Boston’s home-rule petition threatens
STATE AID to Mass. cities and towns
Petition enables Boston tenants to depress RENTS using widespread RENT STRIKES
“The Jim Brooks Stabilization Act” (HB 4142) is a home-rule petition, now at the State Legislature, that would depress property values in Boston and change allocations of STATE AID.
State aid, totalling almost $1 billion in 2012, is distributed to help equalize discrepancies in the wealth of cities and towns. Poorer communities get more aid than wealthier communities, based on their total property tax revenues. If a municipality does anything to depress property values, such as lowering rents, they get more state aid while other communities get less.
In the 1994 statewide referendum that outlawed rent control in Massachusetts, voters in cities and towns outside Route 128 and westward across the state, mostly poorer than municipalities within the Greater Boston area, voted heavily to end rent control – because they were losing state aid.
Rent strikes are the tool that will impact state aid.
The Jim Brooks Stabilization Act (HB 4142) is cleverly designed to suppress rents in a wide swath of Boston’s rental housing.
The key provision of HB 4142 requires landlords to send copies of all rent-increase and eviction notices to the city within 2 days after tenants receive them. This rapidly collected data would be distributed or leaked, as easily as on a thumb-sized data stick, to tenant advocacy groups. Advocacy groups with this data would be able to swell their memberships and pinpoint exactly where tenants are facing rent increases or eviction, just as they start up.
Advocates can then organize tenants to do RENT STRIKES, where all or most of a landlord’s tenants stop paying rent and demand no rent increases and no evictions before they will pay rent again. Small landlords, especially, would have no choice but to fall on their knees and capitulate to tenant demands: no rent increases, no evictions. Most landlords cannot afford attorneys to fight lengthy eviction battles against so many tenants. Owners would be forced into leases with FROZEN RENTS with the SAME tenants, probably until the current tenants move out – voluntarily.
Any law that requires below-market rents is illegal
RENT STRIKES in this way would reduce rents across the largest city in New England. Thus, the home-rule petition, using data supplied by the city, would violate the Massachusetts Rent Control Prohibition Act (MGL Ch 40P), which prohibits any law or regulation that “in any way requires below-market rents.”
State aid will flow into Boston and any other municipalities that adopt this local option, robbing the rest of the state’s communities of their state aid. Most likely, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and Amherst would respond to this precedent. Potentially, rent strikes (see RENT STRIKE No. 1 March 2016 for an example) could spread to many other Massachusetts communities.
HB 4142 would depress property values widely, both of rent-controlled AND non-controlled properties. Surprisingly, an MIT study on rent DEcontrol in Cambridge after 1994 found that property values increased less on all previously rent-controlled properties than property values on “never-controlled properties,” a “spillover effect” of so-called “rent control wrecks” on whole neighborhoods.
Widespread impacts would depress Boston’s entire economy
Other impacts of FROZEN RENTS or minimal rent increases on property values would also include: • No capital improvements for lack of sufficient rental income (carpenters, electricians, plumbers, take note). • Some owners would abandon their properties. • Most other owners would just do minimal repairs, no upgrades. • Blight would befall poorer neighborhoods. • Increased crime and drugs would require more police and fire personnel. • No bank loans for regulated properties. • Decreased property tax revenues would reduce city services. • The property tax burden would shift to Boston’s non-regulated properties (single-family, owners of up to 6 units).
LANDLORD SLAVERY: Landlords will be forced to sign leases at the same old rent, with the same tenants. It’s forced lease renewal, because landlords – legally – must maintain and repair all units, even on zero rental income. Slavery is “being forced into work,” “work done in harsh conditions for low pay.”
CONDO OWNERS and ASSOCIATIONS would lose control over rented condos and never get allocated fees. Once rented, condo owners could not occupy their units without a lengthy, costly lawsuit.
Yet other concerns, as this legislation has multiple impacts
“NOTIFICATION” is also required. The city gives all affected tenants a notice of their TENANT RIGHTS and explicitly including CONTACT INFORMATION to reach all the city’s tenant advocacy groups.
HOW IT SPREADS Fearing RENT STRIKES will happen to them, all regulated landlords across the city would reconsider all rent increases and evictions. Their safest choice: do nothing. That inaction would lead to a very broad RENT FREEZE or, at most, TINY RENT INCREASES throughout Boston. It’s rent control by intimidation. Landlords may even have to accede to rent rollbacks.
SPOA carefully documented two RENT STRIKES in 2016
We do not exaggerate! SPOA documented two horrible RENT STRIKES in Boston in 2016, organized by City Life/Vida Urbana, the city’s largest tenant advocacy group. The victim-landlords were not white males. They were two minority, immigrant, elderly, Hispanic men on subsidies, yet was put out of business. His family with five children lost $10 million to put them through college. These landlords did not have corporate offices, and they did their own repairs and management. That’s who they attack. Read about these rent strikes at www.spoa.com.
This home-rule petition is ILLEGAL in a number of ways
1) It violates the Massachusetts Rent Control Prohibition Act by using RENT STRIKES to keep rents low.
2) It induces tenants to violate their contractual agreements with landlords to pay rent.
3) It violates state and federal privacy rules and the U.S. 4th Amendment “to be secure in one’s… papers.”
4) It violates public policy for city government to give aid and support to private, highly partisan advocacy groups.
5) It violates the foundation of this nation: freedom from slavery, from being forced into a bad contract.
Both the legal and economic arguments against this home-rule petition are clear. The Jim Brooks Stabilization Act” (HB 4142) needs to be defeated at the State Legislature. See Where Do I Vote in MA for looking up how to contact your legislators.