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Mass. Lawmaker Seeks Rent Control Ballot Measure As Wu's Plan Stalls In State House

The Massachusetts State House in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood.

As Mayor Michelle Wu's rent control proposal has failed to move forward on Beacon Hill, a state representative has filed a petition to put the issue to Massachusetts voters. 

Rep. Mike Connolly, who represents Cambridge and said he was acting in his personal capacity as a renter, filed a ballot measure petition before the Wednesday night deadline to lift the state rent control ban passed in 1994, The Boston Globe reported.

“We all recognize that this ongoing housing emergency is worse than it’s ever been in history, and seems to only be getting worse,” Connolly told the Globe. “The issue is so severe, and the need for action is so extraordinary that we can’t leave any stones unturned in terms of options.”

If the measure is approved through Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office, organizers will need to gather 90,000 signatures to secure its place on the ballot. The margins are thin with the first 75,000 signatures due in November, the Globe reported.

The rent control measure was finalized by Wu in February and approved by Boston City Council in an 11-2 vote in March, bringing it to Beacon Hill’s front steps. The proposal would lift the nearly three-decade rent control ban in Boston and limit rent increases to between 6% and 10% with an exact cap based on the consumer price index.

Although some residents and advocates like Connolly have applauded the plan, it has faced hesitancy from state lawmakers and pushback from real estate groups that argue the plan will do more harm than good for renters.

In February, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board announced plans to spend $400K on the Rent Control Hurts Housing campaign, an anti-rent control campaign targeting Boston residents, and it created phone banks where voters can call into City Hall to voice opposition.

"We agree that Massachusetts is way too expensive," GBREB CEO Greg Vasil said in a statement to Bisnow Friday. "But rent control is not the solution to the housing crisis. The only way to make the Commonwealth more affordable is to build more housing. We look forward in the coming months to talking directly to voters about the commonsense solutions that will lead to more housing across the state."