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Tenant Groups Oppose Return to '67 Rent Base

By Michael Sragow

Over 500 Cambridge tenants packed the Rindge Tech auditorium to discuss provisional rent control procedures last night at the third public hearing this summer called by the Cambridge Rent Board.

The Cambridge Rent Board has proposed that a general rent rollback be effected as soon as court rulings permit.

New rents would be based on 1967, unit rates, which predate the skyrocket in Cambridge rent rates. Landlords would then be allowed a 30 to 35 per cent increase on the 1967 rates based on rises since that time both in operating costs and the cost of living index.

The Board proposals are intended to provide a foundation for rent control measures which have been held back for two years because of the illegal rent bikes sanctioned by former Rent Board Chairman William Corkery.

Judicial authorities have still not ruled whether all of the Corkery judgements are null and void.

Rent Board Chairman Allan Lefkowitz said last night that he is waiting for decision not only on the Corkery cases (133 of which have already been declared illegal), but on the legality of his own board's proposals.

Major objections to the Board's new proposal were raised by members of the Cambridge Tenants Organizing Committee. They claimed that the allowance for rent increase would insure profit for the landlords, place the burden of proof of the necessity for rent increases on the tenant and discriminate against established working-class Cambridge residents who would be made bankrupt by any such rate adjustment.

One member of the Rent Control Board, who did not wish to be named, said that the audience had misunderstood the basic premise of the rate adjustment. "What must be understood is that rents will not necessarily be increased, that some landlords will in fact be bankrupt by the procedures and that the tenants who will benefit most will be blue-collar residents.

"The mass sentiment seems to be that the landlords simply can't be trusted. However, they will have to prove their cases before the Board."

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