By Kimberly Rau, MassLandlords, Inc.
Rent control is almost certainly coming up for public decision in 2024. To fight it, we’re fundraising to create a new website, with the sole purpose of having a permanent place to discourage a return to 1970s-style rent control. The tactic? Showing what rent control actually did using material created at that time. We’ll publish the real pictures of boarded up buildings and the real minutes of maintenance denied.
Rent control doesn’t work. We know this. But it makes for good headlines, so it constantly comes up as a political talking point. This year, it’s making its way through the ballot initiative process, slating it for the November 2024 election. The ballot question is so broad as to mean everything to everyone. Well, why be vague when the history is there for all to see?
There are alternatives to rent control, some of which are successfully implemented in other areas of the country. It’s curious to think our elected officials are willing to bypass those solutions in favor of one that we already know doesn’t work. But again, rent control makes for good headlines. So will this site. Nothing could be more damning than the evidence.
MassLandlords: Evidence-Based Viewpoints with the Data to Back Them Up
If rent control (or “rent stabilization,” as proponents are trying to repackage it) is passed, it will only make the housing crisis worse. We know this because we’ve already tried rent control, and it was abysmal.
One landlord was jailed, another went bankrupt. Peter Petrillo died over the stress of some truly incredible demands made of him by the rent control board.
But anecdotes aren’t the same as data, and we’d never ask you to just take our word for something. So, we collected data. Mountains of it.
There are more than 7,000 pages of meeting minutes from the Cambridge Historical Commission, showing landlords fighting to be reimbursed for keeping their properties updated. We have hundreds of pages of scans showing boarded up buildings all over Boston and surrounding neighborhoods, many of them multi-unit properties that could easily have housed multiple families.
We have proof that rent stabilization has a disparate impact on people of different races, and cherry sheets showing that when rent control is in effect, property values drop, leading to reduced funding for schools. Rent control doesn’t just impact landlords. It can lead to generational gaps in education and earning potential.
This isn’t conjecture. This is data in its purest form. Alternatives to rent stabilization exist. We’ve seen it work in Oregon. We’ve seen it work in Section 8, which helps countless people and could be expanded. We’ve seen it fail under rent boards in Massachusetts. “Rent control” is a catchy phrase and it certainly gets people out there to vote, but if people don’t see what the rent boards wrought, we’re doomed to repeat our failures.
We Can Create a Dynamic Site that Changes Minds
Creating this website would take considerable time and funds, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Just look at our MassLandlords website. We created that site, and over the last 10 years have generated thousands of pages of SEO-optimized content for people to read. More than 300,000 people visit our site every year.
We built the technology for our website to be read in any language, creating accessibility for anyone who wants to learn about landlording in Massachusetts.
We also have our landlording crash course in Spanish, and have managed to raise tens of thousands of dollars for many housing policy achievements. We know how to present information, and we know how to stretch your dollars so they work hard for you.
We need to show everyone – not just landlords – what rent control really looks like. People need to read about Peter Petrillo, to see the boarded-up houses (there are so many more than just the ones you see along with this article). They need to see the property data for themselves.
Anticipating rent control was going to rear its ugly head again, we have owned multiple web domains that clearly state our purpose of showing the seedy history of rent control in Massachusetts. We have two web developers already working at their maximums, and we need the budget to hire more staff to make this site a reality.
Everyone Should Know the Truth About Rent Control
Rent control doesn’t work, and worse, it’s actively harmful to people who need help the most. The last time we had rent control, the mayor of Cambridge and a court judge both lived in rent-controlled units. Properties became dilapidated all over Boston. The ones you see with this article are literally just a few of hundreds.
We know the truth, but to keep rent control from passing, that’s not enough.
We already know you’ll vote against rent stabilization when it comes up on the ballot, but we aren’t the majority. We need everyone to stand up and say “no” to harmful housing practices. Renters and voters today don’t remember the horrors of rent control. But we do. Politicians don’t remember the tax shortfalls that came with rent control. But we do. And with this site, soon everyone will. The facts are on our side: Rent control hurts housing.
Help Us Prevent a Bigger Housing Crisis in Massachusetts
The reality of rent control is grim. We know this because we’ve lived through it. Now we need to show others the truth, and we need your help.
We’re asking our members for a one-time donation of $200 each to help build a comprehensive, informational website that will stand as a monument to the broken buildings, racial inequalities and even stress-related death that resulted from rent control.
You’ve already committed to best housing practices by becoming a MassLandlords member, but now, we’re asking our members to donate less than the cost of a car payment to ensure rent control remains an historical footnote, instead of a scourge for future generations to fight.
Please, join our fight to help keep rent control where it belongs: in the past.
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If people knew what we knew, they'd never vote for rent stabilization. They need facts, not talking points.