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Rent control becomes issue in council races

The Bay State Banner talks to candidates for Boston City Council about rent control.



We should have on the ballot of the very next election a vote on rent control in Massachusetts.

We should have a referendum on the statewide ballot re whether individual cities and towns should be allowed to implement rent control if the majority of their voters choose it for themselves by local election.


When Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and the whole rest of the Bay State de-controlled, rents soared to really outlandish proportions almost overnight. As a former renter who's been a homeowner for the past 31 years, I'm aware of all that.

I lived in Cambridge for seven years after finishing art school in the spring of 1981, until the fall of 1988, and rent control was hanging on by the skin of its teeth the whole time I lived in Cambridge. It was crazy!

Clearly a tenant. Make sure the landlord (private owner). is covered also. Can we also include price control on every privately owned business?

That comment was made by an owner making a (un)subtle reference to that vote that ended rent control.

Economic illiteracy, how does it work?

Rent control is a stupid counter productive idea that refuses to die because people insist they can can something for nothing without the consequences catching up to them.


Rent control isn't free rent, it is price control. Doing nothing means that price gouging is legal. A growing portion of everyone's tax dollars is spent on homelessness. And we still have homeless people everywhere.

I am not sure that rent control is the best solution but landlords should not be protected from a problem all residents have to deal with.

I think that there should be more municipal housing, rather than expecting landlords to be social service agencies.


Free rent or price control, what does it matter? They both are market distortions that don't solve the problem. The idea that not allowing rent control protects landlords is absurd. What protects landlords is too little housing. Build more.

Who will pay the landlords bill when they exceed rent control?

Rent control is a disincentive for housing development. Lack of sufficient housing development is why the rent is so damn high and home ownership is so expensive.

There is a 40 year backlog of housing development in Massachusetts due to statewide rent control policies last century.

If you want to bring prices down and make them affordable, the solution is to allow for more development of the housing types people want. That means density in areas near employment centers and transportation lines, along with ending snob zoning preventing even new single family development in the suburbs without a golf course worth of land around a tiny shack.

Rent control is like a tourniquet that if left on too long kills the limb and eventually the patient dies from sepsis from the necrotic limb.


I just bought my condo last year as a way to limit my increasing housing costs. I own a single unit, and I also consider it an investment for retirement and/or buying new housing if I chose to move out of the area. I spent an ungoshly amount (and my former landlord gave me a good deal since I'd already lived in the unit for more than a decade!), but if rent-control is reinstated in Boston it will blow a huge whole in that investment. The property value will immediately plummet making re-sale difficult, and of course an artificial limit on the rent I could charge; possibly less than the mortgage I'm paying.

I've also lived under rent control in Boston, meaning I basically lived in a slum. It may result in short-term benefits for tenants, but it has long-term deleterious results.

Yes, we need to be working on the housing crisis in Boston, but rent-control has been tried and proven to be seriously problematic. Time for new solutions, not rehashing old ones we know will fail.


Buildings (not individual units) are/were designated rent control mandated if they exceeded a certain number of units in the building and the owner of the building have their legal residence in the building. Therefore condos are exempt - the only way that you could be affected is if the building was on the rent control lists prior to becoming condos and wasn't taken off - got a really good deal in the North End in the 90s because this happened and they wanted a good tenant during the court case over unpaid rent/refund (the tenant felt they were overcharged due to the previous rent control designation). I'm guessing that they'll start a new list if this gets reinstated so if it's a condo building at the time of reinstatement, it won't apply to your unit. try again

should have said not owner occupied in the building. I think above a certain number of units, it didn't matter if the owner lived there or not. Had one apt where the owner lived there to avoid rent control for the other units.

You're making some assumptions regarding the shape that rent control would take if it were brought back in Boston.

It would be next to useless if it exempted condos in this day an age because so many units on the rental market currently are in condo associations. That was just about the first thing many building owners did after the elimination of rent control back in the 80s; probably as a hedge against the return of rent control.


Who will be paying the property owners bills if this gets reinstated? All I see is costs that go up not down? Will the city cover them seeing as the tenants don’t want to? Curious!

Why would the property value plummet? I think at best, it would keep the property value from rising rather than making it go down. All rent control schemes which I've seen have locked in rent prices to current pricing + a set percentage. Rent prices aren't going to go down, they'll just stay the same.

