Talking Points: The Legislature Needs to Hear from You opposing Local Control of Housing Policy

Rent Control: H.1378 and its companion S.886; H1440 and its companion S889; H.3721, H4229
Right to Purchase: H.1426 and its companion S890; H4208

Our elected officials depend on a connection with their constituents to get reelected. If they aren’t aware of what’s good and bad, they will make bad choices. You may be the only person who is calling them about an issue. Every voice matters.

Bill Text

Read our testimony

1a. Find your Rep and Senator

https://malegislature.gov/search/findmylegislator

Call the rep and senator where you live. If you have time, also call where each property you own is located.
Read more including links to bill text at: https://masslandlords.net/policy/tenant-right-first-refusal/

1b. Recommendation: print this page

Prepare to have the conversation in a flexible order; draw a line down the margin to cross off points you have made. The line break shows what you still have to say, double the line or print new pages for each separate call:

1. point made

2. not yet made

3. another point already made

2. Call and Start by Asking Permission to Share Your Viewpoint:

You probably will be put through to the legislator’s aide. This is OK. The aide will tell the legislator what you said. Adjust these to reflect reality:

1.“I’m a MassLandlords member/participant…” or “I’m a landlord…” “...living/working in your district.”

2.“I’m ________ (insert your own adjective but do not swear: concerned; outraged; angry) about the local control housing bills on local rent control and local right of first refusal. Can I tell you about it?” (listen for their response; if it’s a bad time, schedule a call back; if they say they already voted, tell them the bill may be headed back and they should understand why. If they ask for bill numbers, give them the list at top.)

3. Acknowledge their Current Position:

If Rep, Senator: “I am asking you to write to the chairs (or if a chair, to reconsider) opposed.”
Always: “I have three reasons why these bills will destroy housing.”

4. Share Three Official Talking Points.

  • Background:
    • The proposed bills are a terrible idea for many reasons. We need more housing across the state.
    • Towns and cities are trying to take matters into their own hands but they’re only going to make things worse.
    • Take local rent control. We tried rent control in Massachusetts from the 1970s to the mid-1990s, and it was a disaster for everyone, not just the three cities who had it.
    • And there’s also right of first refusal. This will shut off the housing market in certain towns with effects felt statewide.
    • Ask, “Can I give you more detail on these proposals?”
  • Say, “First, let’s talk about localized rent control. Landlords don’t want this. It makes it harder to maintain our properties. The key point is renters shouldn’t want rent control either. Economists have studied Massachusetts:
    • In Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, which had rent control, people of color made up 24% of the population, but only 12% of rent-controlled units were occupied by people of color.
    • When rent control was repealed, this percentage doubled.
    • Landlords who could only charge so much held their units vacant waiting for a perfect applicant.
    • Unfortunately and very unfairly, we have a Black-white wealth gap in America and in Massachusetts.
    • For instance, the Economic Policy Institute shows 2018 median household income was $41,692 for Black households and $70,642 for white households.
    • This resulted in an unintended disparate impact on the basis of race.
    • Even with strong protections against personal racism, systemic racism was worse under rent control.
    • There’s an unfair Black-white gap in income, credit scores, eviction history and convictions.
    • We shouldn’t let any city or town worsen systemic racism by enacting rent control.
    • None of the rent control bills can close the Black-white gap.
    • There is a much, much bigger conversation that needs to happen for equal housing opportunity.
  • “My second point: Right of First Refusal adopted by any town is bad for neighboring towns.”
    • The law would delay or prevent the sale of multifamilies in a town for half a year or more.
    • If my town adopted it, I’d be forced to be a landlord even if I couldn’t do it anymore.
    • My potential buyers are going to shop in other towns, raising housing costs there.
  • “Three”: To fix these issues short-term, we need rental assistance. Long-term, we need more zoning reform.
    • Required single-family zoning restricts housing and growth.
    • If we eliminate requirements for single-family zoning, then anyone who has a single family and wants to keep it can still keep it.
    • But then I and other landlords who like to build and operate rental housing would be free to do so.
    • We’re not talking high-rises, we’re talking “gentle density.”
    • More housing means stable rents.
    • These towns asking for local rent control and local right of first refusal, they have minimum lot sizes, floor area ratios, setbacks and other requirements that make it hard for landlords to add units.
    • We passed an accessory dwelling units law last year, we need more of that statewide coordination.

5. Share your Personal Story

Example: “So those are my five points, let me just add: I’ve been in business X years. I run a good property. This bill will make me sell or convert to condos before the law even gets passed. I cannot afford to navigate town by town rent control or right of first refusal.”

6. Listen. Talk. Finally ask, “Write to the chairs”

“Please write to the chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing and tell them these bills ought not pass. Do you want me to read off the numbers?... Thank you”

7. Fill out our Response Form:

https://masslandlords.net/grassroots

8. Forward these talking points to 3 to 10 people

You probably know a housing provider or two who hasn’t been paying attention. Now is the time to get them to pay attention.

9. Sign up to Gather Signatures for a referendum if necessary

https://masslandlords.net/volunteer

Dos and Don’ts for Talking with Elected Officials

  • Do
    • Stick mostly or entirely to the talking points prepared by MassLandlords.
    • Allow the Rep or Senator to start by inviting you to share what’s on your mind.
    • Learn what the Rep or Senator is interested in, and which committees they’re assigned to.
    • Present the need for change. Use MassLandlords data or case stories you know well (or your own experience).
    • Relate the problem to someone or some place in their home district.
    • Ask their position and why.
    • Be even-handed when discussing judges or other public officials. You may not like these people, but the rep or senator may.
    • If we know their record, ask why they voted a certain way.
    • If you don’t know the answer to their question, say “I don’t know” and offer to have MassLandlords follow up. We will.
    • Talk to Reps and Senators who are not on the “landlord side;” you can lessen their opposition or change it to in-favor. Once they see that we want what’s best for everyone, they can easily come over to our side.
    • Get to know the staff, their names and backgrounds.
    • Thank them for helping us in the past, if they have.
    • Leave them with a clear understanding of what you wanted.
    • Leave them looking forward to their next meeting with MassLandlords.
  • Don't
    • Don’t bring up too many issues.
    • Don’t bring up issues unrelated to MassLandlords. You can arrange a separate meeting to talk about your own agenda or the agenda of other groups.
    • Don’t threaten, pressure, beg, or attack.
    • Don’t raise your voice or do anything else to put them on the defensive.
    • Don’t overstate the case or repeat yourself.
    • Don’t expect them to understand anything about rental properties. Don’t jump right into the explanation of the problem without setting the stage first.
    • Don’t be put off by smokescreens or dodging the question. Bring them back to the main point. Be in control politely.
    • Don’t promise things you can’t. Never speak for the association.
    • Don’t be afraid to take a position for yourself.
    • Don’t shy away from meeting with Reps or Senators who are known to be pro-tenant.
    • Don’t be offended if you can only meet with staff.
    • Don’t be turned off by a staffer who looks young or inexperienced. They may be young, but they have the ear of their rep or senator.
    • Don’t leave them hoping never to encounter MassLandlords again.

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