Ballantyne Administration Submits Rent Stabilization Home Rule Petition to City Council
If passed, petition designed to help keep rental housing affordable will go to State Legislature for approval
After an intensive community process, the City of Somerville is taking the next step toward introducing rent stabilization aimed at keeping housing affordable. On November 9, Mayor Katjana Ballantyne will submit draft legislation to the City Council proposing a home rule petition to allow rent stabilization. The proposed petition aims to support housing affordability while also providing considerations for property owners.
The proposal was developed following months of community outreach, research, and deliberation by the City’s Anti-Displacement Task Force Residential Subcommittee, which Mayor Ballantyne assembled to ensure inclusion of community perspectives in anti-displacement initiatives. The Subcommittee comprises community volunteers, City Councilors Ben Ewen-Campen (President and Ward 3) and Judy Pineda Neufeld (Ward 7), and City staff. Collectively they are tenants, homeowners, landlords, and advocates working to find different ways the City can prevent the displacement of Somerville residents.
“We are facing a regional housing crisis, and we all know that losing stable housing completely upends people’s lives and that of their children. Our duty here is clear. We must use every available tool to help keep residents in their homes. Rent stabilization works, so we are pursuing it thoughtfully with our whole community in mind,” said Mayor Ballantyne. “This careful proposal not only provides needed action to support renters and housing affordability overall but also meaningful considerations for vulnerable property owners such as owner-occupant seniors.”
At the request of the Mayor, the Subcommittee developed the rent stabilization proposal after receiving feedback from the community over the last five months via multiple listening sessions and a public hearing. Rent stabilization includes laws that prevent rents from rising too quickly and that offer protection against wrongful evictions. It also includes considerations for property owners, such as what types of buildings are exempt from the law and considerations for if and when a unit that formerly qualified for rent stabilization could remove its restrictions.
The draft Somerville legislation proposes the following provisions:
- Place a yearly cap on rent increases limited to the rate of inflation (the Consumer Price Index) plus 2% totaling no more than 5% in any year. The City is also empowered by the Home Rule Petition to create a mechanism for owners to request additional increases based on extraordinary expenses.
- Provide just cause eviction protections to reduce or prevent avoidable or unjustified evictions.
- Allow the City to create tenant relocation requirements when housing is converted from residential to nonresidential use or demolished.
- Authorize the City to Establish Rent Stabilization Board to oversee the Somerville ordinance.
- Create considerations/exemptions for vulnerable senior property owners, three-unit buildings with owner-occupant landlords, in-unit owner-occupant landlords, units with subsidized rent based on a percentage of tenant income, the first 15 years for newly constructed buildings, and other buildings including hotels and motels, nonprofit hospitals, religious facilities, elderly care facilities, and college dormitories.
The home rule petition will be presented to the City Council at its general meeting on Thursday, November 9, and will first be discussed in detail by the Legislative Matters committee on Tuesday, November 14. If passed by the Legislative Matters Committee, it would go back to a full Council vote. If the Council passes the petition, it will be filed with the State Legislature. And finally, if the Legislature gives Somerville the go-ahead to establish a rent stablilization ordinance, community input would help refine the ordinance.
“I want to thank the Anti-Displacement Task Force, and all community members who gave input--renters and property owners alike--for shaping a common-sense proposal that both boldly addresses housing needs and accounts for a range of perspectives and needs,” said Mayor Ballantyne. “Preventing housing displacement is a monumental challenge, and we are fortunate that our community has come together to propose a better way forward.”
To learn more or read the petition proposal, visit voice.somervillema.gov/adtf
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