Massachusetts Lawmakers Discuss Rent Control After Ballot Push Fails

Photo: Getty Images

BOSTON (State House News Service) — Against the backdrop of what elected officials on both sides of the aisle have called a "housing crisis" in Massachusetts, advocates took to Beacon Hill on Tuesday to try to convince lawmakers to advance a controversial policy to allow rent control in the state again.

There seems to be little appetite among state officials to enable the change. Gov. Maura Healey filed a massive housing bill last month, which notably excluded rent control; and the Housing Committee waited 11 months into the legislative session to schedule a hearing for bills related to prohibiting large rent increases.

But advocates who gathered Tuesday in support of a bill (H 1304 / S 872) that would revive local option rent control, nearly 30 years after voters banned it, said that it is an essential tool to address the housing affordability crisis that has forced tenants out of their homes.

Rep. Mike Connolly and Sen. Jamie Eldridge's bill would, among other things, allow cities and towns to prohibit landlords from raising rent over a predetermined percentage each year. Some housing advocates Tuesday recalled instances where their rents rose as high as 60 percent in a single year.

"The rent has gone up," said Athol resident Denise Crowl, who lives in a senior living community. "I live on Social Security. I'm by myself, I'm a widow. And I love my home and I love the people, but I struggle from month to month on whether to pay my rent or buy groceries and there's times when I can't afford both."

Read More: Bill Belichick Is Keeping His Lips Sealed On Reason For Waiving Jack Jones

Athol town government filed a home rule petition this year to allow the town to regulate rent in manufactured housing parks, such as Crowl's community. Municipalities cannot implement rent control without approval from the state -- and voters decided to ban the policy statewide in 1994. Connolly and Eldridge's bill seeks to give the power to regulate local rents back to cities and towns.

This controversial topic has attracted a well-funded opposition campaign, and a ballot campaign to put the question of rent control before voters failed last week.

Opponents with real estate interests argue that rent control inhibits housing production, discourages landlords from maintaining higher quality apartments, and drives down property tax revenue.

"Rent control reduces the supply of housing which drives rents up. It makes it more difficult for owners to keep up with rising operating costs, it leads to disrepair, and it makes it nearly impossible to remove non-complying tenants, not only to the detriment of owners and their properties, but also to the detriment of the other tenants who depend on us to provide them with safe, maintained living spaces," Amir Shahsavari, vice president of the Small Property Owners Association, said.

Written By Sam Drysdale / SHNS

Follow WBZ NewsRadio: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | iHeartmedia App | TikTok

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content