With her new Rent Stabilization Committee, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is taking an important step in trying to address the state’s – and Boston’s – housing crisis.  

The 23-member commission is stacked with leaders from tenant advocacy groups like City Life-Vida Urbana, important community groups, scholars from MIT and Harvard, affordable housing developers and even two for-profit developers – National Development’s Brian Kavoogian and Boston Residential Group CEO Kurtis Kemeny – and a capital markets expert in the form of Colliers Vice President Jeanne Pinado.  

While the big commercial real estate trade groups like NAIOP-MA doesn’t have designated representatives on the board, the committee’s three envoys from the for-profit real estate world are clearly there to carry the group’s voice to the bargaining table. 

In short, Wu appears to have built a big tent that could plausibly come up with a compromise solution. The mayor’s office confirmed the commission’s monthly listening sessions will be open to the public, so everyone will be able to know whether the group is getting all the facts. 

Wu ran, in part, on a promise to rein in Boston’s high rents, and received a bigger popular mandate than popular former Mayor Marty Walsh ever received. In a city where 65 percent of residents are renters and many are intimately familiar with the pain of seeing their neighborhoods changed dramatically by rising rents, it’s natural such a promise would resonate. And it means she’s approaching the topic with a strong hand. 

Wu did the politically smart thing by bringing these 23 stakeholders together. Some of the most impactful changes Boston can make to address the problem of spiraling rents – up 14 percent in one year, according to Zillow research – are only possible if the state legislature agrees. By including a major real estate lobby group, Wu could be setting herself up for success while also keeping a pre-election promise she made to Banker & Tradesman’s editorial board to build “broad tables” as she tackled the city’s challenges.  

But for all its promise, Wu’s committee appears to have a troubling omission. While it has at least one small landlord – Penguin Pizza owner Dermot Doyne – it has zero representation from landlord trade groups like the 2,000-plus-member MassLandlords. In fact, it appears the city did not even invite these groups to take part. This could create a vital blind spot in an area that many Bostonians – particularly Bostonians of color – rely on to build generational wealth and which many renters rely on to find so-called “naturally occurring” affordable rental housing. 

Make no mistake: Much of the real estate industry is just as concerned as everyone else about the housing crisis, but they’re also the only ones who know the ins and outs of their businesses. The entire industry deserves seats at the table to make sure any fix the committee chooses isn’t going to kill off the city’s ability to meet demand for new homes. 

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Rents Committee Has Troubling Omission

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min