Are there any solutions to the region’s housing issues?
Municipal actions, like inclusionary housing, are part of the solution. So are other measures that are popping up in our region, like transfer fees, condominium conversion regulation, and Air BNB regulation, as a State and locally. But none of these are going to work if they are only done town by town. We need a regional solution to run in tandem with local efforts.
State Representative Mike Connolly of Cambridge and Somerville is taking on housing issues. He sees it as an economic justice issue. He is championing a 21st Century rent control, as well as being a leader on those other measures I just mentioned, above.
Mike explains the relationship between housing and economic justice. As you expect from me, I’m behind him. (He’s not even my Rep!)
“Massachusetts faces a housing emergency. Across the Commonwealth, tenants are grappling with unsustainable rent hikes and living in fear of economic eviction, homelessness, and displacement.
The causes of this emergency are as varied as they are complex. Key drivers include wealth and income inequality, racism, a broken economic system, and decades of austerity on the federal and state levels, along with restrictive zoning laws and real estate speculation.
Clearly, this situation requires a comprehensive response. Housing production, tenant protections, new revenues, public investment, transportation and infrastructure improvements, and a focus on ending homelessness can all help us achieve the moral imperative of ‘housing for all.’
The need for tenant protections is particularly urgent. On the individual level, displacement causes trauma and can lead to negative health impacts like high blood pressure and depression. And once a neighborhood experiences wholesale displacement of working class families and people of color, it is harder to achieve diversity and a sense of inclusiveness.
Unfortunately, Massachusetts law prohibits municipalities from considering even basic tenant protection or rent stabilization ordinances. That’s why I recently joined with Representative Nika Elugardo to file legislation providing those options.
Our bill, H.3924, would repeal the statewide rent control ban and provide municipalities flexible options to prevent displacement. It exempts owner-occupied buildings of three units or less, and enables municipalities to craft further exemptions. It also lets them implement rent-stabilizing regulations, just-cause eviction protections, stronger condominium conversion and foreclosure protections, anti-displacement zones, and options to help tenants manage upfront leasing costs.
In the face of worsening inequality and an unbelievable real estate boom, the idea of rent control is making a comeback. In February, Oregon adopted the nation’s first statewide rent control law. In June, New York State acted to protect tenants from catastrophic rent increases.
Here in Massachusetts, we hope this legislation helps bring all the stakeholders together — including renters and owners — for an honest discussion about ways to prevent displacement. Of course, there is room for debate about how best to protect tenants. But in the face of this emergency, it is time to repeal the statewide ban and allow the debate to occur on the local level.”