The Montclair Property Owners Association appreciates the Local’s attention to the prospect of rent control in Montclair, including a recent letter from a homeowner, Keith Kefner, who rents an apartment in his house and who also noted that he was rewarded by previous occupation of rent-controlled units.

This sort of letter represents today’s “govern for me” perspective, in which every person weighs the success of a law based on personal interests. That is the beginning of division, and it is no more prevalent than on the Montclair Council’s treatment of this issue.

Apparently immune to thoughtful policy, the council is responding to a law that was borne of competing campaign promises in the most recent mayoral election. It is very rare to find a council that would blindly and without the benefit of analysis or research simply then adopt property rights policy put forth in the campaign literature of a candidate who won as specious a victory as any candidate in recent memory. And it is that same council that would point to a person who is exempt from rent control for the one unit that they rent – and defend their ordinance based on his letter to the editor. But here we are.

The only legitimate discussion of rent control policy in Montclair, outside of, is on these pages under the byline of Jaimie Winters. The impassioned case made by the tenant organization, that people with lower incomes benefit from rent control, is neither true based on any sincere academic study that we are aware of, and it does not address the issue of whether there are better ways of identifying people who need help and supporting them. But even if rent control were a legitimate policy for Montclair, the rent control that is proposed would choke the entire market and bloat the township’s budget unnecessarily to achieve its purpose. If we are going to have rent control, why not have good rent control that is thoughtful, balanced and fair?

As far as the current litigation around the certification of a referendum to prevent rent control from being enacted is concerned, the only conclusion could be that cynicism spreads as brutally as COVID, and the administration caught it from the council. The lawsuit centers around a dereliction of duty by the clerk, who was provided a conforming petition under the law and refused to follow the state’s process for certifying signatures during COVID. The grounds for rejection are as meritless and exploitative as the construction of the ordinance itself.

In the end, because a governing body refused to hear the position of an affected constituency within its jurisdiction in favor of winning talking points with another affected constituency, everyone is set up to lose, because ultimately this ordinance will face a vote by the public, and the side that is defeated will suffer greatly when there was truly a win for everyone.

Ron Simoncini
Montclair Property Owners Association
Executive Director

(Editor’s note: An Essex County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that Montclair’s rent control ordinance can go into effect without first going to voters. The Montclair Property Owners Association has said it intends to appeal that ruling and seek a stay).


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