1997

Gouging landlords! Skyrocketing evictions! Out in the streets! Those were the headlines and slogans recently in a Boston newspaper and on a Boston radio station, a recent media blitz from tenant advocates timed to support the recently failed ”just cause“ eviction petition filed last year by tenant advocates.

But even as reporters blatantly slanted the stories, they also spoke the hidden truth: Evictions have slowed down since rent control ended! And landlords have been compassionate!

The Boston Herald proudly printed statistics showing a rise in evictions in Boston Housing Court. But look carefully. During rent control, evictions rose much faster than after rent control. In fact, since 1995, evictions have only risen by 1% a year. Early in the 1990’s, before rent control’s end, evictions rose as much as 26% a year, averaging 16% annually over three years. It’s just amazing how a newspaper turns an eviction slow-down into ”skyrocketing evictions.“

Meanwhile, stories intended to elicit pity for hapless tenants suffering from Simon Legree landlords contain surprising truths. Just read between the lines.

One elderly tenant faced a rent increase from $400 a month up closer to market level for his desirable Fenway area apartment. Sounds unconscionable. But note: his landlord offered him two other apartments that would be affordable for him. He refused. The landlord offered to pay his moving expenses. He refused. Enough said?

A formerly rent-controlled Brighton tenant claimed she just couldn’t afford the new rent her landlord wanted, so she convinced him to accept $300 a month less than he asked for. Then, the reporter tells us, she said: ”Why should I just throw my rent money away?“ and went out and bought a condominium for less in monthly payments than she would have paid in rent. Living close to the bone all those years? Or just saving up her bucks on her landlord?

Finally, another elderly tenant, facing a rent increase after decontrol, is portrayed as the picture of sympathy. ”Long ago,“ she said, ”I promised my family and myself that I would never, never take any kind of handouts. It would make me too uncomfortable. I would make my own way. It’s why I haven’t looked into any subsidized housing.“ But not too proud to take a handout from her landlord?