As Newark Grows, Tenants Want Better Rent Control

WNYC | August 3, 2017 | Housing
Housing advocates seek to put more stringent rent ordinance on the November ballot

Gathering signatures for measure to strengthen rent control in Newark
“We made Newark ‘Brick City,’” said longtime Newark resident Desiree Kearney. “We love hip-hop. We love house [music]. We love everything about the city. But unfortunately, we’re being forced out of it.”

Housing advocates in Newark — who, like Kearney, believe a slow tide of gentrification is washing over the city and pricing out locals — are campaigning to put a referendum question on the ballot in November that would tighten a rent control ordinance.

Until this year, landlords that spent $5,000 per room in renovations could raise rents by 20 percent. In March, the city council and Mayor Ras Baraka dropped the threshold, allowing landlords to tack on that extra 20 percent if they spent the equivalent of eight months of rent to renovate a unit. Now, housing advocates want to roll back that measure.

Drew Curtis, director of community development and environmental justice at the Ironbound Community Corporation, said it is hard for a family earning the city’s median income of $34,000 a year to afford such large rent hikes. The tenants’ advocates must get nearly 1,200 signatures for their proposal to be put on the ballot.

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