last month and a half, Jersey City did the research, they understood the issue, and they came out strong for responsible rules and regulations,” said Mayor Steven Fulop.

In fact, Airbnb allocated $4.2 million for the election and spent  $3.3 million, according to Oct. 30 Election Law Enforcement Commission filings for Keep Our Homes.

The NO votes opposition, New York Hotel Trade Council and Share Better Education Fund, raised just over $1 million, according to ELEC filings.

According to unofficial results from the Hudson County Clerks Office, 18,027 people or 68.72 percent of those who voted on the ballot question voted for the referendum while only 31.28 percent or 8,206 people voted against it.

This is in stark contrast to how the referendum got on the ballot in the first place. Keep Our Homes, which opposes the regulations, submitted more than 20,000 signatures from residents to put the new rules to a public vote.

School Board elected

Residents also elected five representatives to the Jersey City Board of Education that oversees the school district’s budget, procedures, and policies.

Of the 63,126 votes cast for the three-year term on the school board, 10,628 were cast for incumbent Gerald Lyon of the Education Matters slate, representing 16.84 percent of the vote, the highest of any of the candidates.

Change for Children slate members Noemi Velasquez and Alexander Hamilton were also elected to serve for a three-year term with 14.84 percent of the vote or 9,371 total votes, and 14.89 percent of the vote or 9,399 total votes respectively.

Only 35,111 people cast their vote for the two school board seats which expire after a one-year term.

Incumbents Gina Verdibello and Lekendrick Shaw, also of the Education Matters slate won with 31.44 percent of the vote, or 11,056 total votes, and 24.46 percent of the vote or 8,587 total votes respectively.

According to ELEC filings, FairerNJ donated more than $84,000 to Change for Children and is expected to spend $250,000 on elections in 2019.

The PAC is associated with the LeFrak Organization, a real estate developer that challenged the city’s payroll tax in court but lost in March 2019 after a judge ruled the tax was constitutional. The tax was instituted to help make up for shortfalls in state funding for the city’s school district and lack of school funding in tax abatement deals the city has made with developers.

State Sen. Sandra Cunningham introduced legislation last year, which was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, allowing Jersey City to implement a payroll tax to help offset the cost of cuts in school funding. The payroll tax ordinance, which was approved by the council in November 2018 and went into effect in January 2019, imposes a 1 percent payroll tax on an employer’s gross payroll to benefit Jersey City public schools. Employers are required to file and pay the new tax on a quarterly basis.

The Education Matters slate is backed by the local teachers union, the Jersey City Education Association, which is part of the New Jersey Education Association.

Garden State Forward, a super PAC formed by the New Jersey Education Association, is expected to spend more than $330,000 in 2019 statewide elections.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.