Why Mayor Wu’s Rent Control Proposal is Lacking

Feb 22, 2023 | Electoral, Housing, PEWG blog

Boston City Hall Photo by Naquib Hossain on Flickr

On Feb. 21st Boston DSA emailed out the following call to action to Boston residents encouraging them to give public testimony on how the Mayor’s rent control proposal is in need of serious changes

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, at 10 am the Boston City Council will be hearing public comment on the Mayor’s proposed rent control legislation. Unfortunately, the proposal as is does not adequately protect tenants from increasing rents. It excludes many renters’ landlords and still allows for annual rent increases of 6 percentage points more than inflation (and rent increases of up to 10%). Most gravely, since the proposal lacks vacancy controls it may even incentivize evictions.

We are asking people to either submit written testimony or show up to give public comment tomorrow to point out to the Council that Boston deserves better. Boston is one of the most expensive cities to live in within the US; we need more affordable housing options.

To testify virtually on Zoom, email this address and ask for a link to give public comment: Christine.oDonnell@Boston.Gov. To submit written testimony, simply email your comments to this email: Ccc.Go@Boston.Gov. There is no deadline to submit written testimony.

If while drafting your testimony you’re looking for specific points to make on how Boston City Government could be ensuring people have affordable housing, here are some suggestions:

First and foremost, the rent control proposal absolutely needs vacancy controls added in. Meaning, rent-increase caps must extend to both current and new tenants. Absent vacancy control, landlords will just have an extra incentive to evict renters and find higher-income tenants.

The rent control proposal’s ‘just cause’ eviction protections have too many exemptions / potential loopholes to make up for the lack of vacancy controls. Most importantly, the vast majority of evictions in Boston are for non-payment of rent, which are not protected at all.

The rent control proposal should limit increases to no higher than inflation in the given year.

The rent control proposal excludes too many tenants. For example, it excludes buildings where the property owner lives there and there are also six or fewer dwelling units.

The rent control proposal does not give due consideration to students who also suffer from their universities’ exorbitant housing costs.

The rent control proposal should also include an overall rent cap, in an actual dollar amount.

Furthermore, we encourage folks to point out to the Council how rent control alone is not sufficient to end the exploitation of tenants by real-estate interests. More needs to be done to address the core problems the housing market generates.

More municipal dollars should be committed to community-land trusts.

We need more social housing and greater public funding for maintenance so as to have the upkeep residents deserve. Accordingly, the State Legislature must approve Boston’s request for a real estate transfer fee.

The State Legislature must also pass legislation guaranteeing a universal right to free legal counsel in housing court for tenants.

Again, the public hearing is tomorrow at 10 am. And to testify virtually on Zoom, email this address and ask for a link to give public comment: Christine.oDonnell@Boston.Gov. To submit written testimony, send your comments to this email: Ccc.Go@Boston.Gov

P.S. We want to further acknowledge that housing justice isn’t simply attained with governmental policy changes, but through tenants collectively organizing and compelling real-estate interests to act. So, we encourage you to get in touch with the chapter’s Housing Working Group if you wish to plug in to that sort of organizing — simply email Housing@BostonDsa.Org and ask to join.