Jersey City’s Change of Heart on Airbnb 

Mayor Steve Fulop: Jersey City’s change of heart on Airbnb.

The 1970s pop band Stealers Wheel may well define how many people in Jersey City feel in regards to the war over outlawing shortterm rentals when the band sang, “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.” 

If you’re confused by the rhetoric being flung around by both sides like so much horse manure, there is good reason. 

Facts seem to be taking a back seat to a political power struggle with both sides desperate make their case to the public ahead of a Nov. 5 ballot iniative that could undo a council ordinance that slammed the door on short-term rentals except for a select few of local residents required to live in the building and can rent no more than three apartments. 

Although the city council touted as ton of figures as to why short term rentals are damaging to Jersey City, many of these facts and figures do not hold up under close scrutiny  — such as short term rentals causing a shortage of rentals when Jersey City has more rental units in the construction pipe line than any city in the state, possibly the nation. 

Facts behind the council ban are sketchy at best, based on limited research into the actual effects of short-term rentals. 

Airbnb, the main platform for the short-term rental market has been pushing hard to keep the market in Jersey City open and is pouring money into a campaign to reverse the council ban. 

Those supporting the ban such as Mayor Steven Fulop have been citing horror stories, marching out police and fire officials to tout the dangerous situations that can occur as a result of short-term rentals – stuff fit for Halloween houses of horror. Fulop and others claim unregulated short-term rentals increase the danger to the public. 

The only problem with this logic is that Airbnb has already agreed to many of the reforms the city proposed such as having an on-site manager, allowing short term rentals to be registered by the city, and to allow city health inspectors access to these units. 

What Airbnb objects to is the ordinance limiting non-owneroccupied shortterm rentals to 60 days a year – hardly worth the investment of millions in purchasing property. 

The Jersey City Education Association, who is supporting the ban, went as far as to say they opposed strangers wandering the neighborhoods – as if an army of tourists with their roll along luggage in a rush to make the PATH train to Manhattan might pose a threat to school kids crossing local street. This is a far cry from the sales pitch four years ago when city officials were touting the Airbnb crowd as having no impact on local schools while promising to flood local businesses with tourist cash. 

As in Manhattan, the battle over Airbnb appears to be about protecting hotels – which is largely why hotel workers unions are out in mass to support the ban, and other unions are coming out to support the hotel workers.  

To understand just how significant the change of city rhetoric has been from when the city legalized short term rentals, you have to go back in time to listen to what was coming out of the mouths of politicians back in 2015 – when cities like Jersey City have found it difficult to fight the popularity of new technology-based companies like Airbnb, where people rent out their own apartments or rooms via the internet, largely ungoverned by local hotel laws. 

When the city council voted to legalize shortterm rentals, it was looking at the 6 percent hotel tax the city could collect from the more than 300 rental properties then operating in Jersey City. 

This allowed Jersey City to become one of the few cities to require short-term rentals to pay.  

Fulop, at the time promoting the approval, cited the city’s inability to keep ahead of the technological curve. 

We just dont have enough inspectors to deal with all of the places that are being rented, said Fulop. 

Airbnb guests book their reservations through a website, and the guests paid Airbnb paid the city its tax. At the time, the city estimated this to be around $1 million annually – which according to Airbnb turned out to be very accurate. 

In Jersey City, we embrace the future, and thats what companies like Airbnb are: the future, said Mayor Fulop. Airbnb is incredibly popular and growing rapidly, and while some people might have concerns about the sharing economy upending old ways of doing business, the best way to address those concerns is by engaging with these companies, not pretending they do not exist. In the words of Bill Clinton, You have to make change your friend. And thats what weve done here by working with Airbnb.  

At the time, Fulop also claimed that Airbnb would expand tourist capacity to Jersey City by supplementing the city’s 13 existing hotels.  

Airbnb is going to let Jersey City expand its tourism industry and draw even more visitors from all over the world, all while allowing residents to take advantage of the popular platform, said then Ward E Councilmember Candace Osborne. 

The problem with the ban if it is upheld by voters is that it won’t stop shortterm rentals, but simply send landlords and renters to places like Craig’s List where they will continue to do business – without the protections Airbnb and other platforms offer, such as insurance and client reviews. 

And if the city didn’t have enough inspectors in 2015 to deal with the illegal hotels, 2020 may be worse. 

