A note from National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) President Doug Bibby
Rent control remains an existential threat to our industry, and something that NMHC tracks across the country. We wanted to make sure you are aware of recent developments in Massachusetts. Like many of you, we are closely following developments in Massachusetts and writing today to make sure you know the latest on the ever-evolving debate about how best to address the housing challenges in the state, particularly in Boston and other cities. It’s important to note at the top, the Legislature and Governor have taken a clear stand against rent control, including a decisive roll call vote in just the last session. While we do not expect that will change in this session, it’s important that we stay engaged, stay active and make sure our legislators have the facts about policy ideas that will help expand housing options, lower costs and improve access.
Rent control, of course, is nothing new to the Commonwealth. Cambridge provided our industry with a dynamic case study demonstrating just how harmful rent control can be to a community.
As recently as July of 2020, a small group of progressive legislators in the House of Representatives pushed for a roll call vote on rent control and it was resoundingly defeated, with 136 of the 160 members in recorded opposition and only 23 supporting. The members who voted in opposition to that measure are still in office as members of the 192nd General Court and we do not see any signs they plan to change their votes on rent control. We are grateful that lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected rent control and instead pursued policies that address housing shortages and provide rental assistance to those in need.
But we know we need to continue to educate and engage with our legislators and the public. Every two years the Joint Committee on Housing holds a series of public hearings organized by topic—often reserving rent control-related issues for the last hearing. It is anticipated that the Committee will again hold this hearing in January and rent control bills, like last session, will be on the agenda.
As we did during the last public hearing on this issue, we will be submitting testimony at the request of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB). We continue to work with GBREB and the National Apartment Association to demonstrate to lawmakers and other stakeholders that rent control is the absolute wrong approach to housing affordability.
We continue to monitor a Rent Stabilization Advisory Group announced by Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston. The new advisory group will study local housing conditions, rent stabilization programs being administered in other cities and be tasked with making recommendations on the available and necessary means to protect residents from displacement with a goal to shape language for the next legislative session on Beacon Hill in 2023. The makeup and focus of that group will be critical and we know GBREB has asked Mayor Wu to ensure all stakeholders have a voice.
In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to be a resource to GBREB with helpful data, research and behind the scenes organizing. Here is how you can support these efforts right now:
Organize: Become a member of the GBREB Grassroots Alliance. We know that having a roster of owners willing to tell their story to a lawmaker or the media when time is of the essence is critical. BREB is not alone in trying to develop this critical tool, the California Apartment Association keeps a similar list that has helped NMHC before. This is critically important to telling our side of the story. In addition, we hope you will update your GBREB member record with your home address so that we can better target future calls for action.
Community Outreach: In September, GBREB and Metro Housing Boston teamed up to help housing providers and residents to help building owners and residents who are having trouble paying rent and mortgages due to the pandemic. The success of that event has inspired the Mayor’s Office of Housing to conduct two more workshops in January and GBREB will again be sponsoring that event. Members interested in volunteering should contact Elyse Libeskind at firstname.lastname@example.org. The MAA will be providing more details soon.
Rest assured, we continue to work with our partners at GBREB and NAA and will be doing everything necessary to stay ahead of this critically important issue.
— Doug Bibby, NMHC President
- Rent Control Fights Across the Country
- Rent Control Laws by State
- NMHC Rent Control Update: Multifamily Firms Reconsider Investments in Rent Control Markets
- Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies: America’s Rental Housing 2022 Report
- Massachusetts Hearing Jumpstarts 2022 Rent Control Battles