Massachusetts rent control ban to be debated on Tuesday

Lawmakers considering removing a statewide rent control ban are expected to hear from supporters pushing for action on “protections for tenants in urgent need” and from opponents who say any type of rent stabilization will reduce property tax collections and reduce housing production targets.

“There has been a rent control in Massachusetts at several points in history. They had it in the 1920s, 40s-50s and again in the 70s and beyond. There is no reason to conclude that we cannot simultaneously have housing production and tenant protection, ”said State Representative Mike Connolly.

The Cambridge Democrat is a major sponsor of one of two rent control bills submitted to the Legislative Assembly’s Joint Housing Committee on Tuesday. Connolly’s Tenant Protection Act would lift the statewide ban on rent control – or rent stabilization as the bill describes – and give municipalities local control and the ability adjust rent ceilings to meet the unique needs of their communities.

A second bill proposes to link rent ceilings to the consumer price index or up to 5%. The practice of rent control was banned in Massachusetts following a tight statewide referendum in the 1990s.

“Twenty-seven years after the real estate giants organized themselves to ban rent control ordinances in the Commonwealth, rents in many parts of the state have become beyond the reach of working families and in particular people of color. Massachusetts communities are facing displacement due to pre-pandemic forces, and the housing crisis has only been exacerbated by COVID-19 and unemployment, ”Homes For All Massachusetts said in a press release.

The coalition of housing advocacy groups will host a Zoom rally at 10:30 a.m. ahead of Tuesday’s hearing where tenants and landlords will come together to support rent controls.

More than 25,000 eviction notices have been filed with the Massachusetts housing court since the start of the pandemic, and the coalition says the number of no-fault evictions has increased rapidly since the start of 2021.

But a study commissioned by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and the National Apartment Association, which represent the interests of landlords, shows that rent controls could “dramatically reduce” the supply of apartments, property values ​​and tax revenues. in Boston and throughout Massachusetts.

Boston could lose $ 2 million a year in property taxes, which could drop as much as $ 7 million statewide, according to the study.

“As well-intentioned as the proponents of rent control are, the numbers confirm what economists, academics and landowners know – rent controls don’t work,” said Paula Munger of the NAA.

Oregon, New York and California have all enacted major tenant protection and rent control bills in 2020 amid widespread concerns about evictions in the era of the pandemic and the movement has won. ground in Democratic-led cities from Minneapolis to Boston.

Mayor Michelle Wu stressed that rent control is one of the main tenets of his housing plan, which aims to stabilize the city’s housing market, which is now one of the most expensive in the country.

If the legislature does not pass either bill allowing local control over rent stabilization, Wu said she plans to propose a right to the house petition allowing Boston the power to impose rent controls in the city, which lawmakers are expected to approve.

A city bylaw proposal to implement a “transfer fee” for sales of high-priced properties filed under former mayor Martin Walsh has died in the legislature.

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