Murphy pocket vetoes condo conversion bill at legislative sponsors’ request (updated)

Daniel J. Munoz//January 21, 2020//

Murphy pocket vetoes condo conversion bill at legislative sponsors’ request (updated)

Daniel J. Munoz//January 21, 2020//

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On Tuesday, the governor vetoed a bill at the request of its legislative sponsors that would have put a pause on property owners converting apartments they own into condominiums, potentially shattering property values for many owners.

Senate Bill 2957 would have enacted a five-year moratorium on these “condominium conversions” in any New Jersey county with at least 500,000 residents and 8,500 residents per square mile—a mold that only Hudson County fits.

Jersey City
Jersey City. – FILE PHOTO

The three sponsors – Sen. Brian Stack, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro – all worried the bill went far beyond its original intent, which was to slow down redevelopment and ward off gentrification in nearby Union City.

“This amendment to the Tenant Protection Act was intended to be limited to Union City and address housing affordability concerns while the city examines how best to protect tenants without impeding economic growth,” reads the joint statement from the three lawmakers, all Democrats from 33rd Legislative District.

A last-minute amendment added on Jan. 9 – five days before the end of the voting session – would have extended the effects of the legislation to nearby Jersey City, which opponents worried could plummet property values in the waterfront city.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. –

“I think the intentions were never to include all of Hudson County,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop told NJBIZ. “Unfortunately we all got put into this predicament. We’re happy that it was vetoed.

Fulop said that local officials were mindful on how to promote redevelopment without risking gentrification, but nonetheless wanted, “to make sure we’re increasing our ratable base” and not “to do anything that would hinder that or be too aggressive.”

The Jersey City Property Owners Association, for example, said that the measure would devastate property values in the city. Ron Simoncini, the JCPOA’s executive director, called it a “prime example of the stench emanated by lame ducks.”

“It is embarrassing that the Legislature itself failed to look hard enough at this to realize that its impacts are contrary to its intentions,” Simoncini added.

He argued that hundreds of properties cover the city, worth tens of millions of dollars, that could have taken a hit from the measure were it enacted.

The ban would have only extended to future buildings and rental units in Hudson County—conversions in progress would be allowed to proceed, while developers would still be able to construct new condominium buildings.

“And they don’t even see that this is not a Hudson County-centric issue: when people who need affordable housing can’t find it in Hudson, they are going to migrate elsewhere, bringing the social impacts and obligations to services with them,” Simoncini said.

This story was updated at 5:35 p.m. EST on Jan. 21, 2020 to include comments from Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.