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The Effects of Rent Deregulation in Massachusetts

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The Effects of Rent Deregulation in Massachusetts

June 1, 1997
Urban PolicyOtherInfrastructure & Transportation

With the New York State Legislature debating the merits of deregulating rents, it is useful to consider the Massachusetts example, since it represents the most recent case of a large metropolitan area ending long-term controls. In 1994 Massachusetts voters approved a ballot referendum ending rent controls in the three cities that had them: The measure went into effect in 1995, and by the beginning of 1997 deregulation of the rental housing stock in these three cities was complete.

Even though the the Massachusetts experience is very much in progress, results to date provide encouragement for reform in New York. The news comes in three parts: deregulation has affected the poor less than anticipated, housing construction and renovation have picked up, and property-tax revenues have increased.

Rent control in Massachusetts stemmed from the Rent Control Enabling Act of 1970, a state law that allowed towns to limit rent increases and regulate evictions. The measure was passed as a temporary bulwark against inflation and expired in 1976. However, some jurisdictions passed home-rule tenant protections of their own that extended beyond that time.

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