In what is being billed as “one of the strongest” such laws in the nation, an unlikely coalition of local officials hopes to enact a “right-to-counsel” for Jersey City tenants facing eviction.
Mayor Steven Fulop, along with Councilmembers James Solomon, Frank Gilmore, and Yousef J. Saleh announced today that they will introduce legislation to establish a right-to-counsel office where tenants would be connected to legal services and resources like rental assistance programs. It would also establish an implementation oversight board led by tenants.
The office and attendant services would be paid for by “development impact fees” on new developments. There will be no impact on taxpayers, according to the sponsors. The legislation will ensure that any and all new development in Jersey City provides funding towards new affordable housing.
“We have made historic improvements to expand affordability and important protections for residents, and this right-to-counsel proposal will put the necessary policies in place to further help our most vulnerable families facing unfair evictions,” said Fulop. “It will also add critical funding to expand affordable housing opportunities for low- and middle-income residents for generations to come.”
“We all want to reduce the number of evictions in our city, and to do that, we need to make sure that tenants are fairly represented in eviction court while ensuring that the developers profiting from rising rents pay what they owe” said Councilmember James Solomon.
“People facing eviction—disproportionately Black and brown communities—are currently not entitled to representation when facing eviction…It’s time to tip the scales back towards the people and ensure everyone has the right to fair representation” said Councilmember Frank Gilmore.
“Right now, people can’t afford to pay skyrocketing rents, leaving more families at risk of eviction—while developers continue to get away with making record profits at our expense,” said Councilmember Yousef J. Saleh.