the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Jersey City NJ , Today, members of the Jersey City short-term rental community, backed by Airbnb, turned in a petition with over 20,000 signatures, to challenge the ordinance — passed by the Jersey City Council and signed by Mayor Fulop last month — that will severely restrict residents’ ability to share their properties as short-term rentals.
The Jersey City short-term rental community launched their referendum campaign, with the help of Airbnb, late last month, after this ordinance was pushed through by Mayor Fulop and the City Council without significant input from local residents who rely on the short-term rental economy. The ordinance marks a stark reversal by Mayor Fulop, who championed and welcomed this community into Jersey City after legalizing short-term rentals in 2015. By suddenly changing the rules on the short-term rental community, Mayor Fulop is jeopardizing the livelihoods of thousands of Jersey City residents, potentially making it impossible for them to pay mortgages on their personal property and placing some in serious risk of bankruptcy or losing their homes.
Along with demonstrating widespread support for short-term rentals, community members today called on the City Council to revisit this potentially destructive ordinance and work with them to achieve common-sense regulations for short-term rentals.
“The petition we are delivering today is just the start of our fight — we’re calling on Mayor Fulop and the City Council to hear the voices of 20,000 Jersey City residents and find a real path forward for the short-term rental community,” said Nadia Sexton, Dmitri Ivanou, Andrew Elkins, Jeff Marino and Jeffrey Hauta, Jersey City residents, members of Jersey City’s short-term rental community and leaders of the referendum campaign. “By sharing our properties, our community has not only supported our own families, but we have also shared the benefits of the tourism economy with every corner of our city — lifting up the cleaners and property managers who we employ, local small business owners and countless others. Today, we stand together to demand that our government protect the opportunities we have created over the past four years.”
Once the signatures are confirmed and the petition is validated by the Jersey City Clerk’s office, the Jersey City Council will have the option to either repeal the ordinance or send it to voters, to decide whether they want to keep or reverse the ordinance.
“Today’s petition pushing back on this radical ordinance that unfairly restricts short-term rentals is a major step forward for Jersey City’s residents and its communities of color, in particular. Communities of color already experience higher rates of eviction and foreclosure, and this ordinance will only serve to put hundreds of families at greater risk of losing their home and potentially having to leave Jersey City altogether,” said the Rev. Nathaniel B. Legay, president of the NAACP Jersey City branch.
“Since Mayor Fulop first welcomed short-term rentals into Jersey City four years ago, thousands of residents have benefitted from the corresponding growth in the local tourism economy. But now, these residents may be in serious financial jeopardy, with some even at risk of foreclosure or bankruptcy — all because of the Mayor’s new anti-short-term rental ordinance, crafted based on politics rather than sound policy,” said Josh Meltzer, head of Northeast Policy for Airbnb. “We’re proud to stand with our community today as they exercise their right to make their voices head and bring the future of short-term rentals directly to the voters.”
A recent poll, conducted by Expedition Strategies, also demonstrated strong support among the Jersey City community for allowing residents to rent out their property through Airbnb, and broad-based opposition to the new ordinance that would severely restrict locals’ ability to share their properties as short-term rentals.
Specifically, the poll showed:
- A majority of Jersey City voters (63%) support allowing residents in their city to rent out their property through Airbnb as well as in their own neighborhood (62%) — and a majority of voters also oppose banning short-term rentals outright (57%).
- A majority of voters (54%) oppose the ordinance passed by the Jersey City Council and signed by Mayor Fulop (including 31% who strongly oppose the ordinance).
- An overwhelming majority of Jersey City voters say affordable housing is a problem in Jersey City (86%), but only 2% say the biggest reason for lack of affordable housing is short-term rentals like Airbnb driving up the cost of housing.
- A majority of Jersey City voters view Airbnb favorably (52%) — in fact, Airbnb is more popular than the Jersey City Council, which holds a 45% favorability rating.
Facts about the Short-Term Rental Community in Jersey City
There are 3,100 Airbnb listings in Jersey City. The vast majority of these listings are properties into which local residents have invested thousands or even millions of dollars to restore or maintain them. For some hosts, these properties may even be the home in which they live. If Mayor Fulop and the Jersey City Council’s ordinance is not repealed — effectively ending most of the short-term rental industry and the ability for local residents to rely on their properties as their livelihoods — many of these residents may have no choice but to sell their home in an attempt to recover their investment. Some have even said that they may be at risk of foreclosure and bankruptcy. One resident said they are fearful of losing their home, which has been in their family for more than 100 years.
In 2018, local residents earned $32 million by sharing their properties as part of the short-term rental community. For some local hosts, they have used this income to employ even more Jersey City residents, including property managers and cleaners. With that in mind, it’s fair to say that most of these dollars has been plowed back into the local economy, benefiting every corner of Jersey City. This income is money in the pockets of Jersey City families, which they use to pay their mortgage, afford their children’s education, or in the case of seniors, age in place in a city that they love — a lifeline that may be abruptly cut off if this ordinance is not repealed.
In 2018, the Jersey City short-term rental community welcomed 181,000 guests to the city. These visitors have come from all over the country as well as the world (the top six reported origin countries for guests are United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany and China) to take in Jersey City’s iconic views and renowned restaurant scene. And along with the income they create for their hosts, these tourists are generating exponential economic activity within Jersey City communities, with many guests spending the money that they saved by staying a short-term rental in order to enjoy local shops and other attractions. Across the United States, Airbnb guests have reported that they spend $160 per day when they travel, with 46 percent of that spending taking place in the community in which they stay. This too represents economic opportunity that will be cut short if Mayor Fulop and the Jersey City Council’s ordinance is not repealed and the short-term rental industry is dismantled by its provisions — including one that will require hosts to turn over their guests’ personal, private information.
In 2018, 96,100 Jersey City residents used Airbnb to travel. Along with the thousands of residents who rely on this industry to afford to live in Jersey City, tens of thousands more Jersey City residents also rely on short-term rentals for their own travel. And along with their own personal support for the short-term rental community, they too will feel the residual impact of the chilling of the local short-term rental economy — whether from neighboring properties that are foreclosed or businesses that take a hit from the drop in patrons — if this ordinance is not repealed.
Since beginning to collect and remit taxes in Jersey City in 2016, Airbnb has generated $4 million in tax revenue. In Jersey City, the tax revenue from short-term rentals contributes to the City’s general fund, helping to support anything from education to efforts to build affordable housing. Furthermore, this revenue is positioned to increase exponentially over time, as the tourism economy continues to grow in Jersey City. This past New Year’s Eve alone was historic for Airbnb in Jersey City, with local hosts welcoming more guests than ever before. As Jersey City faces various budget shortfalls — including extreme school funding cuts that led to the firing of nearly 300 teachers earlier this year — it cannot stand to lose this increasing tax revenue from short-term rentals, which will be in jeopardy if the ordinance is not repealed.