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Proponents Abandon Rent Control Ballot Question

By November 27, 2023No Comments

An effort to place a local-option rent control law before voters has been abandoned by its proponents after they acknowledged they would be unable to collect the signatures of 74,574 registered voters by Wednesday, November 29, as required under the state Constitution. Those signatures must be certified by city and town clerks and then validated by the Secretary of State’s office before any measure advances to the next phase of the process of qualifying for the 2024 ballot.

Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office certified 34 ballot question proposals on September 6. The Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts (HBRAMA), together with other organizations, had filed a legal memorandum with the Attorney General in opposition to the certification of the petition. Notwithstanding our objections, she certified the question as a proper matter to be on the ballot, thereby giving the supporters of rent-control the green light to start collecting voter signatures, an amount at least equal to 3 percent of the total votes cast for candidates for governor, excluding blanks, in the most recent election. Obtaining those signatures is a challenge that routinely dooms prospective ballot questions. Such was the case here.

The campaign by tenant organizations and their allies in the Legislature to bring back rent control is not over, however. The Joint Committee on Housing recently held a nearly six-hour public hearing on numerous bills to allow cities and towns to impose rent control, including House Bill No.3744, An Act establishing permanent eviction protections and tenancy preservation notices. That legislation has been championed by Rep. Michael Connelly (D-Cambridge), the sponsor of the ballot question. Also heard that day were bills that would give tenant organizations the right of first refusal to purchase a rental property from an owner intending to offer it for sale.

As of this writing, the Joint Committee on Housing has taken no action on these matters. The HBRAMA will continue to oppose any legislation that it believes will discourage the investment and development of needed rental housing in the Commonwealth.

A copy of H. 3777 can be found here.