A proposal by City Councilor Althea Garrison (at large) to study how to bring rent control back to Boston was met with virulent opposition from three councilors who rent out units who thundered rent control would turn the city into the sort of hellhole they said it was back before voters statewide eliminated rent control in 1994.
The measure was sent to a council committee for a hearing and study.
Garrison said it's time to ask the state legislature to let Boston reintroduce rent control because "there is a major housing crisis in the city of Boston," in which people are being "evicted and displaced in massive numbers. Basic shelter, she said, is a human right.
But councilors Frank Baker (Dorchester), Tim McCarthy (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan) and Mark Ciommo (Allston/Brighton), all of whom own homes in which they rent units said rent control would only punish small landowners like them - all three said they rent at below-market rates because that's the kind of caring people they are.
Rent control was "an ultimate failure in the past," McCarthy said, adding he doesn't want government telling him what to do with his property.
Baker said that when he was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, rent control had destroyed much of Boston and that he does not return to those days.
Ciommo said both that rent control would not affect large developers but would also ensure they would never build in Boston again. "No one was crying me a river" when property values went down during the 2008 recession, Ciommo said.
Ciommo said he would rather see expansion of government programs that help subsidize housing units than shift the burden of meeting city housing needs on small landlords, and said it's time for "our suburban friends" to make like Boston and build more housing.
Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, Charlestown, North End) also rents out an apartment, but said she welcomes "an adult conversation" about rent control because Boston is becoming too expensive for most people to even rent, let alone buy. "The market is out of control," she said. "Working people cannot afford rent here in Boston." She said the problem is particularly acute for young people - who do not remember the days before 1994 - such as her chief of staff: "Boston is not welcoming to them, they cannot afford to stay, because the rent is too high."