By Bob Katzen
It’s the end of this year’s campaign to put on the November 2024 ballot a question that would allow cities and towns the right to impose rent control, a practice which voters banned nearly 30 years ago on a 1994 ballot question.
Organizers announced that they will fall far short of the 74,574 signatures needed by November 22 to qualify for the ballot.
“While this isn’t the outcome we hoped for with our petition, I am more confident than ever that if given the opportunity to do so, Massachusetts voters will elect to lift the ban on rent control,” said long time rent control advocate Rep. Michael Connolly (D-Cambridge). “At this point, however, it makes sense to focus on Tuesday’s Statehouse hearing on rent control bills and other landlord-tenant matters.”
“Massachusetts property owners and renters should wake up this morning knowing that their futures are better off,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Mass Fiscal Alliance which opposes rent control. “Rep. Connolly’s potential ballot question would have done nothing but make life more expensive and miserable for property owners and renters alike. Rent control does not work, it would only stop new housing development, particularly new affordable multi-family housing and put a complete halt in maintenance and upkeep.”
In the meantime, the focus now turns to Beacon Hill where the Housing Committee held a hearing last week on several pieces of rent control legislation.
“This is not an issue about the market,” testified Rep. Sam Montano (D-Jamaica Plain), a sponsor of one of several bills debated at the hearing. “This is not an issue about how we use capitalism. This is an issue about morals. Morally, we need to house people. That’s it. Doesn’t matter. People need homes, they need a warm place to sleep, they need a place to shower, they need a place to feel safe. And we are failing at providing that for people by allowing landlords to try to charge huge increases year to year and constantly displacing people.”
“Rent control reduces the supply of housing which drives rents up,” said Amir Shahsavari, vice president of the Small Property Owners Association. “It makes it more difficult for owners to keep up with rising operating costs, it leads to disrepair, and it makes it nearly impossible to remove non-complying tenants, not only to the detriment of owners and their properties, but also to the detriment of the other tenants who depend on us to provide them with safe, maintained living spaces.”