An out-of-state advocacy group is throwing its weight early into a ballot question push to institute rent control in Massachusetts, handing $50,000 to supporters looking to repeal a 1994 ban on the measure.
Housing Is A Human Right made the donation to a ballot question committee run by state Rep. Mike Connolly, the Cambridge Democrat said in a statement. The organization has taken part in successful rent control campaigns in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, and Pasadena, California.
“We are engaging with a broad set of stakeholders to build consensus for the roll out of a full-fledged signature-gathering campaign this fall,” Connolly said in a statement. “We’re also working with experienced campaign professionals to map out a winning campaign plan for the 2024 general election and hoping to bring everyone to the table in support of housing justice in our commonwealth.”
Housing Is Human Right is the housing advocacy division of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare, a global nonprofit providing care and services. The group also runs the Healthy Housing Foundation, which provides housing units at an affordable cost to low-income people in Los Angeles.
Connolly said Housing Is A Human Right is involved in “plans for a 2024 statewide campaign to expand rent control in California.”
Pasadena passed a measure in 2022 that limits rent increases, just-cause evictions, and rent rollbacks under some circumstances, the Pasadena Star-News reported.
A pair of successful November 2021 ballot questions in Minnesota gave the Minneapolis city council the power to enact rent control by ordinance — implementation has hit roadblocks — and put in place a 3% cap on rent hikes in St. Paul.
Rent control in Massachusetts was banned through a 1994 ballot question.
Supporters of bringing the measure back say it will help renters who are struggling to keep up with surging prices in the state’s largest cities. But landlords argue they too are trying to make ends meet amid increased prices and taking away rent increases hurts their business.
Five different groups have submitted legal challenges to Connolly’s rent control ballot question. Attorney General Andrea Campbell has until Sept. 6 to decide which of the 42 proposed laws and constitutional amendments will advance.
In one argument against Connolly’s proposal, the Fiscal Alliance Foundation said it violates portions of the state’s constitution that prohibit a “taking” property without compensation. But a Cambridge attorney working with Connolly says otherwise.
Connolly said “it is not at all surprising that these groups are pulling out all the stops to try to prevent voters from ever having a chance to lift the statewide ban on local rent control next year.”