Wu floats long-awaited rent control proposal, but many hurdles remain

Wu floats long-awaited rent control proposal, but many hurdles remain

By Catherine Carlock and Emma Platoff Globe Staff,Updated January 18, 2023, 1:18 p.m

In a bid to bring rent control back to Boston for the first time in three decades, Mayor Michelle Wu is readying a proposal that would limit allowable rent increases to 10 percent per year.

The plan, which was floated Tuesday to an advisory committee of tenant advocates, developers, and housing experts, is a long way from becoming reality; it would need approval from both the City Council and lawmakers on Beacon Hill. But it outlines one way Wu aims to address the city’s housing crisis and fulfill a major pitch of her mayoral campaign.

Wu’s approach is modeled on versions of rent control that have recently taken effect in Oregon and California, tying allowable rent hikes to inflation. In this case, it would allow annual increases up to 6 percent higher than the federal government’s Consumer Price Index. In a typical year, with 2 percent inflation, landlords could increase rent by up to 8 percent. In high inflation years, like 2022, the measure would never allow increases of more than 10 percent.

It would exempt new buildings for the first 15 years after they open, as well as small owner-occupied properties such as three-deckers. And it would be paired with so-called “just cause” eviction protections for tenants, which require landlords to have adequate reason to launch eviction proceedings on a tenant.

A spokesperson for the city confirmed the details of the proposal discussed Tuesday.

“We continue to work with the advisory committee toward specific legislative language that would protect families from rent gouging and displacement as our city continues to grow,” a city spokesperson said. “We look forward to receiving additional stakeholder feedback before filing a proposal with the City Council.”

Boston has long been one of the most expensive cities in the country to rent an apartment, and most of the others on that list — New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles — have had some form of rent control in place for decades. Meanwhile rents here have surged in recent years throughout the city’s neighborhoods, sparking concerns about displacement of working-class tenants.

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