Governor Maura Healey says she supports a community’s right to make decisions around rent control for themselves — but would the policy be a lifeline for folks at risk of losing their homes or struggling to find an affordable place to live?
“No, I don’t think so,” the governor responded when asked on NBC10 Boston in an appearance Sunday.
Asked on “@Issue” by NBC reporter Cory Smith if she supports rent control, specifically as it pertains to Boston, Healey responded with a line she has used before when asked about regulating rent hikes.
“My position has been that I support the right of any community to make that assessment and decision for itself,” she said.
The governor added, “It’s not one I would make.”
A movement to revive a community’s ability to implement rent control has gained momentum with activists recently as housing costs get further and further out of reach for many. The policy was banned statewide by voters in 1994.
A ballot question campaign to bring the topic back to voters in 2024 recently ended, after some housing advocates said the campaign was a distraction from legislative routes to reinstate local choice for the policy.
Advocates have been pushing for legislative solutions, and some have thrown their support behind Boston’s home rule petition backed by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and the City Council to try to stabilize rents in the state’s capital city.
Healey did not oppose these pushes for re-legalization, but said that the way to fix the crisis of unaffordable and unavailable stock is to produce more units and rehabilitate existing housing.
“What I think is really important, though, is that we lower rents by building more housing. More housing means more supply, means lowering of costs. That’s what we’re going to do,” Healey said.
She promoted the $4 billion housing bond bill she filed last month, which she estimates could lead to the creation of over 40,000 new housing units, chipping away at the shortage that has been estimated to be roughly 200,000.
Her five-year, $4.12 billion bond bill includes policy reforms such as upgrading aging and neglected public housing stock and converting state land into housing-ready plots.
“My bond bill focuses not only on cleaning up and rehabbing public housing, because we’ve got 43,000 units of public housing out there that could house people if we fix them. It’s also incenting creating affordable housing, which we need, but also a whole bunch of what we call market-rate housing, workforce housing, all around the state,” Healey said Sunday.
Her bill would also allow local option transfer taxes to fund affordable housing and accessory dwelling units in single-family zoning districts across the state, as well as other policy shifts designed to create more units.
Healey filed the bill about nine months into her first year as governor, after running a campaign focused on finding solutions to the housing crisis. The Joint Committee on Housing, where the bill now sits, has not yet scheduled a hearing for it, as lawmakers last week began a seven-week vacation through the end of 2023.
Asked Sunday if she thinks the state is moving fast enough to address the crisis as Bay Staters struggle to find a place to live, Healey said there needs to be urgency.
“I just went big, I went big on housing. I’m asking for $4 billion bond authorization for housing. Why? Well, I believe that housing is the greatest challenge facing our state,” she said.
After the governor discussed her housing bond bill, Smith asked: “Folks who are in need right now, folks who are looking at the end of their lease coming and saying, ‘I don’t know where I can afford to live that is close to my kid’s school’ or to their job, would rent control, perhaps, be a lifeline for those folks?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Healey replied. “What I do think would help is getting this bill passed, getting the money, getting the funding, getting the development going,” Healey said.