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Four city councilors this month endorsed a bill that would require city approval for any major renovations like condominium conversion or institutional expansion.
The bill instructs the city's Rent Control Board to consider "Cambridge's housing emergency" before granting any permits allowing renovations.
Over the past few years, many landlords have been evicting tenants in order to change apartment houses into more lucrative condominiums and avoid Cambridge's strict rent controls.
David Sullivan, a Cambridge tenant organizer and City Council candidate who drafted the bill said. "Under state law, I don't think you can regulate the use (of apartments)-you can't say no condominiums." Instead, the proposal would require a city permit before allowing renovations to convert to condominiums or institutional use.
Although the bill has the support of a five-man majority of the council, it will probably not pass until the fall. The council holds its final session before a summer-long recess tonight.
If the bill passes, it would prevent University conversion of property for classroom or office use. The legislation might postpone development of 7 Summer Rd.. slated to become office space for the Graduate School of Design.
Opponents of condominium conversion and institutional and University expansion claim the character of the city is being altered.
Others, including the leaders of an election year drive to end city-wide rent control, disagree. "Condominiums are the best things that have happened to this city in years," Richard Fraiman, president of the Cambridge Home Owners and Tax- Payers Association, said last week.
Fraiman, who accused Sullivan of "trying to preserve his constituency of cheap renters," said condominium opponents "are trying to put Cambridge in a formaldehyde jar in some time warp in the past."
"Neighborhoods change-it's part of the motion of humanity," Fraiman said.
If the bill passes a state court challenge from city landlords and property owners is likely. "I don't think we'll lose," Sullivan, who is drafting a 20 page memo outlining the constitutionality of the plan, said, adding "but if we do we will have bought some time for the city." Sullivan estimated the court fight could take three years or more.
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