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MA lawmakers debate rent control as agents push for new construction

The legislation being debated by lawmakers would impose more rent control on multifamily units

As with the rest of the nation, the state of Massachusetts is looking for solutions to temper inventory shortages and high housing costs. While state lawmakers are currently debating rent control legislation as one potential answer to the issue, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR) is advocating to increase housing construction instead, according to reporting by the Massachusetts’ State House News Service.

“Rent control tries to attack a symptom of our lack of building. And that’s not the way to fix the issue,” said Justin Davidson, general counsel and director of government affairs for MAR. “We need to build more housing.”

The legislation currently being debated would impose more rent control on multifamily units in Massachusetts, Davidson told association members, and that additional rent control would ultimately prove “harmful.”

“If we build enough housing, if people have the options of where to live and what type of home to live in, we don’t need rent control,” he said.

The association also noted that the state recently increased funding for its rental voucher program, which requires that recipients pay 30% of their net monthly income toward rent. The voucher pays for the remainder of the rent.

The association also supports state legislation that would establish a tax-deductible, first-time homebuyer savings program to help residents save up to $5,000 per year to put toward their first home purchase.

In addition, the association touted a bill introduced to the State House in February as a top priority. If passed, the bill would widen the state’s multifamily zoning rules to better accommodate more multifamily units and the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), but the bill has remained in committee since its introduction.

Transfer tax and rent control bills that are currently being debated in the chambers are opposed by the association, according to Davidson, who added the bills to the list of “harmful” policies.

In addition to Massachusetts, other states have been working to address affordable housing and supply issues this year.

In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul has been pushing the state’s government to override local zoning laws and mandate more housing construction in the state’s suburban counties.

Last month, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee signed a series of bills designed to encourage more affordable housing construction, with a focus on the elimination of single-family zoning. Similar measures have been introduced in states like Florida and Minnesota but were ultimately reversed.

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