Twenty-five years ago, a statewide ballot initiative is known as Question 9 successfully defeated rent control. The proponents of Q-9 exposed the shortcomings of rent control, which included the deterioration of the housing stock, disproportionate share of state aid, the over-regulation of private property, the creation of a divisive community and an acrimonious political climate. Additionally, the city was in financial ruin. Decades of artificially suppressed property values kept Cambridge in the red.
Rent control did not build one unit of housing, and it failed to serve the intended group. It did not protect or encourage economic, social or racial diversity. In fact, in 1994, 93% of the people residing in rent-controlled units in Cambridge were overwhelmingly white, college educated, in their prime earning years aged 25 to 40, single and living alone.
Since that time, workforce housing in Cambridge has increased dramatically. Through programs like the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the Community Preservation Act and inclusionary zoning, workforce housing now represents 15% of the housing stock. Of the more than 52,000 housing units in Cambridge, over 8,100 are classified as “affordable” with more in the pipeline. In Boston, the percentages are even higher; they have reached 20%.