Reagan Plan May Hurt Rent Control

Local Advocates Call Task Force Proposal Dishonest

Cambridge officials agree that if President-elect Reagan's administration cuts off federal aid to cities with rent control, Cambridge may have to end its rent control program.

Cambridge "couldn't afford to lose all federal aid, especially in light of recent events like the passage of Proposition 2 1/2," City Councilor David Sullivan, a member of the Alliance of Cambridge Tenants, said yesterday. "It would be an awful choice," he added.

Councilor Kevin Crane '72, a longtime critic of the city's rent control, said yesterday "there would have to be some very serious reconsideration" of rent control programs if a Reagan task force has its way.

While Reagan did not single out rent control during his campaign, his urban affairs team, headed by San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, said federal aid to cities with rent limits should be stopped. The task force called rent control a "major source" of urban problems and blamed it for slowing new construction and causing deterioration of housing stock.

And last week, Reagan called for an end to federal aid for cities with rent control.

Crane said he thinks the task force report shows decreasing national support for rent control. But he added he doubts that many Cantabrigians have lost support for it. "There's public sentiment for some sort of changes in the administration of rent control, but not for doing away with it entirely," he said.

But proponents of rent control yesterday accused Reagan's advisers of dishonesty and callousness and urged tenants to organize to preserve rent-control programs.

Subtle Assessment

"All the statements Reagan's advisers are making about rent control are lies," Peter Dreier, professor of sociology at Tufts University and a member of the steering committee of the National Tenants' Union, said yesterday. He asked, "How can rent control be the major cause of urban problems when most cities don't even have rent control?"

"All the studies show that it doesn't lead to the deterioration of new housing stock, that it doesn't lead to any more abandonment," Dreier added.

Reagan's advisers are attacking rent control "precisely because it is working so well," Sullivan said. He accused the national real estate lobby of trying to kill rent control because it is making fewer profits in rent-controlled cities.