The new rent control ordinance in Montclair will bring dignity for many essential workers in our community. I know this because although I am now a Montclair homeowner, that was not always the case.
I attended and graduated Montclair High back in 1996 and lived in a two-bedroom apartment with my parents and three sisters. Though a bit snug, my mother, a nanny to a lawyer and neurosurgeon in Upper Montclair, was struggling to get home before 8 p.m. on a school night to sit and have dinner with her daughters back in Newark. So my parents (a dual-income household) downsized what seemed an ample three-bedroom apartment in Newark and moved to Montclair.
I mention all of this because now as we view all the lawn signs throughout our town celebrating the “essential workers,” we can also celebrate Montclair’s new rent control ordinance. These essential workers are the nannies, the grocers, restaurant owners and their employees. They’re the cops, healthcare workers, ambulance drivers, cleaners, the cashiers and countless others. All of them are the heartbeat of Montclair. As residents it is important to have rent control for the heart shouldn’t be pushed out as demand grows to live in our town as people flee the city to bigger apartments and green space.
The fact is that if my mother had to make this decision today, she probably would not be able to make it. This is because between 2000 and 2018, the proportion of Montclair renters who paid more than 30% of their income on rent increased from 8% to 43%. In addition, from 2000 to 2019 the number of Black residents declined 26%. And lastly, my blue-collar essentia- worker family simply would not afford to live here, since from 2000 to 2018, the number of upper-income households grew by 29% and lower and middle-income households declined by 14% and 12%, respectively.
The story continues but under different boxes. My parents, now retired, are in a similar situation, now living on a fixed income. As a millennial who is starting to face the reality of aging baby boomer parents, rent control is dignity FOR ALL. It breaks the stigma of the rat race and protects the most vulnerable. Our lawn signs are not empty words. Having rent control in Montclair (already a reality in our neighboring towns like West Orange, Bloomfield, Verona and many others) will allow essential workers to replenish their cup, after serving our community by sitting at their own dinner table with their family.
Nadia Liz Estela
(Editor’s note: An Essex County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that Montclair’s rent control ordinance can go into effect without first going to voters. The Montclair Property Owners Association has said it intends to appeal that ruling and seek a stay.)
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