Councilmembers push for ordinance to protect residents from gentrification

JERSEY CITY, NJ – Rolando Lavarro, Jr., Jersey City Council President, and Joyce E. Watterman, Councilwoman, will introduce an ordinance designed to protect residents from gentrification by requiring developers to build new affordable homes as part of new residential projects.

“This legislation holds developers accountable while preserving opportunities for low-income families to live in our great city,” said Councilwoman Joyce E. Watterman. “We’ve been talking about addressing the problem of gentrification in our city and its impact on families for years.”

She also said the proposal was developed with advocates and stakeholders who care about Jersey City’s future.  “We’re urging the full council and Mayor Fulop to get on board with this proposal, which will make sure that everyone – not just the rich – benefit from the investments we’re seeing in our neighborhoods.”

Lavarro, co-sponsor of the proposal, echoed the need for a policy that recognizes and rises to protect the hard-working Jersey City residents.

“Longtime Jersey City residents low to middle-income families from Downton to the Heights and Journal Square to Bergen-Lafayette, West Side and Greenville are victims of gentrification, priced out of Jersey City,” he said. “This ordinance brings the fierce urgency of now that is required to protect the hard-working Jersey City residents who made this City what it is today and ensures that everyone benefits from Jersey City’s transformation.”

The ordinance will require developers of residential or mixed-use developments to set aside 20 percent of new units as affordable to working families.

 Recognizing that the poorest residents of Jersey City are having the toughest time finding new housing, it also requires developers to provide affordable homes for families earning between  $24,000 to $60,000 annually.

The introduction of the ordinance follows Mayor Fulop’s Jersey City Housing Plan, released in 2015, which acknowledges that lower-income residents are being priced out.   

Mike McNeill, chairman of the NJ NAACP Housing Committee, and Kevin D. Walsh, Executive Director of Fair Share Housing Center, support the bill saying that gentrification is harming lower-income families of color especially in Jersey City, which is the “epicenter of that” in New Jersey. With the passage of the bill, they say “developers who receive generous benefits from the city will no longer be able to get away with building only for the wealthy.”

The bill would apply to all property developments in Jersey City that includes residences, including construction on vacant land, redevelopment of previously developed sites or the substantial rehabilitation of existing structures. – Ricky Rillera

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