2021 Jan 1st

Happy New Year, Hoboken!

So what’s in store for 2021?

The housing market has weathered the pandemic pretty well in these parts.  Given the predictions for the economy to come soaring back once we get Covid under control, it’s likely housing will follow suit.  There is much talk about housing inequality and the disparities in the housing market being a foundational cause of segregation and discrimination.  It is certainly true in many places in our area.  I wonder what the actual demographic makeup is of Hoboken.  The 2020 census results, when released, should be informative.  There has also been much talk of the need for more affordable housing in our country.

This makes me wonder about a couple of things with respect to our city.  Exactly how much affordable housing exists in Hoboken?  How many housing units are in the Hoboken Housing Authority?  How many subsidized units are there in each of Church Square, Marine View, Marion Towers, the many subsidized units of Applied housing around town.  What percentage of our total rental units do the subsidized units represent?  How does that percentage compare with the percentage of our population in the lower income levels?  What do we desire the composition of our city to be and how should that be achieved?

More broadly, how many rental units are there in Hoboken and how many condos and how many single and multi-family homes?  How many new units are in the works with approvals on file?  How many of them are to be deemed affordable?  What is considered affordable in our area?  How has income makeup of the population of Hoboken changed over time and where is it headed?  Doesn’t the price and supply of housing determine the ability of people to live in a place?

Is there any control over who lives in the subsidized housing that already exists?  I have seen, in the past, apartments at Marine View advertised on AirBnB.  Should that be encouraged or prohibited?  Once a resident secures a unit at a subsidized property, is there any limit on their continued occupancy based on their income?  Their other assets?  Should we enable folks to increase their earnings, buy a shore house and reside in subsidized housing?  At whose cost is the absence of that unit from the housing market?

How does rent control play into our market?  Which buildings have rent-controlled units and which buildings are entirely exempt?  Why are those buildings exempt?  Who benefits and how?  How does the existence of rent control change the housing market?  Studies have been done about this issue.  Do you know what they have found?

Of course, there are major tax implications in all of these issues.  Most property owners pay property tax which funds local government and schools.  What effect does subsidized housing have on the flow of those taxes?  If a substantial percentage of the housing in a municipality is subsidized and the tax revenues therefore diminished, how does that affect other property owners and taxpayers?  One should be able to calculate specific numbers to answer these questions.  What is the impact of subsidized housing and rent control on the tax revenues?  If landlords are assessed based on their ‘rent roll’ income, and the rents are artificially low, does that not also result in a reduction of tax revenue?  Again, at what specific cost to the remaining taxpayers?

I’ve been studying the housing market in Hoboken for decade and have yet to be able to find significant information relevant to any of these questions.  Yet are they not important ones if we truly wish to begin to address housing inequality and fairness?  Do they not directly impact every property owner in town?  Why is this information not readily available?  Political considerations surely play a role in the long-standing lack of transparency about the real details of our housing market.  I have my own opinions about these issue but those are not relevant.  I write this to ask you to think about the questions and how the answers impact all of us.  Maybe it is time for a change in the discussion.

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