As the cost of housing soars, is it time to bring back rent control in Massachusetts?

BOSTON — The high cost of housing in the Boston area continues to be a budget-busting problem for many residents.

One idea that’s picking up momentum is to bring back rent control.

One woman in West Roxbury told Boston 25 News “We look at the options and rent prices keep going up. We wonder how long we’ll be able to stay.”

Another woman who teaches echoed that sentiment. “I know in the long-term I probably won’t be able to stay in Boston because it’s too expensive.”

A survey this summer by Zumper found the median price of a two-bedroom apartment in Boston is $3,400.

That is a 13% year-to-year increase.

It also makes Boston the 5th most expensive rental market in the country.

“We have been in a state of housing emergency for several years and an emergency that isn’t addressed becomes a disaster,” said State Representative Mike Connolly.

Connolly thinks one way to address the region’s high cost of housing is the restoration of rent control.

“This proposal that could reach the ballot next year would undo the 1994 prohibition on rent control and it would empower municipalities to consider basic tenant protections.”

As a private citizen, Connolly submitted a ballot petition to the Attorney General’s office.

Connolly says this version of rent control shouldn’t scare off developers.

“Any construction that was new or within the last 15 years would have this 15-year window and the intent there is so that the investors could go ahead and recoup their investments before facing what again would be moderate and reasonable rent controls.”

“Rent control has all these unintended consequences,” said Doug Quattrochi, Executive Director of Mass Landlords, an organization that opposes rent control.

He says rising rents are the result of market factors, not landlord greed.

Rising costs like insurance, utilities, and repair people are all adding up. “It’s very expensive.”

Quattrochi told Boston 25 News many landlords are Mom and Pop operators who live in multi-family homes.

He says artificially suppressing rents is a band-aid that doesn’t the real problem which he says is a lack of supply.

“We really need to address land use and zoning reform,” Quattrochi said. “Basically, eliminating the requirement for single-family zoning. That would be a huge step, a big long-term improvement. It would allow us to create a lot more housing.”

Only three communities – Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge – had rent control when voters tossed it out in 1994.

The next benchmark involves Attorney General Andrea Campbell. She will rule on the legality of the ballot petition’s wording to make sure it would be legal if enacted.

If she does that, supporters will need to gather 75,000 signatures by the end of November.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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