Boston Mayor Michelle Wu filed a plan Monday meant to address the city’s skyrocketing rents.
The Democrat made rent control, or rent stabilization, a centerpiece of her 2021 mayoral campaign, despite the fact that voters in Massachusetts approved a 1994 ballot question banning rent control statewide.
Wu’s plan seeks to rein in annual rent hikes. It would set the annual maximum allowable rent increase based on the change in the consumer price index plus 6%, or a maximum increase of 10%, whichever is lower.
The proposal would exempt owner-occupied properties with six units or fewer — including the three-family homes that dot the city’s neighborhoods.
Also exempt would be any new apartment buildings during the first 15 years after being issued a certificate of occupancy.
In a letter to Boston city council members accompanying the proposal, Wu said the measure is needed to combat sharply rising housing costs and provide more stability for residents faced with sudden spikes in rent.
“Tenants in Boston are often victim to steep rent increases, making it impossible for them to stay in their homes,” Wu wrote. “In 2022, advertised rents across the city increased by 14 percent, while several neighborhoods saw increases in excess of 20 percent.”
Critics have described rent control as a failed policy that won’t help create housing in Boston and across the state. They argue that rent control or rent stabilization proposals would instead slow housing production and discourage the maintenance of rent-controlled units.
Wu said her proposal was modeled on similar policies in Calilfornia and Oregon.
The proposal would also include “just cause” eviction protections for tenants.
Just cause protections typically limit landlords from evicting tenants except for specific reasons like failure to pay rent, a substantial violation of a lease, or allowing a unit to be used for illicit purposes.
Landlords argue that the policy would tie their hands.
Wu’s proposal has a long road ahead. It must be approved by the city council and then by state lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Maura Healey before it could take effect.