Over the years, Jersey City has seen a 7.2 percent increase in population and tourism due to the accessibility to New York City. Homeowners and tenants are taking advantage of the influx of visitors by renting out their living spaces on platforms such as Airbnb, Home Away, TripAdvisor and VRBO.
Mayor Steven Fulop has urged Jersey City residents to vote on the November 5 elections whether an ordinance should be in place to regulate short term rentals due to concerns such as increase of rent, lack of affordable housing, and noise complaints, as well as safety and health concerns.
According to the Hudson County Clerk’s office, approximately 69 percent of Jersey City residents voted “yes” on a referendum to legislate an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals on the November 5 elections.
This regulation includes that homeowners will obtain a permit to rent out their living space, regulate the size and number of units a person may rent, comply with city noise and sanitation laws, requires owners to be on-sight, as well as a mandatory safety inspection.
Downtown Councilman and political science professor James Solomon sponsored the campaign with Mayor Fulop after community members were seeing issues with the short-term rentals.
Solomon says Airbnb was expanding rapidly -- taking over 3,000 apartments and converting them into short term rentals. Owners and tenants were not in their homes to address quality of life concerns, such as trash and noise compliance.
Cecile Maravillas owns two homes: a three-floor, single-family house in Journal Square that she rents out on Airbnb for extra income, and a two-family house on West Side Avenue in which she rents the second floor to tenants.
Maravillas says the ordinance is unfair, as bad homeowners and tenants are making short-term renters look irresponsible since some are violating city laws regarding trash and noise compliance.
“I have a camera outside my house and I go to the house constantly to help clean or fix any issues,” says Maravillas. “I can also minimize and maximize the days guests can stay in the house.”
Maravillas has not had any problems with guests violating city or health laws.
Saint Peter’s University Urban Studies & Sociology professor Edgar Rivera-Colon was raised in the Downtown area since he was 18-years-old. After living in New York, Rivera-Colon returned to Downtown Jersey City 10years ago and noticed in his neighborhood the short term rentals are taking housing out of the market.
“Residents are at a disadvantage,” says Rivera-Colon. “If you take all the supply of all the available housing out and make it functionally into a hotel, there are fewer apartments, which means the prices of the apartments go up.”
Rivera-Colon has not had any quality life concerns with his neighbors using their living space for short-term rentals.
Though the ordinance has been approved by Jersey City residents, it still does not solve the affordable housing crisis in Jersey City.
Solomon says there is a housing crisis as rents are increasingly high. Returning apartments to the rental stock will allow for a 5 to10 percent decrease in price and allow for existing housing for the community.
“I’m very proud of Jersey City residents today,” says Rivera-Colon. “They knew their interest was not in satisfying billion-dollar corporations, but in taking care of the neighborhood.”
Maravillas plans to either rent out her home long term or get a family member to stay at the Airbnb house in Journal Square to comply with the new ordinance.
“We’re going to look to make amendments in the future to see if we can work with Airbnb and VBRO to have them work with us on compliance so we may be able to change things,” says Solomon.
The ordinance will be in effect as of January 2021.