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Mayor Wu Submits Finalized Rent Control Proposal To City Council

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu speaks July 26 at a zoning announcement.

Mayor Michelle Wu has finalized her plan to bring rent control back to Boston and submitted it to the city council. 

Wu filed a home rule petition for rent stabilization Monday that will be formally introduced to the council Wednesday, four weeks after details of the pending proposal were first reported. The filing marks the start of a likely contentious fight to enact rent control measures, a move that also requires state legislative approval. 

The mayor's plan would limit rent hikes by setting an annual maximum for rent increases of between 6% and 10%, with the exact cap based on the consumer price index.

"This Home Rule Petition will enable the City of Boston to implement rent stabilization to better protect families from displacement caused by exorbitant increases in rent," Wu wrote in a letter to city councilors about the petition. "Tenants in Boston are often victim to steep rent increases, making it impossible for them to stay in their homes."

Wu went on to say that rents advertised in the city increased by 14%, and some neighborhoods saw "increases in excess of 20%."

On top of the rent stabilization policy, Wu also proposed new eviction protections. Those protections would limit landlords from evicting tenants except with "just cause," like failure to pay rent or a substantial violation of the lease, reported.

Real estate leaders argue that the rent control proposal would have the opposite effect on the market by slowing housing production.

"We have seen in many other markets that rent control does not actually help the affordable housing crisis that exists," NAIOP Massachusetts CEO Tamara Small told Bisnow last month. "There is no incentive to invest in multifamily housing or, for that matter, keep it up and maintain it, which is something we saw happen in the '90s."

In 1994, Massachusetts voted to outlaw rent control in a statewide referendum. Boston, Cambridge and Brookline were the only cities to have it in place before the vote. Wu wrote in her letter that her proposal was modeled after similar ones in California and Oregon.

If the city council passes the rent stabilization plan, it will then need approval from state lawmakers and Gov. Maura Healey before it can officially take effect.