Landlords costs do not stay the same and therefore owning a rental property becomes more of a burden to the landlord. This happens prices go down To create the market for sales

should have to subsidize 100% of your mortgage?

They may be pouring 50% of their wages into your property. Should you be griping if you have to put in more than 0% of your wages to pay off your condo?

Why in the world would someone lease a property for less than they're paying for it?


So that your tenants will pay an inordinate chunk of the money towards buying your property for you, that you will then enjoy 100% of the profits from when you flip it?

I take it that you prefer the term 'investor' over 'vulture' . .

First, it prevents landlords from gouging renters unnecessarily. This is not to say, however that a landlord can't get a raise if s/he thinks it's necessary, but they have to go through the rent control first. If a landlord's costs go up, then s/he has the right to raise rents accordingly, but no more than that.

Secondly, it protects renting tenants against retaliatory evictions, meaning that if a renter has a complaint about a repair that a landlord has gone derelict on, the landlord can't evict him or her in retaliation for lodging a complaint, and pressuring the landlord to do the necessary repair(s)

Thirdly, it puts a ban on condo-related evictions.

This is not to say that a tenant can't be evicted if absolutely necessary. Non-payment of rent, constantly disturbing other tenants late at night, and severe damage to property-i. e. malicious vandalism, etc., for example, are all legitimate reasons for eviction.

You are assuming price gouging I am a landlord and have eaten many a tenant screwings

Counterpoint: rent control has exactly its intended effects, by transferring wealth from wealthy landowners to renters who would otherwise be priced out of the market. Its negative effects on housing supply have been drastically overestimated by economists from the Chicago school, and its removal from Cambridge was a travesty. Anyone arguing otherwise is a property owner, a temporarily-embarrassed millionaire who aspires to be so one day, or incapable of grasping complex systems.


Rent control does a number of things

1. Reduces the investment in new buildings and renovations we desperately need
2. Encourages eviction & conversion to condos
3. Leaves existing stock to rot since you can't get market rate
4. Prevents tenants from re-locate when their life situations changes (like enduring long commutes because they don't want to lose rent)
5. Mis-allocates the people living in a unit, since people may be encouraged to maintain larger units than they need but its artificially cheaper than their alternatives.

One of the most universally agreed upon concepts in economics is that rent control is disastrous in the long term, and is one of the primary reasons SF and Manhattan are the way they are.

It might benefit a subset of renters in the short term, but it really just lines the pockets of those who own property today and punishes newcomers to the extreme… since the reduced stock and turnover means what they have is more valuable, similarly to the way NIMBY's restrict development which only pushes their existing value up. This is primarily what drives evictions and conversions to condos.

MA was wise to outlaw it when it did, and we would be fools to bring it back.


It was the scare campaign that the real estate lobby bombarded voters in Western Mass and the exurbs (where rent control was not relevant or even being contemplated) with - complete with all of the attendant 'property rights' and Harvard-professors-living-for-$50-a-month BS.

The only voters (Boston, Brookline, Cambridge) who had personal and direct knowledge of the pros and cons of rent control - all voted to preserve it.

The ones with sweetheart deals wanted to keep it.
What a shocker.


Every system has winners and losers. Rent control doesn't change the dynamics much, it just makes a small number of tenants into winners and stifles newcomers who have even fewer rental options.

Rent control won't fix the current housing crisis. Better public transit and changes to zoning laws would help more than anything.


There was just a community meeting about the Edison L street property on monday night.

The developer has already reduced the new housing on 10+ acres from 1400 units to around 700. 20% would be affordable housing, the rest would take pressure off the rest of south boston.

At that same meeting a bunch of (resident) Boomers wanted to take the land by eminent domain to make a park, suggested 100% commercial with all the traffic, and one even wanted it paved over into a parking lot.

Rent control isn't going to fix a damn thing, and will only make things worse for everyone. The harder discussion is how to get the towns outside of Boston building to relive pressure from people fleeing the 90 minute commutes from Waltham, and how to increase density / investment in infrastructure / transit.

The rest of the state and the governors office is fine with y'all ignoring that reality.


