Eh, what can you do?

So, Sam Yoon, reckless young city councilor, has proposed a new plan to encourage landlords to negotiate rents with their tenants. Encourage, by which I mean “force”, since if a landlord chooses NOT to meet with their tenants, a letter will be entered into a file (permanently) at City Hall, which would be used against them, should they ever need assistance from the city, at any time in the future.

It’s a terrible idea.

Fortunately, it appears to be going down for the count (the Boston City Council is scheduled to vote on the plan, tomorrow).

The Globe came out against the plan, today.

Instead, they suggest another rent control proposal, this one even worse than what Yoon wants.

Boston could have benefited from a reasonable rent stabilization bylaw like the one proposed in 2004. It would have allowed low-income and elderly tenants only to appeal annual rent increases above 5 percent. The proposal thoughtfully exempted all construction from 2002 forward to encourage new supply. It got shot down by the City Council. But it stood for something tangible.

There are still ways to help needy tenants or expand the number of affordable apartments in Boston without adopting rent controls. Barry Bluestone, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, recommends a housing voucher finance system similar to the one in Illinois, where officials assess a $20 fee on most real estate transactions. Bluestone estimates that the state could set aside more than $10 million annually for such a trust fund. Another solution might be for Bostonians to subsidize the construction of more inexpensive housing by adopting a small surcharge on property taxes through passage of the Community Preservation Act.

“Bostonians could subsidize the construction of more inexpensive housing by adopting a small surcharge on property taxes …”


In an indirect way, anyone who buys a condo in Boston, today, already subsidizes the construction of inexpensive housing. There is a 13% affordable housing clause in most residential construction which forces developers to offer condos in their developments at below-market rates (way below-market rates). This does nothing but increase the cost of housing for the “rest of us”.

Has this “affordable-housing” plan done anything to mitigate the high cost of housing within the city?

No. Nothing.

I don’t support the Globe’s proposal to limit rent increases to 5% for low-income and the elderly – no one’s proven to me that it’s a requirement. (The Globe says we need rent control to make rental housing more affordable to middle-class residents, but then says we need to create rent control for the low-income and elderly … who’s left???)

On the other hand, assessing a small fee on each real estate transaction has at least some merit, in my opinion. I don’t like the idea of having it assessed and collected by the state, however; I don’t think we’d end up seeing any effect in Boston – certainly, collecting $10 million across the entire state isn’t going to be enough to build a new mid-cost apartment complex in Boston.

The trouble with ideas such as the Globe’s (and Yoon’s) is that they are proposed by people without the knowledge and experience necessary to make the plans reasonable and logical.

Eh, what can you do?

More: Room for rent improvement – The Boston Globe

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Updated: 1st Q 2018