Yun: Solomon ordinance forces taxpayers to subsidize Air BnB fees

Dear Editor:

Whether you want to open a business in London or Los Angeles, Johannesburg or Jersey City, it’s the standard practice that approvals and/or licenses are required, each one coming at a cost. By state law, these aren’t revenue generators for the city, instead the fees must represent the actual costs associated with carrying out the inspections of your proposed commercial establishment.
This only seems fair for in the end, as owner, you’re the one that stands to make profit, so you foot the cost for the investment in your business’ future. To do otherwise would mean that the average taxpayer was shouldering your routine business costs.
Last year, my colleagues on the Municipal Council executed a very successful politics-of-fear campaign around the issue of short-term rentals. Short-term rentals were responsible for the high crime statistics, the high rental prices, the uncollected garbage, and every other ill and quality-of-life concern then facing the city, they said.
But that was last year and it’s now a new year, so it probably shouldn’t come as much a surprise that Downtown Councilman James Solomon, who for more than half his term in office has publicly railed against the proliferation of short-term rentals or AirBnBs in our communities, has seemingly reversed course. They were a special interest, he said. (They are.) Their presence raises the cost of standard apartment rentals in Jersey City, he said. (Actually, the effect is minimal.) But that was 2019.
Now, in 2020, at the latest regular meeting of the city’s governing body on January 23rd, Councilman Solomon shepherded Ordinance 20-005 which waives the fees for fire and zoning inspections for the hosts of short-term rentals. He did so without issuing any press releases, media fanfare or conducting a single interview so, you are forgiven if you missed it. The Jersey City Council passed this legislation 6-2.
Now that businessmen and women who chose to start these types of commercial operations out of their homes aren’t paying those fees, guess who is? Jersey City taxpayers, that’s who!
I was joined in opposing this measure by Councilman Richard Boggiano, to whom much credit should be given for his efforts. Now that every apartment or partial apartment used as an AirBnB is are going to get a minimum subsidy of $250 each costing Jersey City taxpayers as much as a million dollars each and every year. When you get your next tax bill, here’s something to consider: Why does the Jersey City taxpayer have to front the cost of these operations and who thinks this is actually progress?
This switcheroo is neither fair for the taxpayers or any other business that chooses to operate in the City and has to pay the full freight for their fire and zoning inspections.
In less than three months we’ve gone from not wanting hotels operating next-door to giving them special tax breaks. Two steps forward, one step backwards. Only in Jersey City.

Councilman Michael Yun