Baker says rent control is the ‘wrong direction’ to go on housing
Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday threw cold water on a push to restore rent control in Massachusetts, saying he worried it would do more harm than good.
“Rent control will stifle the production of new housing,” Baker told reporters at an unrelated event in the Back Bay, according to the State House News Service. “That’s exactly the wrong direction we should go.”
Baker’s comments followed a Globe story on Tuesday about a bill, soon to be filed in the Legislature by a group of progressive lawmakers, that would let cities and towns impose rent control and implement other tenant protections.
Massachusetts voters in 1994 narrowly voted to outlaw rent control, but advocates say the region’s housing crisis has become so severe that the issue is worth revisiting.
Once filed, the bill will get a hearing in the House, as will a separate, narrower rent control bill already filed. In separate remarks to the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he wants the bills to get a full airing, according to the State House News Service.
Should either measure pass, it would need Baker’s signature to become law. The governor has focused his own housing plan around a bill that would allow municipalities to change zoning rules for new development through a simple majority vote (50 percent plus one vote) of a municipal council or a town meeting, instead of the two-thirds majority now required. That would spark more construction, he said, by making it harder for a vocal minority to block development.
“We don’t have a lot of [housing] inventory, and what we have ends up being really expensive,” Baker said Tuesday, following a tour of the new Back Bay headquarters of fantasy sports company DraftKings, fantasy sports company. “We need to build more housing, not less.”
An earlier version of Baker’s bill was blocked in informal sessions late last year by legislators — including one of the lead sponsors of the rent control bill — who wanted it to include more protections for tenants at risk of eviction.