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City Council Tables Measure Restricting Housing Demolition

By William E. Mckibben

The Cambridge City Council turned aside a motion that would have strengthened the city's controversial housing removal ordinance last night by voting to table an ordinance instructing the Rent Control Board to monitor more closely demolition of rental housing stock.

The council did approve, however, an order instructing the board to grant no demolition permits until the council had taken final action on the measure.

The council voted 5-4 to table the motion, introduced by councilor David Sullivan, in an effort to tighten last year's removal ordinance.

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That ordinance required developers to obtain a permit from the city's Rent Control Board before they removed property from the rental housing market for conversion to condominiums or institutional use, or demolished housing stock.

However, Sullivan, who drafted the original ordinance, told the council, "The Rent Control Board, in several recent decisions, has allowed the demolition of housing, using outrageous interpretations that fly directly in the face of the ordinance, and result in further diminution of our already shrinking supply of housing."

Councilor Kevin Crane, who opposed last night's bill, accused Sullivan of "playing a game where every time the Rent Control Board makes an interpretation, we pass a new ordinance to restrict that interpretation."


Recently demolished city property that might have been protected under last night's ordinance includes the historic Greycroft houses at the end of Cambridge Common. Several Blanche St. properties slated for demolition by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) could also be affected by the ordinance, should it be passed.

Supporters of the anti-demolition ordinance must find a fifth vote to allow reconsideration of the bill. The most likely potential supporter is council Leonard J. Russell, who said last night, "This proposal looks all right--I just want more time to consider it."

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