Jersey City Together, a coalition of over 100 pastors, faith leaders, and community advocates across Jersey City, endorsed the upcoming Right to Counsel and affordable housing legislation set to be introduced in City Hall this week.
The legislation, put forward last week by Mayor Steven Fulop, and Councilmembers James Solomon, Frank Gilmore, and Yousef J. Saleh is designed to establish a citywide Right to Counsel office that will provide services and rental assistance to tenants facing eviction. Additionally, the legislation proposes a development impact fee, which would be paid entirely by developers and is estimated to generate millions of dollars annually towards the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
At Monday’s City Council caucus, some councilmembers expressed doubts about the legislation as written.
“We are glad to see that the city is planning to provide a Right to Counsel to tenants in Jersey City,” said Ellen Nash, a leader of the Jersey City Together Housing Team. “Access to counsel is provided by Hoboken, Union City, NYC and many other cities across the US. It definitely ‘levels the playing field’ in Housing Court and results in statistically fewer evictions.”
“Everyone deserves the right to safe, affordable housing, and I am thrilled to have the support of Jersey City Together as we fight to keep tenants in their homes,” said Councilmember James Solomon. “Together, we will keep developers accountable to our city and protect tenants at risk of losing their homes—all while continuing to fight for affordable housing for all.”
“This ordinance is definitely generating some great dialogue,” says Ward F Councilman Frank ‘Educational’ Gilmore. “Providing a right to counsel is imperative if we want to help level the playing field. There’s a lot more work to be done but this is a step in the right direction.”
The ordinance would be among the strongest tenant protection legislation of its kind in the country, says the group.