TRENTON – A bill which would change existing state law governing local rent control ordinances in order to protect senior tenants was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 21-14.
“New Jerseyans face some of the highest costs of living in the entire nation, and it can be difficult for individuals on fixed incomes to make ends meet,” said Senator Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, a sponsor of the bill. “In order to ensure fairness and predictability for New Jersey renters, municipalities throughout the state have instituted rent control ordinances to keep their communities affordable. We have to make sure that the protections guaranteed by rent control are extended to all people, and this bill would eliminate an exception to the current law to create uniform standards for senior renters.”
The bill, S-805, would clarify the Legislature’s intent in regards to a statute that provides an exemption from local rent control for newly constructed multiple dwellings. Under the bill, multiple dwellings which cater to tenants aged 55 and older would not be able to claim the exemption for newly-constructed multiple unit dwellings from local rent control rules. Vitale noted that New Jersey does not have statewide rent control, but regulates how municipalities can impose their own rent control through local ordinance.
Vitale added that this bill is in response to concerns from seniors living in the age-restricted community of Woodbridge Hills in his district. Under the current exemption, 480 senior households have experienced significant rent increases over the last few years, creating a financial hardship for many tenants on fixed incomes.
When the state approved and later clarified the exemption from rent control for new construction, the legislative statements attached to the reform law passed in 1999 noted that it was to apply only to non-senior citizen developments. However, the law itself, and subsequent regulation, have been silent on this issue.
“When we talk about senior renters, we’re talking about our parents and grandparents, who should be able to live out their retirement years without worrying if they’ll be able to make next month’s rent,” said Vitale. “However, for people facing massive rent increases and living without the protection of rent control, this scenario is a very real one. It’s time to update the law governing rent control to make sure New Jersey’s senior renters are able to live out their golden years without the uncertainty of unfair rent hikes hanging over their heads.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
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