Economists say repeatedly: The cause of high rents is lack of a sufficient supply of rental housing. It follows, therefore, that to bring rents down broadly, we must create more rental housing units.
Rent control, however, stops all new rental housing construction.
Numerous bills now at the State House suggest various ways to create more rental housing: Allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs), end single-family zoning and other zoning restrictions, allow local zoning decisions by majority vote only, not the present two-thirds vote – and other bills to expand the housing supply.
If enacted, rent control would make all those bills pointless. Cambridge had rent control for 25 years, 1969 to 1994, and no new rental housing was built for all those years, even though its rent control ordinance exempted new construction, as all rent-control laws do. But builders and investors fear, quite rightly, that rent control could be applied to their properties in the future. They choose instead to build in places with no risk of rent control.
House Bill 3924, now at the State House, would allow every Massachusetts city and town to adopt “rent and eviction regulations,” with wide latitude on specific provisions (see article on p. 3).
The choice, then, is quite stark: Create more rental housing units – OR rent control. Both cannot coexist.
But we have virtually no undeveloped land for new construction
Quite true, at least in the major cities with the highest rents. Cambridge recently rejected a “100% affordable housing zoning overlay,” after SPOA sent a 4-page letter to all Cambridge property owners, opposing the zoning proposal. It would have allowed developers to tear down existing housing or businesses anywhere in the city and build bigger, bulkier structures with more units than present zoning would allow, all tax-funded and “affordable.” This approach, along with all so-called “affordable housing” in general, is deeply flawed (see article on p. 4).
But there is a way to create substantially more units in EXISTING housing. See SPOA’s proposals at Increase Supply.