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Mayor Wu Prepares Rent Control Proposal To Cap Increases At 10%

After more than a year of hinting at the revival of rent control in Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu is on track to bring forth a new proposal to cap rent increases at 10% per year.

Wu floated the plan to an advisory committee on Tuesday but hasn't yet submitted a final version of the proposal, the Boston Globe reported. The proposed plan would need approval from city and state lawmakers. A Wu spokesperson confirmed the details of the proposal to Bisnow

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu answers questions from reporters Nov. 16, 2021, at Boston City Hall.

“We continue to work with the advisory committee toward specific legislative language that would protect families from rent gouging and displacement as our city continues to grow," the spokesperson told Bisnow in an emailed statement. "We look forward to receiving additional stakeholder feedback before filing a proposal with the city council.”

The plan, modeled after other states' rent control policies, would tie the rent increase limits to the consumer price index. In a normal year with 2% inflation, landlords would be allowed to increase rent by 8%. In years with high inflation, they would be allowed to raise it by 10%.

The proposal would exempt new buildings in their first 15 years of operation and small, owner-occupied properties. The plan is paired with a new requirement for landlords to provide adequate reasoning to launch eviction proceedings against a tenant.

Rent control was a major theme of Wu's mayoral race, with many supporters awaiting the proposal. The issue of rent control has been a contentious one in the state for years. In 1994, rent control was outlawed in a statewide referendum, though only Boston, Cambridge and Brookline had it in place before the vote. 

In March, the Mayor's Office of Housing announced the members of the Rent Stabilization Advisory Committee, which is made up of housing advocates, developers and tenants and will give the mayor recommendations on rent stabilization.

Of the public comments Wu's office received during rent control advisory meetings between March and April, 39% of commenters expressed outright opposition to rent control, WGBH reported. Another 33% expressed outright support for rent control.

Some tenant advocates say the rent increase cap isn't enough to keep residents from being displaced in Boston, one of the most expensive cities in the country.

"This proposal would only do half the job," Mike Leyba, co-executive director at City Life, said in a Twitter thread on Wednesday. "It would allow rents to continue to rise by hundreds of dollars per month every lease cycle, eventually pricing working-class families out of Boston rentals altogether."

But the real estate industry has widely opposed rent control measures. NAIOP Massachusetts CEO Tamara Small said she thinks rent control would make it harder to create more housing to address the state's shortage. 

“We are very concerned with the proposal and we have seen in other markets that rent control does not help the affordable housing crisis that exists,” Small told Bisnow. “It would hinder the production of new housing and reduce the existing supply because there is no incentive to invest in multifamily housing.”