Around New England

New Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Open To Rent Control

March 15, 2023

Where does Governor Maura Healey’s administration stand on rent control?

Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll expressed an openness to it in a recent interview without giving a clear answer.

“I definitely want to be clear that we are supporting our local communities as they come through with housing strategies and ideas,” Driscoll recently told CBS Boston. “And we also know it’s got a process to get through. We don’t know what it’s going to look like finally, so it’s hard to say 100 percent we’re gonna be all in.”

The question came after the Boston City Council voted 11-2 on March 8 to approve a rent control ordinance. The ordinance would make the maximum allowable annual rent increase based on the change in the consumer price index, plus 6 percent, or a maximum increase of 10 percent (whichever is lower).

However, given that there is no rent control local option in current Massachusetts law, the proposal would need to be filed as a home rule petition in the Massachusetts legislature and passed into law like any other bill.

Select municipalities had rent control from 1970 to 1994, but Massachusetts voters made it illegal in a statewide referendum in 1994 (51.3 percent in favor of repealing). Although Massachusetts voted away rent control in 1994, a majority of voters in cities like Cambridge (58.3 percent), Boston (53.2 percent), and Brookline (56.0 percent) voted to keep it as an option that year, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s web site.

Supporters of rent control say tenants have few protections from landlords who want ever-higher rents from their properties, which they say is particularly troublesome in the current skyrocketing housing market in the Boston area.

Opponents of rent control say it restricts freedom of property and prevents landlords from realizing gains from taking the risk of buying homes and having to maintain their properties and find reliable renters. They also say it leads to housing shortages because with a reduced profit incentive landlords and developers do not provide as much housing as they otherwise would because they don’t make enough money from it.


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