Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: January 24, 2022 viewpoint

Opinion: Avoid the rent control trap

Greater Worcester is enjoying a residential boom, with housing demand in all areas outpacing the supply as more Massachusetts residents realize Central Massachusetts has greater affordability than they will ever find in Greater Boston. 

Lynn Bora

With all the benefits that popularity brings comes the strain of costs and the desire among some to reach for restrictive, even draconian, rent control policies and proposals, which will only further exacerbate the housing affordability crisis. In St. Paul, Minn., for instance, activists succeeded in enacting an extreme rent control initiative capping rent increases to 3% annually, including for newly constructed housing. Already, developers are halting in St. Paul, fearing they will be unable to finance new housing with artificially capped rents.

While we need to urgently address the housing crisis, implementation of an antiquated concept like rent control is not the way to go. Rent control is ineffective and harmful. The high rents in the uncontrolled markets of New York and San Francisco demonstrate rent control benefits very few, and not necessarily those in greatest need, at the expense of the larger community and society. That’s why the majority of states, led by Massachusetts, have wisely enacted laws prohibiting local municipalities from imposing rent control.

The best ways to address housing affordability is to ensure supply can meet demand, as well as targeted government-funded housing assistance.

During times of crisis, extending direct rental assistance to those who need it most is more effective than rent control. Massachusetts has prioritized this support through a successful and ongoing eviction diversion program, which our industry has supported. Throughout the pandemic, activists have taken every opportunity to blame property owners and housing providers for our housing affordability crisis, even though property owners have been asked to amass significant debt in the face of missed rent payments and eviction moratoria.

Massachusetts has failed to keep up with supply needs because local governments have restricted the construction of new housing for years through antiquated zoning laws and arduous permitting processes. In the last legislative session, Massachusetts enacted the Housing Choices law, which provides powerful incentives for communities to invest in housing. We need to give those policies time to work before we hit the panic button. 

Right now, the most effective thing state and local governments can do to address the pain being felt by renters and housing providers is to ensure every struggling renter has access to available government resources and rental assistance. From there, it’s time to put aside proposals that may make for good soundbites and enact meaningful solutions to bring relief to families in need. 

Lynn Bora is executive vice president of the WinnCompanies in Boston and will serve as the 2022 chair of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, which has more than 12,000 members throughout Eastern and Central Massachusetts.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


January 25, 2022

She is an executive vice president at Winn Residential.

January 24, 2022

No kidding...

Order a PDF