July 1, 2022
  • July 1, 2022

Wu convenes rent stabilization group

By on March 16, 2022 0

Last Thursday, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the creation of a new advisory committee to explore rent stabilization strategies in Boston.

Billed as an advisory committee on “rent stabilization” — a term the mayor said he uses interchangeably with rent control — the group will be tasked with studying the structure and results of rent stabilization programs in cities. other cities, and in turn to make recommendations to Wu and his Office of Housing on how best to curb rising rents in the city.

“Cities across the country are using rent stabilization as one tool among many to protect renters and keep families in their homes,” Wu said. “The majority of Boston residents and families are renters. If we are unwilling to accept the rent increases that drive families out of Boston, we are not meeting the needs of our neighborhoods.

According to statistics from Wu’s office, nearly 65% ​​of Bostonians are renters, and more than half of them spend beyond what experts consider a sustainable part of their monthly income on rent. The statistics, drawn from 2020 census data, also show that black Bostonians struggle disproportionately. Boston’s non-Hispanic black population fell by 6% citywide between 2010 and 2020, while the number of black people buying and renting in neighboring cities such as Brockton increased.

Frederica Williams, CEO of the Whittier Street Health Centre, speaks to reporters during an announcement from the Mayor’s Rent Stabilization Advisory Committee. PHOTO: JEREMIAH ROBINSON, MAYOR’S OFFICE

This is the mayor’s latest effort to tackle the lack of affordable housing in the city – last week she signed a petition for the bylaws to implement a transfer fee of up to 2% on property sales more than $2 million that would raise money for affordable housing and help seniors pay their bills at home. The mayor also said she will also be looking to update the city’s business linkage fee and inclusive development policies.

As for what rent stabilization might look like, the mayor said it would be up to the committee to decide, although she gave a few examples: setting specific rents, capping how much people pay, and setting parameters on how quickly rents can increase.

“He could also meet anywhere in between,” she said during the March 10 announcement.

As for possible funding sources for rent stabilization programs, the committee will likely suggest tapping into federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), although that is still pending.

“We’re having a lot of talk right now about ARPA funding,” said Sheila Dillon, the city’s chief housing officer. “We see it as a great opportunity to raise funds for our housing programs, but also to look at, ‘How can we take this one-time money and do things differently so that we can demonstrate them and use them as models for know how to move cheeky?'”

The new committee, made up entirely of volunteers, has 23 members, many of whom accompanied the mayor during her announcement. They are scheduled to meet monthly to hear from experts on different rent stabilization models and officials from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) on local rental market conditions. At the press conference, Wu said committee members should also do readings as part of a program to better address affordable housing needs and “to start with facts.”

The committee should also organize community listening sessions to gather community feedback throughout the process. The first session will be held virtually on April 19.

Also joining Wu on Thursday were State Senator Lydia Edwards and State Representative Nika Elugardo, who both spoke about the need to address rising rents with a regional approach. What’s more, it seems likely that the two women will be key to rent control heading to Boston, as it will require state approval to be allowed. A 1994 ballot initiative outlawed statewide rent control.

“I’ve personally been the filer for many rent stabilization bills. And everyone here has had my back on it. And I support you, Mayor Wu,” Elugardo said.

Attempts by Elugardo and other lawmakers to pass such measures have largely failed because widespread support has not been seen in Beacon Hill. Gov. Charlie Baker has also repeatedly expressed his distaste for rent control measures, telling Boston Public Radio in October that he “probably wouldn’t” sign anything to reinstate them.

“It’s not up for debate that rents are out of control. There is no debating that we created this problem and only we can solve this problem,” Edwards said Thursday.

The committee is expected to meet throughout 2022, in order, Wu said, to have a proposal ready for the next state legislative session.

The full composition of the Rent Stabilization Advisory Committee is as follows:

Emma Andersonmember of the Boston teachers’ union

Kathy Browncoordinator at Boston Tenant Coalition

Joe ByrneExecutive Secretary-Treasurer of the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters

Karen Chenexecutive director of the Chinese Progressive Association

Filaine DeronnetteVice President of Health Systems for 1199 SEIU

Emilio DorcelyUrban Edge CEO

Dermot Doynelocal owner and business owner

Chris Herbertmanaging director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

Beyazmin JimenezChairman of the Board of Abundant Housing Massachusetts

Michael Kaneexecutive director of Mass. HUD Holding Alliance

Brian Kavoogiandirector general of national development

Curtis KemenyCEO and Chairman of Boston Residential Group

Joe Kriesbergpresident of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations

Denise Matthews Turnerco-executive director of City Life Vida Urbana

Lisa Owenexecutive director of the Hyams Foundation

Jeanne PinadoVice President of Capital Markets at Colliers International

Mimi Ramosexecutive director of New England United for Justice

Megan Sandel, Associate Professor of Pediatric Medicine at Boston University

Clever ChandaCEO at Onyx

Lauren Songsenior attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services

Justin Steilassociate professor of law and urban planning, MIT

Caroline Villersexecutive director at Mass Senior Action

Josh ZakimFounder and Executive Director of Housing Forward MA