Back in 2015, Fulop seemed to understand how impossible it is to hold back the tide of progress, and how in an era of shared services such as Uber, old government models are illequipped. In some ways, the Jersey City ordinance is like holding a finger in a dike to keep the inevitable flood from coming. 

The change is happening now, Fulop said in 2015. Whether it is Uber, new music platforms or Airbnb, technology is changing the world. We need to make this our friend because we do not have the ability to control it. On any give day, people rent 300 to 400 units through Airbnb, and we have no ability to regulate it. 

Almost contradicting his current position, Fulop defended the Airbnb deal back in 2015. 

This will allow our inspectors to laser in on the bad actors, rather than everybody, Fulop said. 

In more current statements, Fulop and the police and fire unions appear to believe the opposite is true, and that banning short-term rentals is the answer instead. 

Back in 2015, Fulop said it was unrealistic in modern times to prohibit the practice. 

If your neighbor rents to someone down the block, its impossible for you to know, or for us to enforce, he said. Technology is outpacing us. We need to work with it to come up with a reasonable outcome. And there is a big benefit. 

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41 responses to “Jersey City’s Change of Heart on Airbnb ”

  1. Al, I am disappointed. I’ve always recognized you as a journalist, not an opinion columnist – and even there, this article is a great disappointment. The regulation already exists. The only issue is to keep it (YES) or kill it (NO) – but for to use use absolutes like “ban” and “outlaw” makes it clear that you have not actually studied the ordinance.

    The law does not outlaw short term rentals (STRs). It simply blocks the conversion of non-owner occupied apartment buildings into unrelated, unlicensed, untaxed quasi hotels. The law explicitly allows the owner of a home to have STRs in his/her property. That is not a ban. They are no made into outlaws.

    If there are any outlaws it is anonymous people from outside Jersey City who operate hundreds of these STRs. They are sending out deceptive four-color postcards that repeat the lie. It is disappointing that your article noes not even mention them. You can do better than this, and I wish you would.

    • Al Suliivan’s Twitter handle says he’s a “journalist who has become a critic of a profession that has lost its objectivity.” LOL

  2. Wrong. You need severely punitive action to punish both renters, owners and companies who make a profit off the activity. That could include multiple thousand dollar fines, the risk of losing ownership, and perhaps, jail time. Then watch this fix itself.

    • Why? Are we not allowed to make money? Put sensible regulations to preserve Jersey City but regulate to prevent hotel industry.

      • Because people who want to make money don’t restrict the behavior of their short term tenants. They make noise, leave garbage,ignore condo rules, etc. Full time tenants behave better. That’s why.

        • Correct, but you need to regulate that behavior and not ban it. There are some companies which brings genuine and trouble free customers, who are getting punished. These companies run very stringent operation, background checks their customers and pay taxes same as hotel. No garbage issues, noise or partying issues – but this ordinance is shutting them down. Why? Infact, quality of life argument goes out of window because they won’t even allow these companies to operate right next to hotel. Why?

  3. Every major city is enacting regulation to deal with the problems directly caused by Airbnb in host communities. Boston and Washington, D.C. just enacted very similar regulations to those the jersey city council unanimously past in June. We are only here now because Airbnb and several out of town investors don’t like the ordinance, and are spending millions and millions to try and fight it. They have taken out TV ads, radio ads, internet ads, phone spam campaigns, direct mailers, all of which are spreading lies and misinformation. It’s quite shameful and disappointing that they so freely get away with it, and many people fall victim to the manipulation. I guess the most disappointing of all this is you and the journalist community. You are supposed to uncover and present the facts, and help objectively explain the situation to readers, protect us. Instead you write a fluff, biased, opinion piece, with not real facts on the underlying issues or even explaining what they are. This is one of the most important issues JC has faced in years, and you and the journalist community have dropped the ball so far.

  4. Yes every mega city is attempting to ban short term rentals. They fall short, people love them!

    Hotels hate them!

    Hotel lobbyists pay big cities to hate them too.

    Big cities are big tourist markets and the hotels dont want the average Joe to make a crumb.

    Greedy HTC and their fake outrage propaganda programming.

    You fight wars with dollars and thank God at least one STR Platform stood up behind the hosts.

