At a rally with supporters and community members outside of the city’s Housing Authority offices, New Brunswick mayoral candidate Charlie Kratovil laid out his Housing Justice Bill of Rights, a 10-point policy proposal to address the city’s growing housing crisis.
“Our city is increasingly unaffordable. And one of the major driving forces for people leaving New Brunswick is the high cost of housing” said Kratovil. “After conversations with the community and organizations committed to addressing the housing crisis, I’m announcing my Housing Justice Bill of Rights. This 10-point policy proposal will be the foundational framework to address this crisis, make more housing affordable, and finally end homelessness in our city.”
The full text of Kratovil’s Housing Justice Bill of Rights can be viewed below:
Housing Justice Bill of Rights for New Brunswick
Safe and affordable housing is a human right. Yet in New Brunswick, this is a luxury that many can no longer afford. Amid a national housing crisis, rent prices in New Brunswick have risen faster than almost anywhere else in the country. For the past 30 years, our city’s leadership has actively worked with corporations and real estate developers to tear down affordable housing and erect thousands of “luxury” apartments, leading to a situation where the city has thousands of vacant units while hundreds of people here have no home at all.
As Mayor of New Brunswick, Charlie Kratovil would put our residents first and work towards affordable, quality, safe and accessible housing for all.
The four Core Tenets of Charlie’s Housing Justice Policy:
- Affordability at the center of all housing policies
- Strong renters’ rights
- Compassionate and effective approach to tackling homelessness
- Promotion of home ownership
These are the guiding values that Charlie will take into account with his housing policy decisions and have informed the 10 policies below that Charlie will work to implement if elected Mayor.
1. Rent-to-Own program
New Brunswick has the lowest rate of home ownership of any city in New Jersey. To promote stable, long-term housing that will enable our residents to put down roots and build wealth in our community, we will launch a city-supported rent-to-own program aimed at helping low and moderate income residents afford a down payment to purchase the home that they’ve been renting. This program will help address the growing gap between renters and homeowners and provide a sustainable pathway for renters to build stability.
2. Stronger rent control measures
Rent control is a critical tool for keeping housing prices steady and affordable for current residents. While New Brunswick does have rent control for a portion of rental units, the yearly rent increase caps are arbitrarily set, poorly enforced, and the Rent Control Board has been largely inactive in protecting and promoting new rent control units. The Board met only once this calendar year. If elected, Charlie would reform the culture of inaction among the Rent Control Board, eliminate the arbitrary minimum annual increase, and allocate funding for staff tasked with educating tenants on their rights, effectively protecting and responding to tenant complaints, and actively enforcing rent control caps to protect affordability.
3. Right to counsel for renters facing eviction
Evictions are on the rise and fears of impending homelessness plague many of our residents. And while nearly every professional landlord has a lawyer to represent their interests, the vast majority of tenants are left to navigate this complex process on their own, not knowing their legal rights or what resources are available to help them. Establishing a right to counsel, like the one adopted by New Jersey’s largest city, Newark, will address this extreme power imbalance, keep people from losing their housing and becoming homeless, and help to ensure that renters finally get a fair shake here in New Brunswick
4. Improve the quality of existing housing
Much of the housing in our city is deteriorating as a result of a lack of resources for property owners or due to neglectful and predatory landlords. Charlie would work with property owners to strengthen and enforce the housing code with emphasis on violations that affect tenant safety and quality of life. We will also create a better system to monitor existing housing to determine which properties are in greatest need of repair, and support rehabilitation of distressed housing.
5. Inclusionary zoning
If elected, Charlie would enact an inclusionary zoning ordinance that ensures affordable housing units are part of all new major developments, and end the practice of developers being able to buy their way out of including affordable units in their luxury apartment projects. To that end, we propose to set a minimum standard of affordable units in all large developments similar to the standards set by Mayor Ras Baraka and his administration in Newark.
6. Remove redevelopment powers from the New Brunswick Housing Authority
The NBHA mission is supposedly to provide decent, affordable housing for families in need. But the agency has been saddled with a fully separate mission to act as a redevelopment agency, which is regularly at odds with its mission as a housing authority. With skewed priorities pushed by the current administration, the NBHA has all but abandoned its mission of affordability and proceeded to rubber stamp the gentrifying, luxury apartment projects that have pushed up the cost of housing for all of us. If elected, Charlie would remove their powers and reassign redevelopment responsibility to the elected officials of the City Council.
7. Housing First
Homelessness has long been a crisis in our city, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it exponentially worse. We know that criminalizing homelessness is as ineffective as it is inhumane, and half-hearted attempts to provide temporary shelter or sporadic resources do nothing to solve the root problem. Addressing homelessness means providing stable, permanent housing, and to do that, we will build emergency housing units to provide safety and dignity to those who are struggling deserve here. As mayor, Charlie would work with leading local nonprofit organizations, and invest in building permanent supportive housing for those members of the New Brunswick community who need it. Charlie would also facilitate comprehensive services for newly-housed residents who need help getting back on their feet, securing employment, and accessing mental health and addiction services.
8. Incentivize landlords to price units affordably
Over the past three decades, the current administration has engaged in a pattern of inaction on affordable housing and systemic favoritism toward the wealthy. As a result, thousands of housing units in our city sit empty, despite the immense need for affordable housing among our residents. For many property owners, it pays more to set rent prices high and wait for wealthier tenants to come along, than it does to set affordable rents to meet the needs of the city’s current residents. Our administration would provide resources to tenants and landlords to change this incentive structure and prioritize the needs of current low-income residents.
9. Environmental justice zoning
Housing, health and environmental issues are interconnected areas that affect quality of life in our city. In New Brunswick, it is not uncommon to see housing in close proximity to industrial sites and contaminated land. If elected, Charlie would work to protect residents from the negative health outcomes associated with residing next to industrial zones, and shape future zoning decisions to create a better future for all residents across our city.
10. Rejecting long-term tax exemptions for developers that do not fund our schools
Good housing and good schools should go hand in hand. The current administration has promoted a toxic development culture that sabotages our school system. Our schools serve children from all housing areas in the city and rely on property taxes to support their vital functions. But the current administration has a pattern of approving every long-term tax exemption that’s been before them, furthering the divide between the rich and poor, and allowing them to skip out on paying property taxes and funding our public schools. These deals last for up to 30 years. As mayor, Charlie would ban this practice and defend our children and public schools by requiring developers of new housing to support our school systems and pay their fair share for the next generation.