The Boston City Council overwhelmingly approved a rent control plan proposed by Mayor Michelle Wu, clearing the first of a number of hurdles before it can become law.
The council voted 11-2 in support of the plan, which would tie rent increases to inflation, with a cap of 10%, for apartments in Boston. The plan exempts smaller landlords and units in buildings less than 15 years old. About 55% the Boston's 313,000 rental units would fall under measure, according to city data.
"This is a monumental act for the city of Boston," said Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who voted for the measure. "I commend the mayor for moving forward with rent stabilization to address what has been a long standing issue of price gauging and rent gauging and displacement."
Councilors Erin Murphy and Fred Baker voted against the measure.
“We’re going after an industry that has created generational wealth for the middle class in Boston,” Baker said, adding that his main concern is additional bureaucracy that discourages development.
The council also turned away an amendment from Councilor Michael Flaherty that would have exempted landlords who live in Boston and own up to six rental units.
Once Wu signs the home-rule petition approved on Wednesday, the proposal shifts from Boston City Hall to the Massachusetts State House. Bay Staters voted to ban rent control in 1994, which means the plan must pass muster with the Legislature.
Speaking to the media after the vote, Wu said she believed stakeholders on Beacon Hill would be willing to work with her on the proposal.
"I think we all share an urgency in knowing that this can't stand for Boston," she said. "We cannot be a place where people get pushed out from the communities that they want to continue contributing to.
Critics of the proposal have said artificial caps on rent can depress the housing construction market and exacerbate the ongoing housing shortage.
Doug Quattrochi, who leads the landlord advocacy group MassLandlords, expressed disappointment at the council's vote and doubts the measure will move forward at the state level.
"When you look at how you actually help folks, the answer's not rent control," Quattrochi said. He added that short-term rental assistance is a better option to preventing evictions.
Meanwhile, many housing advocates have criticized the plan as not going far enough to stop spiraling housing costs in the city.
This article was originally published on March 08, 2023.