The towns outside of Boston are building, Rt 1, 93, the apartments are springing up everywhere..but guess what the rents are right in line with Boston's plus the $300 something T pass and the car costs because you cannot rely on the laughable transportation where they put the apartments near the highways or "close" to the end of commuter lines. The bottom line is all these new apartments are great but the rents are not sustainable for the average wage earner in the Boston area in addition to the costs we incur for higher rated utilities, food, and goods.

This. I move outside of the city, the cost of commuting goes way way up. I lose either way.

Where ruinous economic ideas ascend to eternity


I lived in Cambridge and Boston when MA had rent control rules. Almost none of my neighbors needed rent control, as they were well off. A few of us (graduate students and working people) were extremely grateful to have found our conveniently located vintage style apartments (despite the hideously remodeled kitchen and bath!) If rent control is reintroduced it should benefit those who need it and meet financial requirements. Rent control as it was made it difficult for smaller landlords to maintain their property. Landlords often wouldn’t rent to people with lower incomes because they feared they wouldn’t be able to collect the rent. That old system was flawed.

I always imagined what a great solution it would be if Boston just took over a few properties in Weston and Brookline and turned them into affordable housing. There's a certain quarterback in Brookline who's property recently went on the market and that 5+ acres of backyard would make housing stock for so many people in need


Yes, the government should have the ability to seize property from owners because you hate paying rent. Great plan. I suppose if the property owners resist we could just line them up and shoot them?

I can point out several vacant derelict properties that should be taken away. In this housing crisis, it is hard to believe that these properties can't be rebuilt at a profit.

Rent control for persons over 75 is going to lead to a spike in lease non-renewals for people nearing age 74.

The problem we're facing is that people are spending too much of their income on housing. Price controls are just going to make things worse.

Back in the '80's they said the housing shortage was caused by rent control causing a lack of supply. So we got rid of rent control, and a bunch of buildings for rich people got built but rising rents continue to outpace inflation by a lot.

I'm not sure rent control is a good solution. But a lack of rent control and letting the market operate for the benefit of landlords is not serving the 99% and is probably causing significant homelessness.

So for you genius capitalists who know all about how the market is awesome, come up with a better idea. Until then rent control is on the agenda.


The problem is still a lack of supply caused by government interference in the market via zoning which doesn't allow sufficient quantities of housing to be built. Zoning reform is key and too many cities and towns in MA refuse to address it.

Look at all the 40B battles. We desperately need more housing to be built and almost every town goes to the mat for years in court trying to block it.

Better be sure.

What's you take on this?


Because rent control isn't going to magically create the housing needed by 2030, 2050, ect.

The problem is not with the capitalists if you believe we have some free market in housing right now. It is completely captive by those who got in at the right time. Capitalists would be building more housing at all price points and varieties if they were legally able.

I thought rent control had been decided at the state level? Is there any practical point to the city council discussing it, or is this grandstanding?

Anyone who doesn't want it is a selfish, dirty capitalist.

Are you worried your property value will go down? Too bad, it's artificially inflated.
Home values are supposed to raise no more than wage increases also raise over time.
Since wages have NOT increased, the lines in this graph should all be flat.


Disclaimer: I am a property owner, but because I am not selfish I am not worried about any value adjustments. I buy property to live in it, not to make illicit profits.

That has nothing to do with rent control. Expand supply - you'll see prices drop like crazy if we built 15,000 units a year instead of about 4000-5000.

This is just straight out of the progressive playbook - vote for me and I'll give you something for nothing. Unfortunately, the money runs out really fast when politicians write checks with their mouths that OUR wallets can't cash.


You continually make the same silly mistake. Progressive policies are NEVER something for nothing. It's something for money which comes from taxing rich people more fairly.

But in the case of rent control there really isn't any expenditure involved at all, other than some trace amounts for enforcing the controls. It's simply limiting profiteering. And again, any shortfalls can be made up for by taxing rich people more.

Expanding supply is not a solution because under the current system, more buildings just makes everything more expensive, not less.

You could take every penny from every billionaire in the country and not pay for the programs the socialists are claiming they want.

Show your math:

Medicare for all
Pay off student debt
Free or almost free public college
Minimum guaranteed wage

Add more if you like. At best you get one of these.


