Led by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the campaign will include text messages, mailings, online video and phone banks.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Matthew J Lee/Boston Globe
Last month it was reported that Mayor Michelle Wu is speeding up plans to propose some form of rent control in Boston. Rent control, or rent stabilization, has been a key part of Wu’s mayoral campaign in 2021. Last week, Wu formally submitted her proposal to the city council.
Now prominent members of the real estate industry are stepping up their opposition to the idea. The Greater Boston Real Estate Board this week launched a major campaign to fight rent controls by reaching out directly to Boston residents.
The campaign, titled Rent Control Hurts Housing, seeks to reach the public through a coordinated flood of text messages, direct mail and digital video. Phone banks are put together to connect residents with Boston City Council members, and people are asked to send pre-packaged messages to Wu and the councilmen, urging them to go in a different direction.
The campaign focuses on claims that rent control is leading to a decline in the supply of housing and a subsequent increase in housing costs.
“The rent cap is a failed policy solution that will not help the urgent need to create housing in Boston and throughout the Commonwealth. Rent control, also known as rent stabilization, has been shown to reduce housing production of future units and discourage maintenance and servicing of controlled units,” GBREB CEO Greg Vasil said in a statement last month.
Vasil also said that limiting construction would exacerbate the city’s housing crisis and that rent control would limit property tax collection for a city that is “heavily dependent” on them as a source of revenue.
Wu’s plan would allow landlords to increase rent by 6% plus the consumer price index, which measures inflation. The overall increase should not exceed 10% in any one year and tenants would be protected by a “just cause” eviction order. Exceptions would be owner-occupied properties with six units or fewer and new apartment buildings in the first 15 years after receipt of a certificate of occupancy.
“Boston tenants are often victims of steep rent increases that make it impossible for them to stay in their homes,” Wu wrote in a letter to the city council. “In 2022, advertised rents increased 14 percent across the city, while several neighborhoods saw increases of over 20 percent.”
City councilors will consider the proposal at a hearing on Wednesday morning. The GBREB campaign is urging the public to testify at the hearing.
If the city council finally approves Wu’s plan, the Beacon Hill legislature would consider it next. If the plan clears that hurdle, Gov. Maura Healey would still have to sign it before the plan officially goes into effect.
Massachusetts residents voted in 1994 to abolish rent controls statewide. At the time, only Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline had rent control policies.
After taking office, Wu formed a Rent Stabilization Advisory Committee to study possible plans for the city.
In a 2021 poll of registered voters, 59% of respondents said they would “strongly support rent control” to prevent landlords from raising rents too much.
GBREB is currently planning to spend nearly $400,000 on its rent control campaign, The Boston Globe reported. The organizers leave open the possibility of spending more if the proposal goes to lawmakers. National real estate industry affiliates are helping GBREB fund the campaign.
“It’s really important to go out and try to reach as many voters as possible in the city of Boston to make sure they are fully aware and understand what’s going on with this policy,” Vasil told the Globe.
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