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City Seeks Right To Control Rents

By William R. Galeota

The Cambridge City Council last night took a tentative step toward reviving a proposal for rent control in the City.

It decided to ask the state legislature to give its permission for rent control in Cambridge. If the legislature did this, the City Council which takes office in January would still be able to decide whether or not it wanted to put rent control into effect here.

Recent court rulings have held that a Massachusetts city cannot pass a rent control law unless it has such "enabling legislation" from the legislature. The legislature approved it for Boston, and several bills to allow any city in the state to pass rent control are currently before the legislation specifically for Cambridge, so that it would still be able to pass rent control even if the more general, state-wide enabling legislation did not pass.

The rent control law which the council wants permission to pass is that proposed by the Cambridge Housing Convention earlier this year. This bill-twice defeated by the City Council during the summer-would set rents at 1968 levels, allowing yearly increases of up to five per cent on the approval of a rent control board appointed by the City Manager.

Next Monday, the council can decide to reverse its vote to put the bill to the legislature, if it is not satisfied with the draft which the City's legislative agent produces.

Most of the debate at yesterday's meeting centered on the question of whether the council wanted the legislature's permission to pass only the Housing Convention bill, or wished more general permission to pass a rent control law.

Lock In

Leading the fight for a more general request, Councillor Daniel J. Hayes Jr., argued that asking for a specific bill would "lock in" the incoming City Council, which could only accept or reject the one bill.

In reply, councillors Cornelia B. Wheeler and Thomas H. D. Mahoney said that the new council could ask for any amendments it wanted when the state legislature holds hearings on Cambridge's request for enabling legislation.

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