Lobbyists Seeing Green over City Rent ontrol

The Mafia may be gone, but one of their greatest business innovations – the protection racket – has endured, and it may be more profitable than ever.

Only now, the protection is being offered not in the North End or South Boston, but at the State House.

An attempt by the lunatics at Boston City Hall to restore rent control now moves to the legislature. Can somebody say… pay day! At least for the lobbyists.

The lobbyists lurking about the State House needed a sell sheet to share with their potential marks, I mean clients, and that’s where Doug Rubin’s new poll this week comes in. Don’t waste your time reading the actual numbers, the headline makes the pitch:

“New statewide poll shows strong support for rent control.”

Oh my God! Every lobbyist worth his Cape Cod mansion has already sent out that scare headline to every landlords’ organization in the state.

Once they see the poll commissioned by a “political consultant,” the landlords get a frantic follow-up phone call from a hack former legislator with beer on his breath:

“Ya need somebody wit’ access to da Speakah! Me and da Speakah, we’re like dis! Not for nuttin’, but I can open any door on the Hill.”

 The lobbyists always call it the Hill. It somehow sounds more authentic if you’ve never been on… the Hill.

Property owners are worried, as well they should be. Rent control was a disaster the last time it was tried here. It’s always been a disaster everywhere, and only idiots who have never studied economics or weren’t living in Massachusetts when it was last in effect would think that this time will be any different.

Unfortunately, the idiots are in charge. At least at City Hall. Which is why the new, tepid 2023 version was passed by the City Council on an 11-2 vote.

Fortunately, the proposal will likely go nowhere at the State House. Word is, Speaker Ron Mariano is putting his foot down. Do you know why? Because unlike most of the people at City Hall, he was living here the last time it was in effect, distorting the real-estate market in Boston, Cambridge and Brookline.

Mariano knows that with the dumbing-down of the electorate (as shown by the passage on the sixth try of the graduated income tax), the outbreak of this rent-control virus could well spread south, beyond Boston, to his hometown of Quincy.

Unlike the 20th-century version of rent control which was repealed by a less dumbed-down state electorate in 1994, the version of rent-control just passed in Boston is thin gruel.

But you never want to let the camel gets its nose under the tent. That’s the NRA’s theory with gun control legislation. Same thing with this new graduated income tax. Today it’s for millionaires, tomorrow it’s for you.

But the wretched Mayor Michelle Wu had to do something. She’d promised her constituents – that is, non-working class Bostonians who blew into the city three years ago – that she’d give them more free stuff.

After three years of COVID welfare on steroids, Wu’s voters are even more addicted to handouts than they were pre-Panic. And as pandering and disconnected from reality as Wu is, the City Council is even worse.

Again, maybe the problem is that so few of the hacks touting rent control actually lived through the earlier fiasco. Wu is from Chicago. She used to work for the fake Indian from Oklahoma.

Four of the 11 votes on the Council came from people who are naturalized citizens. One brags about being the first illegal-alien Muslim from Africa to win a seat.

A lot of these new statesmen spend less time studying issues than getting themselves into, shall we say, compromising situations. Rampant nepotism, X-rated social media, rumors about police stops, mysterious withdrawals from high schools, etc.

Property rights are not their forte. They’d rather grift.

I know something about rent control. I used to live in a rent-controlled apartment, in Cambridge. You know how I got the place? I knew somebody. More importantly, my landlords knew me. They knew I had a job – two actually – and that I didn’t have time to keep dragging them into housing court.

I had no parking space. Worse, I had no heat. But it was cheap. It was a temporary stop for me, but then, I was willing to go to work in the morning.

You need to understand who lived in most of those apartments. Think thousands of young Bernie Sanders, drifters gainfully unemployed on their parents’ trust funds. They drove their landlords crazy.

That’s why small property owners are so fearful right now, because they dread the return of the bad old days, when you couldn’t pry these deadbeat hippies out of your units even with the Jaws of Life.

At least one tenant died when his landlord burned down the building to free up the property George V. Higgins wrote a novel about one such incident – “The Rat on Fire.”

Back in the 1970s, one big landlord in Boston reportedly had a fire company on call. If he could get all but one tenant out of a building, this guy would have a fire alarm phoned in. His jakes would show up with axes and demolish the goateed hippie’s apartment, so that he’d have to move back to his parents’ basement on Long Island.

Even if this weaker version of Boston rent control were somehow to be approved by the legislature, it wouldn’t mean more “affordable” housing. The landlords would just move in their cousins, or someone like me who they knew wasn’t going to rock the boat.

Other landlords might decide to convert their property to some form of Section 8, or whatever they now call the programs that provide ready-made slums for the underclasses. You get more money, because the welfare- and drug-addicted tenants wreck your units.

Anyone remember the Tsarnaevs?

With all that’s going on, Boston right now seems a lot like what Havana must have been like in January 1959. Society was coming apart at the seams, mass transportation had broken down, thugs were running out of control in the streets.

The middle classes in Havana were all trying to figure out how to flee to… Florida. And now the middle classes in Massachusetts are all trying to figure out how to flee to… Florida.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And now we’re talking about rent control again.

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