A Jersey Shore housing coalition pushes for rent stabilization to stop gentrification from forcing Black residents out

Jersey advocates believe the city is forcing out less fortunate residents in favor of wealthy newcomers.

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A small group of Jersey Shore residents on the western side of Asbury Park successfully got enough signatures to potentially establish a rent stabilization ordinance.

Scheduled to be presented at the city’s public hearing on Dec 22., the Asbury Park Affordable Housing Coalition (APAHC), a group of volunteers and advocates, say rent stabilization would give Black residents the housing reform they been asking for 50 years.

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The western side of Asbury Park, plagued by $5M worth of damages from a riot that took place in the 1970s displacing several Black businesses and neighborhoods, was already in need of change before the pandemic struck the beach city.

Fast-forwarding to 2020, Asbury Park, best known as the place where legendary rocker Bruce Springsteen performed in his early days, is in the midst of six redevelopment plans. But some Black residents and social justice advocates believe the city is forcing out less fortunate residents in favor of wealthy newcomers.

“Fifty years ago, the need for rent control was seen as a necessity of equal rights. Now with the worldwide epidemic shuttering businesses and slashing jobs, the security of renters is ever more threatened,” Felicia Simmons, a founding member of the Coalition, wrote in a press release posted on Facebook per the Asbury Sun.

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“Many people in Asbury Park want this ordinance in place for protection. The cost of rental units in Asbury Park is rising at an alarming rate. This levels the playing field and puts fairness back into the equation,” Derek Minno Bloom, another founding member of the APAHC, wrote.

“The draft ordinance has been signed by more than 700 Asbury Park residents, who all agreed that something needs to stop the rapidly rising rent prices. One woman told me she is being pushed out of Asbury Park by the end of December because her rent is going to increase by $600 from last year.”

Rent stabilization, limiting increases on rent and extending more protection to those facing evictions, is meant to retain the Black community on the west side who feel their neighborhood is being gentrified at their expense.

In the proposed ordinance, Jersey Shore residents are demanding that John Moor, the mayor of Asbury Park, create a rent stabilization board, comprising of four tenants and three property owners as officers. The APAHC also wants to eliminate vacancy decontrol (which caps rents limits on vacant properties), cap rent increases to no more than 4%, limit increases on capital improvements on the affordable rental market, and emphasize local economic development.

“It’s time we put a mechanism in place that prevents the current community from being pushed out. We have to see what is possible and go after it to make our community fit our wants and needs. Practically everyone in Asbury Park can point to someone who has had to move due to rising rents,” resident and petitioner Maureen Nevin wrote on the press release. “This ordinance provides peace of mind for renters – the people and families who want to stay in Asbury Park.”

The more than 700 signatures, which were signed throughout the summer and fall, will be presented by the city council as an initiative petition, meaning if the petition gets rejected, the proposition becomes a public vote in the next municipal election.

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The town’s total population is about 16,000, and more than half of its residents are African-American.

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