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Bill challenged by impact on tight housing market, eligibility for migrants

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(The Center Square) – Massachusetts is facing a double-edged sword between affordable housing shortage and the influx of migrants arriving in the commonwealth seeking shelter.

Many political leaders believe rent control will be the answer.

First-term Democratic Gov. Maura Healey, state attorney general from 2015 until winning gubernatorial election in November, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and several lawmakers support a proposed rent control law. House Bill 2103, An Act Enabling Cities and Towns to Stabilize Rents and Protect Tenants, is challenged by its impact on a tight housing market, and eligibility for migrants.

Homes for All Massachusetts supports the bill and says it “ends the statewide ban on rent control, empowering cities and towns to enact the effective rent stabilization and just cause eviction protections needed at the local level.” It says it would provide “a rural and urban solution to the housing crisis.”

The group also says the proposed legislation will not hamper new construction, slamming corporate real estate.

“Single-family rental homes represent 75% of the rural rental stock nationwide,” talking points from the group say. “These kinds of rental properties typically lack or are exempt from any rent regulations yet have increasingly become targets of real estate speculation.”

Homes for All Massachusetts also cites a study from the University of Southern California Equity Research Institute arguing new housing construction reached new levels when rent stabilization was implemented during the 1980s in Boston, Cambridge and Brookline.

Critics of the measure say rent control will have the opposite effect on new housing construction, thus leading to less affordable housing.

“Rent control has proven to stop new housing development which includes affordable housing,” said Paul Craney of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “Developers have a lot of options for where they can invest their money, they can easily go to other New England states or to Florida to build new affordable housing.”

Another problem that has yet to be addressed is how the nearly 6,000 migrant families in Massachusetts shelters will affect the affordable housing crisis.

It is unclear whether migrants would be eligible for the program since the legislation allows municipalities broad interpretation of eligibility requirements. The Center Square reached out to Connolly and other supporters of the bill requesting further clarification on the eligibility of migrants; at time of publication, a response had not been received.

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