Councilman says Journal Square is rising at the expense of local residents. He has a plan to help them survive.

Journal Square has become a hotbed of residential development, but the Jersey City neighborhood’s revitalization comes at the expense of longtime locals, the borough councilman said.

From several high-rise buildings — some as high as 64 stories — to the transformation of the historic Loew’s Jersey Theater into a state-of-the-art concert venue, to the French art museum Pompidou opening a location in Jersey City, there are countless examples of the region’s rebirth.

But the development has put a financial strain on residents who have called the area home for years, says Councilman Rich Boggiano, who represents the area, and are leaving “like crazy” because of the high cost of living.

I’ve seen a lot of my neighbors leave here; “Renters who have lived here for years and years and years and just can’t afford to live here anymore,” Boggiano said. “It’s a shame. I want to see what’s left of our society remain like ours.”

To help keep longtime residents in Journal Square, Boggiano is introducing legislation that would mandate a minimum of 10% affordable housing in all new major developments in the neighborhood.

The legislation, scheduled to be sent to the city Planning Board for review, would specifically impose requirements for residential or mixed-use developments with 30 or more units and rehabilitation projects with 50 or more units in the Journal Square 2060 redevelopment plan.

Projects with fewer than 30 units or those built for the Jersey City Housing Authority or nonprofit projects that contain at least 50% affordable housing will be exempt.

According to the legislation, only 198 of the 22,056 units built or planned in Journal Square, or just under 1%, are affordable housing, and only 123 units are in the area covered by the affordable redevelopment plan.

“Communities are being destroyed with these developers,” Boggiano said. “They come and demolish homes. “Developers from New York (and) coming from other places, they don’t care much about the people who live here, and I’m tired of that.”

Rising rents have pushed Jersey City to the highest rental prices in the state and nation. A report by rental website Zumper said the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city costs $3,280, the second highest price in the country next to New York City.

The city’s affordable housing rules state that the average rent for low- and moderate-income units will be no more than 52% of the median income, and the maximum rent will be no more than 60% of the median income. The various rental prices for apartments in Journal Square range from $2,900 to $6,500.

The legislation has the support of local leaders and organizations such as Council Members Yusuf Saleh, James Solomon and Frank Gilmore, the Fair Housing Center (FSHC) and the Journal Square Community Association (JSCA), which worked with Boggiano on the law.

“We hope for future projects that this change in the redevelopment plan will fix some of the issues we have with lack of affordability,” said Tom Zuba, JSCA president.

While Gilmore said he would like to see the number of affordable housing units range from 15% to 20%, he believes 10% is a “good starting point.” Saleh also said that 10% would be a “fair point” to start with and should be increased over time.

Solomon said he hopes the city and council don’t allow “perfect (to) be the enemy of good. … We need more affordable housing, and this will help get it.”

“Redevelopment and growth must not come at the expense of working families and communities of color,” said FSHC spokeswoman Alex Staropoli. “Maintaining affordability is a key component of preventing displacement and must be part of any comprehensive racial, social, and economic inclusion strategy.”

Jersey City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said the city “applauds Boggiano’s efforts to increase affordable housing, and we share that priority,” but said there were legal issues with the ordinance that “conflict with state law.”

She noted that the city previously approved a comprehensive zoning ordinance, which incentivizes developers to set aside 10% to 15% of units for affordable housing. Wallace Scalcione also said a 2018 court decision stipulates that municipalities cannot impose an affordable housing component without compensating the developer.

As written, Boggiano’s proposal says nothing about incentives for developers in Journal Square.

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