Boston Mayor Michelle Wu this week sent to the City Council a rent-control measure that will cap rent increases in Boston at between 6% and 10% depending on the rate of inflation.
Wu’s formal proposal, sent to the council in what is known in Boston as a “home-rule petition,” calls for setting the annual allowable rent increase at either 10% or at the Consumer Price Index for the Boston metro plus 6%, whichever is lower.
In a lower-inflation year where the region’s CPI increased only 2%, Wu’s measure would cap rent increases at 8%. But if the inflation rate is what it is approaching now—6%–rents could not grow more than a total of 10% under the proposal.
In a letter to the City Council, Wu said that advertised rents across Boston jumped by 14% in 2022, with some neighborhoods in the city seeing rent hikes exceeding 20%.
“This home rule petition will enable the city of Boston to implement rent stabilization to better protect families from displacement caused by exorbitant increases in rent,” Wu said, in the letter.
“The measure would place needed limits on rapid rent increases to existing tenancies and ensure more stability for Boston residents by providing a level of certainty regarding how much their rent could increase each year. Tenants in Boston are often victim to steep rent increases, making it impossible for them to stay in their homes,” the mayor said.
Wu’s rent stabilization measure offers several exemptions to the proposed cap in rent increases. No limit would apply when a new tenant moves in and the landlord sets the initial rental rate; the cap will only kick in for subsequent increases.
Any property with six or fewer units—one of which is the building owner’s primary residents—would not be subject to rent control. Wu’s proposal also exempts the newest housing construction: units won’t face a cap on rent increases if their permanent occupancy certificates are less than 15 years old and they were built from the ground up, added to an existing building or converted from another use to residential.
Units where tenants pay a set percentage of their income to rent, including public housing and those supported by vouchers, also would be exempt from the rent control.
Also exempted from the rent caps are hotels and motels, housing in religious facilities, extended care, residential care and nonprofit hospitals, college and university dormitories, and dwellings where tenants share bathroom or kitchen accommodations with the owner.
Before Boston can enact Wu’s rent cap, state lawmakers will need to lift the rent control preemption law in Massachusetts. Gov. Maura Healey has said lifting the state preemption on rent controls is one of her top priorities.