Over 20 years rent control debate resurfaces in Mass.

Legislators within the Massachusetts House of Representatives are preparing to file a bill that would put rent control in Boston back on the table after being banned since 1994.

To address Boston’s housing crisis, the bill would cap the rent prices that landlords can charge their residents as a measure of protection from eviction and drastic spikes in monthly payments.

“I think the reason why advocates are calling for rent control or some form of rent stabilization is that the policy solution has to to meet the gravity of the crisis,” said Joey Michalakes, attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. “The crisis is moving very fast and is changing quickly. I think legislators are beginning to understand that.”

Michalakes said legislators in Boston, in addition to boosting the affordable housing stock, should be figuring out ways to keep people in the area while the housing crisis is being resolved.

He said he thinks the cry for rent control is an expression of the idea that the people living in these communities made them attractive places to live. Now people in and around the city are realizing that they are.

“It’s manifestly unjust that people should have to leave their homes,” Michalakes said.

The housing crisis has been addressed on a national level. The state of Oregon recently became the first state to impose rent control. The Boston Globe reported that New York, Illinois, and California are looking into implementing similar policies as well.

Rent control has been outlawed for over two decades, and many housing advocates believe that the affordable housing crisis has become too severe to ignore.

“It seems like given just how crazy the displacement crisis [is], it makes sense to talk about it as a strategy,” said Kathy Brown, coordinator at the Boston Tenant Coalition. “There aren’t enough tools to address this crazy crisis we’re in.”

On the other side, the impact of rent control on landlords plays another role in the consideration of the bill.

The Mass. Landlords website says that rent control leads to the decline of housing quality, discourages good people from becoming landlords, increases prices in the neighborhoods it was meant to help, is regressive and causes disparate impact, and increases the tax burden of single family home owners.

“When you ask people what should be done about this within the neighborhoods, they always say, ‘Well what about rent control?’ and now we just have to figure out when the right time is, and maybe it’s now,” Brown said.

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