Brookline Town Meeting narrowly voted Thursday night to ask the Select Board to petition state legislators to allow the town to impose rent stabilization and tenant eviction protections.
Rent hikes would be limited to an annual increase of 3 percent, plus the inflation rate of the previous years, up to a maximum of 7 percent. Members of the town meeting voted 112-107, with 13 abstentions.
The vote comes nearly 30 years after the state voted to do away with rent control in 1994, despite voters in Brookline, Boston, and Cambridge voting to keep it legal.
The approval came two nights after Town Meeting members voted overwhelmingly to change zoning near public transit stops to allow for construction of apartment and condominiums to comply with a new state housing law.
State law also preempts cities and towns from adopting rent control regulations independently. That means the regulation Brookline is seeking, needs to be approved by the state before it can be implemented.
The Select Board voted against the measure in a vote of four to one, citing concerns that rent control would discourage new construction or incentivize landlords to boost their rent now.
The article was proposed by town meeting members Alec Lebovitz from Precinct 8 and Kimberley Richardson from Precinct 2, as well as resident Johnathon Card.
Richardson spoke to the town meeting, urging members to vote in support of the measure listed as Article 16 on the Town Meeting Warrant.
She spoke about the town’s past rent control bylaws in 1970, which were later nullified by voters across Massachusetts in 1994. Brookline residents, however, voted in favor of keeping rent control by a 12 percent margin.
“The town has already previously implemented a considerably more complex program at a greater cost with fewer available resources,” Richardson said. “Our proposal is reasonable, comprised [of] measures that will improve affordability for residents without breaking the bank.”
To solve the “inadequate supply of low-cost rental housing” in Brookline, the article proposes to protect residents from “exorbitant rent increases” and limit reasons a landlord can evict a tenant.
It points to Brookline’s high rent prices as a need for rent control. The article cited a 2023 analysis of Zillow listings in Brookline that found the median rent for an open-market apartment was $3,900.
If the article is approved by the state, then Brookline would be able to “restrict annual rental rate increases for units in certain multifamily dwellings,” to 3 percent, plus the inflation rate of the previous years, up to a maximum of 7 percent.
But some buildings would be exempt from this policy, such as owner-occupied dwellings of four or fewer units, nonprofit or university-owned housing, and newly constructed units.
The article would also create protections to “insulate vulnerable renters against eviction and displacement” through the creation of specific bylaws.
This story has been updated.