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Rents North of Boston Up 9 Percent in 5 Years; Rent Control Needed?

If there's one thing that a recession does, especially when there is a housing crisis, it's to increase rent. In the communities north of Boston, rents increased by 8.9% to an average of $1,427, while vacancy rates dropped from 7.8% to 4% in the same amount of time, according to the Boston Globe.

These factors have led to a shortage of housing for low- to moderate-income renters, reports the Globe. If this trend continues, should Boston or other locales reconsider rent control or rent stabilization?

Rent control is a law or regulation that controls the amount of rent that can be charged and limits how much rent can increase over time. Some states specifically forbid rent control, while others allow municipalities to enact rent control laws at their option.

In 2003 and 2004, the Boston City Council considered a rent control law. The proposed Rent Stabilization legislation would have applied to all buildings with four or more units, as well as non-owner-occupied three-unit dwellings. The main goal was to limit the times when rent could be increased and the amount that it could be increased.

But the legislation fell through, and so Boston is still without any rent control laws. However, it is unlikely that the law would have kept rent from rising less than it did over the past five years. The law would have allowed for a maximum 5% increase per year for low- to moderate-income, elderly and disabled tenants, and a maximum rent increase of 10% per year for everyone else.

While rent control laws are meant to help people keep lower rents, from this recent report it does not seem like there has been any abuse of renters, at least in the communities north of Boston. Perhaps rent control will come up again in the future if evidence of massive abuse comes to light.

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