William Scott, chairman of the Montclair NAACP’s Housing Committee, wants feedback from township residents on rent stabilization. COURTESY WILLIAM SCOTT

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

The Montclair branch of the NAACP is looking for community feedback on the issue of rent stabilization, soliciting comments on the civic-engagement platform PlanetCivic.

William Scott, chairman of the local NAACP’s Housing Committee, is trying to determine if rent stabilization should be the topic of a community workshop event or be brought before the Township Council. Several attempts to institute rent control in Montclair have failed.

“I have been asked to assess this important question,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “This is a complex issue that requires meaningful input from the community. Therefore, we are inviting all Montclair residents to indicate if rent-control regulation is necessary, and if the township of Montclair should update and enforce Montclair’s current multifamily building ordinance.”

He cited U.S. Census data that found that, as of 2015, 35 percent of Montclair tenants pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent, which state and federal guidelines characterize as a “cost burden” situation. Scott suggested an annual rent-increase cap of 5 percent for the township.

Scott is asking residents to vote on his proposal in a survey on PlanetCivic, and wants to get is at least 500 respondents before the year’s end so that he has a big enough sample to be valid.

The link to vote is https://www.planetcivic.com/r. The site will require registration to ensure that only Montclair residents participate in the survey.

Scott is also soliciting suggestions and comments via the comments section in PlanetCivic.

Other Essex County cities such as Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Verona, West Orange, South Orange and Bloomfield have already implemented rent control, and the issue isn’t new to Montclair, according to a press release that Scott issued Tuesday.

“There were four previous attempts to tackle this issue over the past 50 years,” the release said. “In 1979 a rent control plan was voted down 62 percent to 38 percent. The issue returned in the 1983 election and seven members of the town council advocating for rent control won.”

According to the press release, “In 1986 a special referendum failed and in 2003-2004 a recommendation was pulled out of [the] 2004 Montclair Affordable Housing Strategy Plan. As per the U.S. Census Bureau, 35 percent of the tenant households in Montclair in 2015 (2,171) were cost burden, which federal and state guidelines define as paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent. Regarding possible recommendations for the township of Montclair, Mr. Scott sees annual rent increases tied to inflation and capped to 5 percent as a potential solution.”