Why it's hated, why we need it

Posted: 2022-05-06 22:47:34 Modified: 06/05/2022 22:46:04 Rent control in Massachusetts has long been ignored as a failed policy th...

Posted: 2022-05-06 22:47:34

Modified: 06/05/2022 22:46:04

Rent control in Massachusetts has long been ignored as a failed policy that ultimately hurts tenants, landlords and the housing stock.

But in an era of sky-high rental costs and rising evictions, it’s imperative that Massachusetts legalize rent control again — and the Tenant Protection Act, referred to the Joint Committee on Housing in 2021, is the answer. perfect way to do it. The deadline for positively reporting this non-commissioned act is Monday, May 9.

The combined pressures of the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation and exorbitant rental prices call for the passage of this legislation in full. Tenant support for H.1378 and S.886 would require the legislature to take a stand on rent control and publicly declare whether they support the right to affordable housing, or whether they believe housing is a commodity that only benefits wealthy landlords and the real estate industry.

Citizens voted in 1994 to outlaw rent control in Massachusetts. The move is the result of a decades-long campaign by landlords, real estate agents and rental associations to portray rent control as the source of all inequality and insecurity in the rental market. The well-resourced anti-rent control movement argued then (as it does now) that rent control decreases the supply of rental housing, deters landlords from maintaining maintenance and improvements, and, ultimately increases rental prices for all.

Their campaign worked. At the time of this vote in 1994, only three cities in Massachusetts still had rent-controlled housing: Boston, Cambridge and Brookline. While the 1994 voting results ended with 51% in favor of banning rent control statewide, the majority of voters in those three cities voted to keep the policy in place.

Despite what economists and landlords claimed in their campaign, those who benefit from rent control overwhelmingly supported it. The fallout for low-income renters following the illegalization of rent control in Massachusetts has been remarkable. In Boston, 8% of previously rent-controlled apartments have been evicted. And in Cambridge, annual rental prices have risen by 40% for those occupying previously stabilized accommodation and by 13% for everyone else.

The reality of rising evictions, high rents and housing insecurity in Massachusetts has challenged real estate industry claims that eliminating rent controls will stabilize market prices and housing availability. .

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, today’s rent prices are so high in Massachusetts that a minimum-wage worker would have to work 107 hours a week to afford an average 2-bedroom apartment. While most housing insecurity news focuses on Greater Boston, the housing crisis in Western Massachusetts is just as severe. A report by the UMass Amherst Donahue Institute this year showed that more than 50% of Pioneer Valley renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

The housing crisis in this region disproportionately affects people of color, as 76% of Hispanics and 63% of African Americans rent their homes, compared to 33% of whites. This is a serious question of fairness. With rising inflation and a lack of rental housing priced in line with community incomes, the financial burdens of housing costs are more than some people can bear. Today, some 113,000 households are at risk of eviction across the state because they are behind on rent. On top of that, tenants across the state are seeing monthly costs increase by 10%, 20%, and even 30% per year with no infrastructure updates and no way to respond.

The case for rent control could not be clearer. The Tenant Protection Act is supported by Homes for All MA, a collection of organizations including Springfield No One Leaves and Arise for Social Justice in Western Mass. This legislation, along with other tenant protections, would lift the statewide rent control ban. Although it does not impose rent control, it would give municipalities the ability to enact rent control laws if local constituencies deem it necessary.

As COVID-19 rental protections come to an end, the need to legalize rent control only grows. The Massachusetts House of Representatives took a roll call vote on very similar legislation in 2020 and voted against it 136 to 23. Our representatives are elected to represent the needs of their constituents, but votes like this prove that many are influenced more by the real estate industry than the needs of working families. With the report date fast approaching, lawmakers have a chance to show us differently. Too many of us are struggling. It’s time to demand better.

Gabbi Perry lives in Holyoke.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Why it's hated, why we need it
Why it's hated, why we need it
Newsrust - US Top News
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