Dear Editor: 

I read the article on Jersey City’s government passing the “right to counsel law” and the fact the city officials complain about rents being high. Jersey City is only doing this because tenants make up 70% of the city.

Many tenants are largely shielded from rent increases. Some are under rent control where increases occur according to the Consumer Price Index, similar to Social Security for seniors, not tax increases from city hall. Then, there are tenants who live in affordable housing which is listed in the city’s budget and pays no tax increases, or any payment to the school  system.

This year 2,800 people who could not afford their taxes had tax liens put on their property.  

The exception to this rule is public housing which has a clause under which it pays 10% to the city but is allowed to pay utilities first, so now the city receives nothing due to rising utilities rates. The late Mayor Glenn Cunningham tried to address this problem but passed away before he changed the law. Mayor Cunningham was appalled public housing paid nothing. Other towns do not have that clause and their budgets show payments from their public housing. 

High rent for most others has to do with government (municipal, school system and county) spending. Jersey City homeowners were hit with a 30% tax increase recently, this increase would not be painful if everyone, tenants included pay their fair share of government. But the city’s goal is to protect tenants so they will continue to vote for them at the ballot box with the promise of affordable housing.

As an example of raising rates, the previous budget before Steve Fulop became mayor was $485 million, the proposed budget today is a few million shy of $700 million. I have always advocated taxpayers should know how much they subsidized affordable and rent control housing on their tax bills. The only way housing becomes affordable is to cut city services which would eliminate public jobs. Since that is not going to happen the cost of these services are just transferred onto the small homeowner with higher tax bills. 

For a city that prides itself on promoting diversity and equal rights, it shows little regard for small homeowners. Yearly tax increases on such homeowners lead to tax lien sales which, in turn, subsidize politicians’ voter bases. This year 2,800 people who could not afford their taxes had tax liens put on their property.  You don’t hear politicians being concerned about their rights. It is an abuse of civil authority and a scandal that no politician addresses.

Yvonne Balcer