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Barry Gardens v. City of Passaic

Decided: September 27, 1974.

BARRY GARDENS, A JOINT VENTURE, MILAN ASSOCIATES, INC., PAULISON ASSOCIATES, INC., CORPORATIONS OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, THE TOWER APARTMENTS, A PARTNERSHIP, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF PASSAIC, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF PASSAIC COUNTY, NEW JERSEY, AND RENT LEVELING BOARD OF THE CITY OF PASSAIC, DEFENDANTS. ANTHONY IAFELICE AND F. WILLIAM KOESTNER, A PARTNERSHIP, TRADING AS K. & I. LAUNDROMAT, PLAINTIFFS, V. CITY OF PASSAIC, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION IN THE COUNTY OF PASSAIC, NEW JERSEY, AND RENT LEVELING BOARD OF THE CITY OF PASSAIC, DEFENDANTS



Schwartz, L., J.c.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Schwartz

In these consolidated actions in lieu of prerogative writs brought by owners of apartment buildings in the City of Passaic, the validity of the rent levelling ordinance, as amended, is attacked.

Since the ordinance is presumed to be valid, Garden State Racing Ass'n v. Cherry Hill Tp., 42 N.J. 454, 464 (1964), plaintiffs bore the burden of establishing its invalidity. Their original thrust was to urge the exercise of the police power in the area of rent stabilization was unjustified by reason of the absence of an emergency in available public housing accommodations in the city.

Plaintiff failed to support this contention by the presentation of affirmative evidence in this respect. On the other hand, I am satisfied from the testimony of Miss Grace Harris, who eminently qualified as a planning expert and who prepared a housing analysis in 1973, that the City of Passaic, as one of the oldest urban centers of population, has not been immune from a serious shortage of housing facilities, and

I find as a fact from the testimony adduced that a housing shortage of emergency proportions exists in the City of Passaic.

However, the court has concluded that this issue may no longer be considered in determining the validity of a local rent control ordinance.

According to the statistics compiled by the United States Census Bureau from the 1970 census, New Jersey contains a more numerous population (953.1 persons) per square mile than any other of the 50 states in the Union.

The urgent nature of housing unavailability in the State to accommodate its citizens was outlined by Governor Cahill on December 7, 1970 in a special message to the Legislature, A Blueprint for Housing in New Jersey, describing the housing crisis:

The current problems with which we are confronted are familiar to each one of us. Most young married couples are prohibited from purchasing a home because of existing housing prices. Huge segments of our work force, although earning more today than ever before, are confronted with the same problem. Tenants in many areas of our State are facing substantial increases in rent, many of whom can ill afford it, but are unable to find apartment vacancies elsewhere. Our senior citizens living on fixed incomes cannot continue to pay the spiralling property taxes on their homes, nor the high rental cost of an apartment, if any at all are available. These people, the young and the aged, the teacher and the mechanic, white and black, are thrifty and respectable citizens, yet they are foreclosed from decent and adequate housing at a reasonable cost in areas of their choice. The reason is obvious. There is a complete inadequacy of single and multi-family dwellings, and the law of supply and demand is raising the cost of the existing housing out of the reach of the average man. So the problem is present, and it is critical!

The economy and the housing situation throughout the State continued to deteriorate, and N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 was amended in several respects by the Legislature in L. 1974, c. 49, including the following:

4. No landlord may evict or fail to renew any lease of any premises covered by section 2 of this act except for good cause as defined in section 2.

Section 2 specifies the only "causes" permitting removal of a residential tenant by the court, such causes not including the right previously held by the landlord to secure possession after termination of a lease or to terminate a month-to-month tenancy upon a mere 30-days' notice.

The withdrawal from property owners in every municipality of the right of dispossession on the basis of a mere notice to quit or termination of leasehold, which has been a recognized incident of property ownership from the time of Henry VIII (Steffens v. Earl, 40 N.J.L. 128, 133 (Sup. Ct. 1878)), would not be constitutionally justified unless an emergent housing shortage made it almost impossible for dispossessed tenants to locate other housing accommodations. The landlord is denied the right of eviction for the purpose of self-occupancy, of selection of his tenant, and of rehabilitation of the premises.

Though unexpressed in the statute, the conclusion must be reached that the Legislature implicitly but unquestionably recognized the existence of a rental housing emergency throughout this State, and in furtherance of a public policy to relieve hardships arising from such housing unavailability it withdrew the previously ...


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