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City ordinance in Newark passes measures to protect tenants in a housing crisis

in Government & Policy by

As Newark begins to develop more housing, they implemented tighter safety and health regulations for rental apartments to reduce landlords from taking advantage of renters in a high-demand renter’s market.

On Monday, Newark’s Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced the passage and signature of a wide-ranging municipal ordinance designed to curtail abusive behavior by Newark landlords. The ordinance enforces laws that order property owners to maintain apartments, and rent out their properties to tenants using subsidized vouchers.

When in effect, the ordinance will require landlords of multi-unit properties to undergo a full inspection by the Division of Housing Code Enforcement. If they pass, they will receive a Certificate of Code Compliance in order to allow the occupancy of new tenants. Conversely, landlords who rent apartments that do not earn a Certificate of Code Compliance will be required to do one of the following: relocate the tenant in the same building; issue all security deposits, so that the tenant can secure a new rental unit; or provide the tenant with three months of rent to go towards securing another rental unit.

The second portion of the ordinance bans Newark landlords from accepting subsidized rental vouchers from out-of-city, county, state, out-of-state, or federal government agencies for more than one month. In addition, a sub-section in the ordinance bars any person from knowingly bringing a person from out-of-state, who is poverty-stricken and in need of services and necessities. If they do, they must relocate them out of Newark.

Currently, a number of Newark landlords are taking vouchers for up to one year’s rent. As a result, the practice placed tenants, often in dire need, into apartments that were neglected in maintenance. Last year, NBC New York reported that NYC frequently sent homeless families to Newark for housing. Taking advantage of homeless families, predatory landlords often rented out uninhabitable units. The program places a “burden” on the city and “benefits negligent landlords…. [making] an already vulnerable population susceptible to being homeless again,”  said Baraka.

When the year ends, according to Baraka, “participants are abandoned without support from New York City and left to become dependent upon Newark social services.”

Migrating from NYC to New Jersey has been a phenomenon recorded since the 1980s when city goers looking for suburban communities started to move to towns like Montclair and Maplewood, New Jersey. Now, low wealth families have been relocating from NYC due to rapidly increasing rents.

However, Newark has its own housing problems. There are talks of the closure of the city’s largest shelter for homeless families, the YMCA in the downtown area. As well, Rutgers Law reported 40,000 evictions passed through local courts in 2016. The report stated:

Newark home values have been slow to recover from the Great Recession. Newark lost 22% of its median home value between 2010 and 2015. Though the current median home value (2017) in the city is $219,000, most homeowners are mortgaged burdened.

Now with Newark rapidly redeveloping, the city faces issues such as growing homelessness, a housing shortage and an increase in living costs where majority live at or below under the poverty level. Whereas the median household income is about $76,457  in New Jersey, in Newark, the US Census states that in 2017, it is $34, 826.

In attempts to ensure some inclusion with ensuing gentrification, in December 2017, Newark’s City Council adopted an inclusionary zoning ordinance mandating new projects with 30 or more residential units to set aside 20% affordable housing. However, if they choose not to designated affordable housing, they just pay a fine.

With the new housing ordinance in place, if violated, landlords face a range of fines from $250 to $1,000, or imprisonment for 90 days, or community service for 90 days. Each day’s violation of this section shall constitute a separate offense, and unpaid fines will result a lien on the property.

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