Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

BOSTON-A local activist group is kicking off a campaign to bring rent control back to the city and while the mayor is remaining noncommittal on the issue; developers are starting to get nervous.

The Boston Tenant Coalition, which is comprised of representatives from most of the housing advocates and tenants group in the city, held a rally on Saturday to kick off their campaign to restore rent control to Boston. Its been six years since rent control was abolished–it was banned through a statewide ballot initiative in November 1994 and ended December, 1996–and representatives from the coalition contend that the situation since has gotten out of control.

“There is no alternative,” Roxan McKinnon, assistant coordinator for the coalition, tells GlobeSt.com. “The campaign is a response to what tenants have been talking about and saying they need.” McKinnon says that when rent control was eliminated “no one imagined that rents would go” as high as they have. “The rent gouging that has been going on has been putting people out of their homes,” she adds, noting that fifty to 100% increases in rent are not unusual without any tenant protection. Currently, she says, for someone to be able to rent a two-bedroom apartment in the city they would have to earn on average $24 per hour. For a three-bedroom apartment, a salary of $30 per hour on average has to be earned. “That is very far away from what people are earning,” she notes, and adds that the coalition’s campaign has so far been well-received. “People are ready to hear this,” she says. “This has been brewing for a while.”

But not all people are thrilled with the prospect of resurrecting rent control. For developers the idea that their profits on residential projects could be limited is, to say the least, not a pleasant thought. “Who would invest if they could only make eight percent?” Tom Meagher, president of Northeast Apartment Advisors, an apartment market and development market consulting company. “There is also a question of how the rent control measure is drafted and investors don’t like uncertainty.”

Meagher points out that in the six years following the end of rent control 310 market rate units in professionally managed apartment developments were built while in the six years prior to the end of rent control 285 market rate units in similar developments came on line. While the difference is not significant, Meagher points out that the real story is in the 7,544 units in the market rate apartment development pipeline, all of which were applied for after the end of rent control. “The reason why we have a huge development pipeline and so many developers want to build is because they have the potential to recoup their investments and make money,” he says. “Rent control could be very damaging and it is not the answer. New housing production is.”But McKinnon counters that the units that are being built are unaffordable. “Additional units will help but it won’t get rid of the problem,” she says. “We need creation and preservation.” McKinnon points out that her group is trying to get a tax incentive for property owners who keep their rents down and they are trying to have buildings with six units or less exempt from the law. “We want to reach out to small property owners and have their input in the process,” she says.

The document for a home rule petition is slated to be presented to the city council in September. If it is approved it then goes to the state legislature. Alternatively there is currently a bill before the legislature which would allow municipalities to vote on the issue. But according to Mark Pedulla, housing organizer for City Life/Vida Urbana, the bill hasn’t been voted on and it doesn’t look like it will come to the floor before the recess.

And where is city Mayor Thomas M. Menino in all of this? According to his spokesperson Carole Brennan, “he has been characterized as too black and white,” referring to his use of the words rent control which many took to mean he was in favor of its resurrection.

“He has been concerned about rising rents and he has tried to talk with developers and property owners, encouraging them not to take advantage of the boom,” she says. “He believes there needs to be some kind of stabilization of rent. He doesn’t want to use the word control but as it stands now he’s willing to listen to people. Something though needs to be done.”


Join GlobeSt

Don't miss crucial news and insights you need to make informed commercial real estate decisions. Join GlobeSt.com now!

  • Free unlimited access to GlobeSt.com's trusted and independent team of experts who provide commercial real estate owners, investors, developers, brokers and finance professionals with comprehensive coverage, analysis and best practices necessary to innovate and build business.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and GlobeSt events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com.

Already have an account? Sign In Now
Join GlobeSt

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.