    Imagine if the others defended their right to exist… oh thats right… the other ones list hotels too…

    Silence is very loud sometimes…

    Their is a bunch of noise but its clear Jersey City has been bought and paid.

    Lets see if Jersey City has the comkon sense to see clearly on Nov 5th.

    Will you allow Fulop to strip you of all of your property rights while he robs you in additional taxes?

    I see a lot of developments building up that will remain vacant and unsellable.

    • Fulop took money from hotels , above the table and under the table. Who built his home in Rhode island? You know? Dixon-whom he extended tons of beneefit in Jersey city. He is corrupt beyond imagination.

  5. Section 1G (page 5,6) Bans all non property owners from subletting short term, with no exceptions. Even with landlord approval and neighbors ok it’s not allowed. Enforcement action, fines and “penalties” This ordinance is the criminalization of home-sharing.

    Meanwhile Section 1B-1 (page 4,5) Puts no limits on home-shareable units in new or converted Condominiums and CoOps, simply write home-sharing in master deed or bylaws, owner does not need to live in unit only have address in association and there is no limit on how many units to be rented short term. Paving the way for large short-term rental developments.

    This ordinance is convoluted, and poorly thought out, possibly this was done on purpose. It is the duty of the ordinance writers and supporters to be clear on the law and communicate it truthfully, anything less is perpetuating fraud on the people. Fact is this ordinance is Economic Discrimination written in black and white. It won’t stop Airbnb and other short Term Rentals, it will only stop who can earn money with STRs and disenfranchise certain neighborhoods, homeowners and small business owners.

        • I’ll assume you are misinformed or understood it wrong. The Condo/Co-op provision you state also says that the owner of the unit has to be present, or can rent for the 60-days if not there. Page 5, paragraph E. That is not what you said, so you are spinning it, not me.

          • Nice try, paragraph E says 60 day limit when owner “ is not present”, this limit does not apply if you are within 2 hours to respond to any situation that may take place at unit, what you have cited doesn’t refute what I’ve said. Just more spin. You have to read exactly what is written, not what you’ve been told or what you want it to mean. Paragraph E does not say it has to be your primary residence, it says you must be present. It is explained “present” as being able to be on site within 2 hours.

          • Not sure if you truly misunderstand or are just lying and trying to confuse people with misinformation. The ordinance clearly says that 1) Condo’s and co-ops can do STR but that it is left up to the building associations or boards to decide if they allow it. Today, no high-rise condo or co-op in jersey city allows it. 2) Even if they did allow, the owner of the unit has to be present in the unit when doing STR, so you can not rent out the whole apartment, just a bedroom, and that can be done 365 days a year. 3) If the owner is not present, then can do STR for 60-days a year max. Read the ordinance yourself pages 4 and 5, here it is:,%20Mins,%20Res%20&%20Ord/2019%20Ordinances/OR2%202019%2006%2025.pdf

          • The condo rule puts no limits on how many condo units you can short-term, also you don’t have to be 100% owner. You don’t need to live in unit, just in building. So I could build a 50 unit condo tower, pay a live-in manager with salary and partial ownership. Boom, got me my new home-share hotel, the Marriott and Airbnb already have plans. This law won’t hurt the billionaires, just regular people doing what they can to pay their rent and mortgages.

  6. Hey Al, How much did Airbnb pay you to write this drivel? “Airbnb objects to is the ordinance limiting non-owner–occupied short–term rentals to 60 days a year – hardly worth the investment of millions in purchasing property”. How are commercial short-term rentals in residential buildings different to hotels other than that they do not have to follow dozens of rules and regs required for hotels?

    • Ok, then they should enforce the regulations on non-onwer occupied. Why are they banning non owner occupied. If you want to run the hotels you need tens of millions of dollars which means it is only meant for big corporationS like marriott.

    • Very bad argument. Did you ask the same question to Fulop , Solomon , how much htc paid them? Why htc is bankrolling the whole yes campaign?

      • Because they perceive this, rightly or wrongly, as getting after union jobs. Regardless, homes are built as homes not hotels. It is an absurd argument to say that existing rules allowed homes to be converted to hotels – it was never de jure.

        • Existing rules allowed investors to rent their based on short term rentals. Investors paid the price by valuing it accordingly. They shouldn’t down them now. They can create the new rule for new purchase. Think about it, someone buy homes thinking that they can do month to month rental. I am in process of purchasing property , 3 family home, to have tenants on month to month lease. City allows it today. Will it be fair , if two years from now, they change the rule or create new rule, that allows me to rent for minimum of 60 days. I don’t think that will be fair. I am waiting to hear your opinion.

