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Rent Control Rejected Again in Boston

The Boston City Council voted to reject a new system of rent control in Boston. The bill would have given tenant activists the ability to collectively organize and negotiate while requiring owners to open their buildings to provide the activists with the ability to leaflet and solicit tenants in their own homes. It would have also required owners to meet with each tenant activist group at least twice a year for a maximum of six hours each meeting. If the owner would have failed to meet the activists, he or she may have been prohibited from obtaining any future permits from the city. The action was opposed by both the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe, as well as by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board.

My take: I can’t even believe rent control is still being discussed. Is there a problem of affordable housing in Boston? Absolutely. Is rent control EVER the answer? Absolutely not.

Real Estate is one of they only fields left where Joe Shmoe can use Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” to build wealth. When the free market is left to its own devices, neighborhoods flourish because owners care. Nicer units in nicer neighborhoods command higher rent, so owners invest in their assets rather than letting them decay. Rent control interferes with the natural ebb and flow of supply and demand…and that is just something that shouldn’t be messed with. It has failed so many times; at least it looks like some people are learning. Rent control is a good political sound-bite, but it is a long-term disaster.

The answer to the affordable housing problems in Boston is in affordable housing programs ordained by the city, such as the Leading the Way and Leading the Way II programs. New buildings must include affordable housing units, that must be re-sold or re-rented as affordable housing units. These programs should be expanded and new programs explored. We need to invest in something that works, not and economic time-bomb.

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