JANUARY 6, 2022
Dear Cambridge and Somerville Constituents,
On Tuesday, January 11, at 11 am, the legislature's Joint Committee on Housing will hear testimony on the Tenant Protection Act (H.1378), legislation I co-lead-filed with Boston Rep. Nika Elugardo and Springfield Senator Adam Gomez to lift the statewide ban on rent stabilization, along with other landlord-tenant bills.
Please note — the deadline to sign up to offer testimony to the Housing Committee is tomorrow, January 7, at 5 pm.
I want to make sure everyone is aware of this opportunity to testify and tomorrow's deadline to sign up. If you have any questions about the hearing, you are welcome to contact my legislative aide, Chris Addis, via [email protected], as he is working with committee staff and our coalition partners to coordinate our efforts.
I also want to share the following material from a fact sheet I recently posted about the Tenant Protection Act and our need for local rent stabilization policies in general.
THE PROBLEM — ONGOING HOUSING CRISIS
Across the Commonwealth, the affordable housing emergency continues to result in widespread displacement, cost-burden, and homelessness — but M.G.L. Ch. 40P often makes it impossible for our municipal officials to take action to stabilize housing for our most vulnerable residents.
RENT STABILIZATION IS ONE PART OF THE SOLUTION
The Tenant Protection Act offers one piece of a comprehensive approach to the affordable housing emergency by enabling local rent stabilization and tenant protections. It doesn’t attempt to require these protections or prescribe the details of these protections for any given community — instead, it repeals the preemptive provisions of Ch. 40P, thereby allowing our municipal officials to bring everyone to the table — that means renters, homeowners, and landlords alike — to consider tenant protections that make sense on the local level.
A SET OF FLEXIBLE, LOCAL OPTIONS
The Tenant Protection Act allows for a municipality, by vote of its local elected body, to adopt any of the following measures:
- Rent Stabilization
- Just Cause Eviction Protections
- Notification of Rights and Resources
- Regulation of up-front lease fees (e.g. Brokers’ Fees or payment plans for first/last/security)
- Anti-price gouging protections while regulations are being implemented
PROTECTIONS FOR SMALL LANDLORDS, AND OTHER EXEMPTIONS
The Tenant Protection Act explicitly exempts small, owner-occupant landlords from any rent regulation. In addition, it empowers municipalities to craft broader exemptions as they deem fit or to specify that certain protections will only apply in specific anti-displacement zones.
First introduced in the 2019-2020 session, the Tenant Protection Act was reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing on a vote of 13-2 in May 2020. Since last session, the sponsors have streamlined the bill and emphasized its flexible options and protections for small landlords.
In 2019, New York state, Oregon, and California all passed rent stabilization laws. More recently, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu won election on a platform that included strong support for rent stabilization, Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne highlighted rent stabilization in her inaugural address, and scores of municipal officials from across the Commonwealth are now in support of local rent stabilization. Both the Cambridge City Council and the Somerville City Council have gone on record in strong support of our bill.
The Tenant Protection Act has the support of Massachusetts Voter Table, the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CASS), the Cambridge Housing Justice Coalition, Homes For All Massachusetts, Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants, City Life/Vida Urbana, Chinese Progressive Association, Progressive Massachusetts, Our Revolution Massachusetts, and others.
THE PATH TO HOUSING FOR ALL
On December 29, 2021, I invited colleagues, constituents, friends, and supporters to gather for an online meeting to discuss a vision for lifting the statewide ban on rent stabilization and winning a program of guaranteed Housing For All.
We were honored to be joined by Mayor Joe Curtatone, Senators Pat Jehlen and Jamie Eldridge, State Reps. Nika Elugardo, Dave Rogers, Steve Owens, and Ruth Buffalo (of Fargo, North Dakota), City Councilors Lydia Edwards, Quinton Zondervan, Patty Nolan, Ben Ewen-Campen, JT Scott, Jesse Clingan, Jake Wilson, Willie Burnley, Jr., Burhan Azeem, Raul Fernandez, and many other elected officials and housing justice organizers and advocates.
For a more complete account of how we can work together to win a program of guaranteed Housing For All in Massachusetts, check out my slide deck from that meeting, available here via Google Slides.
Finally, I didn't want to conclude this message without once again addressing the ongoing pandemic.
Right now, I am continuing to advocate to House Leaders and to the Baker Administration in support of a stronger response to the Omicron wave.
While the 2.1 million rapid tests distributed by the state just before the Christmas holiday were helpful, the long lines and lack of readily available testing continues to be unacceptable. We need to do more to encourage and require vaccination and boosters and to distribute N-95s and good KN-95s.
Just yesterday, the legislature's Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness requested that Gov. Baker appear for an oversight hearing next week to discuss the state's response to the Omicron variant — I strongly support this move as one way for the legislature to exercise our responsibilities to the public. We need coordinated, urgent action from all levels of government.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns about our housing justice agenda, our Covid response efforts, or any other topic of interest to you.
Thank you as always for being an informed and engaged constituent of the 26th Middlesex District.
Yours in service,
Rep. Mike Connolly