        • If they perceive it as preserving Hotel union jobs, then Fulop will be very very vocal about it. But he didn’t even mention once, that he welcome support from hotel union , when in-fact they are behind whole votesyes campaign.
          BTW, I like this meaningful discussion unlike some people who discuss without logic.

    • Add the rules and regulations, grandfather existing units, where people have invested, but Fulop wants only thing, ban and force investors to take losses on their investment.

  7. As a Bayonne resident of 50+ years (until just recently) and a frequent AirBnB user I agree 100% with the article.
    Absolutely regulate it… and make the owners accountable for code infractions… but limiting the amount of rentable days as written in ridiculous !
    If there aren’t enough inspectors increase the tax to 7% make it apply to ALL short term rentals/hotels and get go some more damn inspectors !

    • It only limits the number of days if the owner isn’t present or doesn’t live there. If the owner is present you can do airbnb 365 days a year, nothing really changes for you! The regulation is focused on corporate investors who operate multiple properties and don’t live here. It doesn’t effect the regular JC resident owner.

      This explains it pretty well.

      • So, you make an investment in city, based on existing regulations and city makes u turn even when city hall is filled with people supporting airbnb. How is it fair? Imagine, you immigrated legally to USA and then same government changes their mind, we have lot of immigrants, let’s terminate their residency: how it will be fair to them. Similarly, investors saw an opportunity and they invested. Regulations, definitely regulate but putting a limit on how many bdays they can rent, this is ridiculous.

        • When things change, regulation must change. In 2015 there were less than 300 Airbnb listings and those doing it were doing it with he original intention of home-sharing and fostering community. Not being able to foresee what would happen, investors then exploited the situation for pure profit and created a cottage industry of defacto hotels. Now there are 3000 listings with 70% being investors with multiple properties and absentee, out of town landlords. Every major independent study shows this creates significant problems for neighborhoods and communities. If you bought an investment property, then rent it out to long term renters that benefit the neighborhood or sell the property.

          • That won’t cover mortgage payment. Those 3000 listings must be grandfathered. If same mayor made mistake, why are they punishing investors for it. I don’t think courts will agree with city.

          • How can $7500 per month for 3 family will support mortgage for 1.5mm + 25k in taxes? And maintenance, snow cleaning etc. @ 100% occupancy.

          • Then how did you get the mortgage? The banks don’t recognize STR income, they would only look at long term rental income to give you a mortgage. If the cash flow couldn’t support the payments, you would have had to put down more money.

  8. My family used Air B&B extensively during our search for a home in Jersey City. We loved being able to stay in the neighborhoods we were considering. We’ve used AB&B in many cities also and we’ve only had one bad experience with it. A neighboring unit stayed up all night partying and we had no way of addressing it. In a hotel you at least have management to contact.
    Now we own a home in Jersey City and we’ll still use AB&B when we travel but we aren’t excited at the prospect of a 2 family unit down the street with 5 bedrooms each turning into party houses. I don’t want AB&B banned, I just want to keep real estate Bros from buying up houses and turning them into high turnover rentals in our neighborhood. Keep the rules in place that exist now. No need to ban, just keep the lessors and lessees under control.

    • It is not a ban at all, it is just sensible regulation. The same regulation that airbnb endorsed in other cities like Boston and Washington, D.C. The focus is in the illegal airbnb hotels, not the average resident. If the owner of the property is present you can do airbnb 365 days a year, nothing really changes for you! The regulation is focused on corporate investors who operate multiple properties and don’t live here. It doesn’t effect the regular JC resident owner. Don’t be manipulated by the airbnb lies and propaganda. Learn the truth. Most people who say vote NO are either hired by airbnb or operate multiple properties.

      This explains it very well.

      • I never said it was a ban. I said I like AB&B but I want to see it regulated as well. It shouldn’t be the case where an absentee landowner can run a bunch of unregulated hotels in a neighborhood. Someone shouldn’t be allowed to buy up the vacant homes in a neighborhood and run a bunch of not-hotels. They should be present to take care of issues when they arise.
        Try reading my second paragraph.

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