Rents have skyrocketed through the years in Boston, much of Massachusetts, and across the country. Unfortunately, salaries have not kept up with rising rents, and a state bill proposed by state Rep. Nika Elugardo wants to allow local municipalities the ability to reenact rent control in the Commonwealth.
A hotly contested statewide ballot question banned rent control, 51 % to 49% across Massachusetts in 1994. At the time only Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge had rent control.
"The current Rent Control Prohibition Act prohibiting rent regulation 'policy is based on the belief that the public is best served by free market rental rates for residential properties,'" said Elugardo in closed door testimony on January 14 (Rep. Elugardo, D-15th Suffolk, provided her talking points to Jamaica Plain News. "In the 25 plus years since this law was passed we have found this statement to be not only wildly false but also counterproductive to the felt needs of Commonwealth residents across the state. The voter base that upheld this policy shift has been through a lot and has evolved on many issues, including and especially housing."
Elugardo pointed to other states such as Oregon, New York, and California that have been successful.
The Tenant Protection Act is co-sponsored by state Rep. Mike Connolly, D-26th Middlesex. The bill would repeal the rent control prohibition created in 1994, and provide municipalities the option of enacting rent control. The bill would allow municipalities to limit rent control to specific zones within its boundaries, so areas deemed to be experiencing a housing crisis could be affected.
The bill would also, subject to local exemptions, ban a landlord from evicting a tenant without just cause such as failure to pay rent, damage to the unit, or illegal activity.
"Private markets are not designed to address this problem, and in fact they inherently exacerbate it," said Elugardo. "Housing is a market area of near inelastic demand, meaning people are willing to pay whatever they have to to get the level of housing they need."
Elugardo said half of the people living in Massachusetts biggest cities are rent burdened by spending more than 30% of the income on rent. In cities like Boston, a quarter of renters are spending 50% of their income on rent.
There is also another state bill proposed by state Rep. David Rogers, D-24th Middlesex, focused on create rent control. That bill would create rent-increase caps that would allow increases with whatever is less between the annual change in the consumer price index for the area, or 5% per year. Renters would qualify for the protection if they earn 80% or less of the area median income.
Gov. Charlie Baker has stated he is against rent control, while Mayor Marty Walsh said he's open to the idea of it, and would support municipalities having the option to choose for themselves, reported WBUR.
Several Boston City Councilors testified in favor of the bill, including City Council President Kim Janey, and At-Large City Councilors Michelle Wu and Julia Mejia.