I've seen built or renovated in my neighborhood in the last ten years has been branded "luxury." In practice, that means the developer sank an extra $1500 into granite counters and stainless steel appliances, then put their 2-bed apartment on the market for $3500 a month. The reaction of the neighboring buildings has not been "welp, guess that means I need to charge less to temper market forces;" it's been "the place next to me rents for $3500 a month, which changes the comps that show up on Zillow, so my shithole 2-bed with vinyl counters and no insulation is worth way more than the $2K I was charging for it before." JP is inundated with new development (which, don't get me wrong, I'm totally in favor of), but every single new development is 85% "luxury" condos and the BRA-mandated 15% "affordable" housing. Meanwhile, average housing costs are advancing at north of 10% a year, unchecked by government because rent control got voted down by Holden and Acton.

Sometimes I wonder if economists ever actually leave their buildings and watch how human behavior plays out.



Quite simply, while Boston is building as much as it can (cough, Nimbyism) , the metro area is fast approaching its 1950 highs. Housing / property is in short supply, driving up prices and causing old units to be converted. Hell, soon well start to see those divided condo three families renovated to single family units, making the problem worse.

Rent control is not going to stop Bostons growth and the states housing supply problems. It will only trap people into run down housing, and accelerate the conversion of rental into owner occupied units.

You got problems with your argument when anondeuce and I agree.

A lot of economics is bad policy and bad efficiency allocations, but this one is just simple demand out striping supply. It's super charging gentrification because the only properties available are old stock that then get renovated.

We're going to be surprised at the population uptick in the 2020 census next year, the signs are everywhere from traffic, to unemployment numbers, to housing prices.

First of all, what BRAND NEW UNIT in a world of minimum sq footage, heights, parking allotments etc are not going to be "luxury" relative to the rest of the stock?

Any new units depress pricing on the existing stock, so even the high end is a net benefit.

Luxury housing is a lottery system that should not exist if building were actually easy and we had a free market in housing. The problem is that ultimately you have people who have invested in communities for a long time who have often good complaints about new development and often really really shitty and regressive complaints that cause our housing shortage.

Complaining about "luxury" is ultimately missing the forrest for the trees. We need to change zoning to gradually accommodate taller units (above the ~3 story limit, the optimal is probably around 6) and more density-rich towers that can legally have smaller units.

"Pretty much every economist agrees that rent controls are bad."


"And yet economists from both the right and the left are in almost universal agreement that rent control makes housing problems worse in the long run."



Economists do not know anything about the economy.

Uh, sure.


There's a better approach than rent control. Mass law allows cities and towns to set exactly two tax rates: residential, and commercial/industrial. Plus the law allows a few offsets (residential (owner occupied) exemption, elderly, blind, disabled) to the residential tax.

It would make sense to allow for more than a couple of tax rates, especially for rental properties. Make one rate for 100% owner occupied units (i.e. no bedrooms for unrelated persons), another rate for rental units, and another sky-high rate for short term rentals.

If you want to encourage homeownership, you have to discourage rental housing, and the best way to do that is with the tax code.

It was a scandal-ridden program. People with CONNECTIONS got the $350./mth apartments that today's market rate go for thousands of $. Landlords allowed property to decay.It was one of the direct causes of the ardon for profit (insurance fraud) that plagued American cities in the 70s and 80s.

The main solution to our mostly manufacturered housing 'crisis' is to change zoning and encourage, not hinder because of excessive regulations allegedly for the common good. You could also argue and endless discuss fed rates, tax laws, etc.

Local politicians are particularly beholden to the real estate industry. It's in their unterest to keep a tight market.

Back in the 50's when the population was highest, there were more shared spaces. Rooms for rent in family homes and rooming houses. We have few safe respectable single room occupancy units in the city anymore. There were also a lot less cars.

Let’s not be short sighted! Along with rent control there would need to be real estate tax control, housing insurance control, water and sewer charge control, maintenance control for contractors, plumbers, electricians etc. Let us not forget that property owners pay greatly for these properties and to maintain them. Also while we are on the subject we should also put stringent rules in place for the rent and non rent controlled tenants so that the landlords are guaranteed to receive their rental income to cover these costs. If that doean’t happen it causes financial problems for the landlord and the next tenant will most likely pay more to offset the landlords losses! Let not be so one sided about this. Been there, done that!!!