In the beginning of the pandemic, the previous Township Council voted to freeze rents on most rental units in Montclair. It's something that I voted for six times to cover the balance of 2020 and all of the year 2021 to support tenants who were struggling.

Having grown up in rent-controlled and then regular rental housing until I was 37 years old, I've been a tenant most of my life. But I feel strongly that in these roles we have to be stewards of the bigger economic picture and particularly in my position, representing the entire town, I have to balance various interests and be mindful of the impacts of these decisions. I don't feel right about voting to raise taxes by 2% two years in a row and voting to increase sewer bills, and then not allowing landlords to increase rents even modestly to meet their increased expenses that we've imposed.

Being a landlord doesn't equal being wealthy. There are many landlords who rely solely on rental income as income, particularly in a place like Montclair where a Social Security check just doesn't cut it.

I know that my votes to extend the rent freeze frustrated some landlords, and I know that my votes to discontinue the rent freeze will frustrate some tenants. Gas prices are higher, the cost of food is higher and many tenants continue to struggle, and I get that. But I see it as our job to find other ways to help, including pursuing more aid from a state government with a significant surplus, rather than asking landlords to continue to bear the full burden.

As we are just days away from spring, with the pandemic having subsided dramatically, schools open full-time, record-high inflation and record-low unemployment, I feel that supporting a freeze through Memorial Day is irresponsible and undermines our credibility should we need to enact something like this again in a future crisis.

Freezing rents is not a substitution for an affordable housing strategy or for rent control. The rent control bill that the previous council enacted in 2020, which both tenant groups and landlords have characterized to me as being significantly flawed, has been held up in litigation ever since. I continue to believe that compromise is within reach and that with a new approach and some new folks at the table, we could potentially bring this ordeal to a close and get rent stabilization in place swiftly without a divisive referendum that I'm fearful may leave Montclair without any tools to combat the rising rents that are pushing out individuals and families who built this town and make it such a great place to be.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be transparent, honest and straightforward as I always promised I would be, whether my position was popular or not.

Peter Yacobellis
Montclair Township councilman at-large


Montclair Local's Opinion section is an open forum for civil discussion in which we invite readers to discuss town matters, articles published in Montclair, or previously published letters. Views expressed and published in this section are solely those of the writers, and do not represent the views of Montclair Local.

Letters to the editor: To submit a letter to the editor, email letters@montclairlocal.news, or mail "Letters to the Editor," PO Box 752, Montclair, NJ, 07042 (email is preferred). Submissions must include the name, address and phone number of the writer for verification. Only the writer's name and town of residence will be published. Montclair Local does not publish anonymous opinion pieces.

Letters must be no more than 500 words in length, and must be received by the Sunday prior to publication to be eligible for use in any Thursday print issue. Letters may be edited by Montclair Local for grammar and style. While our goal is to publish most letters we receive, Montclair Local reserves the right to decline publication of a letter for any reason, including but not limited to concerns about unproven or defamatory statements, inappropriate language, topic matter far afield of the particular interests of Montclair residents, or available space.

Town Square: Montclair Local also accepts longer-form opinion essays from residents aiming to generate discussion on topics specific to the community, under our "Town Square" banner. "Town Square" essays should be no more than 750 words in length, and topics should be submitted to letters@montclairlocal.news at least seven days prior to publication.