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Massachusetts rent control floated as solution to Boston-area housing crunch

Legislation would allow cities and towns to set their own tenant protections—including caps on rent

An aerial shot of apartment buildings in Boston. jiawangkun/Shutterstock

Legislation that state lawmakers are expected to file in the next few weeks would effectively overturn a ballot initiative that voters narrowly passed in 1994 to ban rent control in Massachusetts.

The legislation is a response to evictions and displacement stemming from the Boston area’s notorious housing crunch, its supporters say. Opponents of reigniting rent control in Massachusetts say it would dissuade landlords from investing in their properties.

Specifically, the soon-to-be bill would permit municipalities to devise their own tenant protections without the okay of the state, per the Globe’s Tim Logan. That could include caps on rent—i.e., rent control.

The 1994 ban on rent control passed 51 percent to 49 percent, though in some parts of Massachusetts the policy likely retained majority support until the bitter end. Not surprisingly, those parts included the likes of Boston proper, Cambridge, and Somerville—then as now some of the priciest places to live in Massachusetts.

It could be a while before the new legislation—or a narrower path to rent control that has already been filed—makes it to a vote, much less into law. Stay tuned.