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Boston Rent Control Proposal is Coming in 2023

Boston Mayor Wu on WBUR Radio BostonExperts from Mayor Wu’s monthly appearance yesterday on Radio Boston – WBUR

Mayor Michelle Wu knows that talking about housing policy makes some people’s “eyes glaze over.” But that didn’t stop her from getting into the weeds during her monthly appearance yesterday on Radio Boston. And she also made several bits of news. 

Here’s a recap:

  • It’s coming: Wu said the city plans to send a rent control proposal to the State House “as their next legislative session opens up in 2023.” According to the mayor, the city’s rent control advisory committee — which was formed in March to make legislative recommendations — is currently wrapping up the “final pieces” of their work. Due to the statewide ban on rent control, any proposal will need the approval of the City Council, state lawmakers, and the governor. However, unlike Gov. Charlie Baker, Gov.-elect Maura Healey has said she would let cities and towns implement their rent control policies, even if she isn’t a fan of it as a statewide solution.
    • The big question is whether any such proposal can make it to Healey’s desk. Fellow Democrats in the State House have blocked recent rent control proposals amid concerns the policy could depress much-needed housing production in the Boston area. House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka declined to take a position earlier this fall. Wu’s plans could put them under the spotlight come the new year.
    • In the meantime, Wu is pushing forward with a whole raft of zoning and fee changes to get big developers to do more to support affordable housing. That proposal needs approval from a few municipal bodies, including the City Council, which could veto it with just five votes. Wu is optimistic she’ll have their support. “I know there’s always a desire to do more, but we believe this is the appropriate balance,” she said.

Other takeaways from the hourlong segment:

  • Sign, sealed, delivered: Wu said she signed the home rule petition to allow Boston residents as young as 16 to vote in municipal elections. Now it heads to the State House — where it faces just as uncertain a future as any future rent control measures. (Don’t hold your breath.)
  • Not so fast: Despite calls from The Boston Globe editorial board, Wu said she’s “not ready to give up” on Boston’s residency requirement for city workers. “When we talk about wanting other companies to hire locally, make sure that wealth gets right into our communities … we have to stand behind that as well,” she said.
    • Wu said she was open to some tweaks, given that it’s not easy to find affordable housing in Boston. She also noted a “clear inequity where some of the lowest paid city jobs” are still subject to strict residency requirements, while higher-paid jobs have more flexibility. One potential change —already implemented by the police department — is giving new hires six months to find housing in Boston.
  • Please save the date: Wu revealed that her first state of the city address as mayor would be Jan. 25 at the new MGM Music Hall at Fenway.