The Cambridge City Council passed a policy order Monday that endorses H. 3924, a bill under consideration in the Massachusetts State Legislature that promotes tenant protections and would repeal a statewide ban on rent control.
The City Council passed the order by a vote of 8-1.
Rent control, a practice that restricts the amount a landlord can charge a tenant, has been banned in Massachusetts since 1994. State legislators originally proposed H. 3924 in 2019, but the issue has taken on a newfound urgency due to the prospect of foreclosures during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
The City Council also passed the Tenant Resource Notification Act, which requires tenants to be provided with their rights during an eviction process, during Monday’s session.
Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui highlighted the short-term measures Cambridge has taken to protect tenants during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in an emailed statement.
“In the meantime, the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund has provided rental assistance to over 1,400 residents and families during the pandemic, with another set of funds becoming available soon,” Siddiqui wrote. “We will also be providing another $1 million in rent stabilization from the Community Preservation Act Fund for residents at risk of losing their home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Siddiqui wrote that she supports H. 3924 because it is a “critical step” for towns to “prevent tenant displacement.”
“We want to better protect our renters during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and this bill will give us the opportunity to provide creative and new solutions for our residents,” Siddiqui wrote.
Harvard’s chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America supported the policy order. Piper W. Winkler ’21, president of Harvard YSDA, said the group encouraged students to make their voices heard in the debate over the policy order.
“I was really heartened to see that a lot of people recognize the fact that as Harvard students, they are part of the larger Cambridge community. And they should use their voice when they can to advocate for justice in that community,” Winkler said.
Several College students offered virtual comments in support of the policy order during the session.
Kai DeJesus '23 challenged the necessity of the policy debate in her remarks, saying that it was a “bare-minimum measure” that would “protect the most marginalized among us.”
Benjamin B. Roberts '23 argued that councilors had a responsibility to their constituents to pass the policy order.
"This is a statement in favor of the people,” he said. “It is a statement of support for something that could save people from homelessness and housing insecurity. It says that you care about the people under your jurisdiction, that they can have housing stability.”
—Staff writer Ellen M. Burstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ellenburstein.