From the ballot to Beacon Hill: What's next for rent control supporters in Massachusetts

Housing activists swarmed the front steps of the State House on Tuesday before heading back inside to a legislative hearing on rent control. (Sam Doran/SHNS)
Housing activists on the front steps of the State House in 2020 before a legislative hearing on rent control. (Sam Doran/SHNS)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

I’m still keeping those Shohei Ohtani hopes in check. While you reload that CharlieCard online one last time, here’s what to know today:

What’s next for rent control supporters? With rent control no longer a contender for the 2024 ballot in Massachusetts, supporters — and opponents — are turning their attention back to Beacon Hill. WBUR’s Walter Wuthmann reports state legislators heard hours of testimony yesterday from advocates, renters and landlords on a series of bills that would legalize rent control, which was banned statewide by a 1994 ballot question. As Walt notes, the hearing itself is a significant development for the topic that a lawmaker once described as “practically a third rail” in the State House. But as housing costs continue to soar, the conversation pushes forward.

  • The big picture: It’s unclear if any of the core political dynamics have changed. While Gov. Maura Healey has expressed openness to the idea of giving individual cities and towns the option to revive rent control, fellow Democratic leaders in the State House have shown little appetite to pass such bills, including the home rule petition Boston sent them this year.
  • What happened to the ballot effort? A ballot question could have bypassed the hesitant Legislature. But in an interview yesterday on Radio Boston, state Rep. Mike Connolly — the lead organizer of the effort — explained they had collected just over 10,000 signatures in support of the ballot push, far short of the 74,574 they would need to submit by next Wednesday.
  • Connolly also noted that many rent control supporters — such as Mayor Michelle Wu — did not support the ballot question effort, due to concerns about the possible downsides. (If it lost, rent control wouldn’t be allowed back on the ballot for another six years.) “The reality was there were more rent control advocates … working to squelch the signature drive than there ever were paid staff working to advance the signature drive,” Connolly said.
  • Go deeper: Listen to Radio Boston‘s full conversation about the political challenges facing rent control supporters — despite popular support for the general policy — here.

What housing advocates are also reading today: After some heated debate and a compromise, Brookline’s Town Meeting voted last night to adopt new zoning reforms to comply with the state’s MBTA communities housing law. The new rules would allow the potential construction of more than 800 new units of housing along Harvard Street from Brookline Village to Coolidge Corner.

Back to class: Andover public schools are back in session today, after the teachers’ union and the town reached a tentative deal yesterday on a new contract to end the strike that started last Friday.

  • The good news: Both sides say the new contract will give teachers a 15.5% overall raise over four years, including especially big raises for instructional assistants (who are currently paid between $25,000 and $38,000 a year). The contract also includes up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave and up to 60 days of family leave.
  • The bad news: Andover school leaders warned their long-term financial plan does not include enough money for the raises. As a result, they say they’ll need to “consider” cuts to services and school department staff beginning in the next school year.

Heads up: Gov. Maura Healey is slated to announce an expansion of financial aid today for certain students at local public colleges, from community colleges to the UMass system. The administration says approximately 25,000 students will benefit from the new aid.

  • What is it? Healey’s office isn’t quite saying — but it’s worth noting the budget she signed this year included $84 million to expand MASSGrant Plus scholarships for low-income, in-state undergrads attending local public colleges and universities.

P.S.— The 2023 Boston Common Christmas Tree begins its long journey from Nova Scotia this morning. Make sure to listen to WBUR’s Dan Guzman explain the history of the tradition and get ready for the official tree-lighting ceremony in Boston on Nov. 30.


Headshot of Nik DeCosta-Klipa

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live