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Many Cambridge tenants told the city's rent board last night that they oppose any general increase in rents city landlords are allowed to charge, while others urged the board to keep any increase well below last year's record 25-per-cent jump.
The board is considering a general increase in city rents to go into effect this summer. Cambridge rents have been controlled since 1970.
"Anything even approaching last year's 25-per-cent figure is out of the question," tenant rights activist and City Councilor David Sullivan told the board. Sullivan said later he would oppose any increase in rents greater than 10 per cent.
Other tenants opposed any general rent increase. While a member of the Cambridge Tenants Organization waved a sign saying "Stop Landlord Super-Profits," Frances Segal, head of the Cambridge Committee of Elders, said, "The purpose of rent control is to protect the landlord from the ravages of inflation."
Segal said some landlords deserved increases but that they should apply for the adjustments individually, adding, "Many tenants simply cannot afford to pay such an increase."
The few landlords who testified at the hearing cited increased fuel costs and rising city taxes as justification for an increase.
"I suggest that landlords who heat their building be granted increases equivalent to 80 per cent cost-of-living increase," Edward Karian, a Harvard St. landlord, told the hearing. Karian cited a long list of conservation devices he had installed but added that even with lower energy use, his building had become "a liability, not a source of income."
Sullivan and other tenants proposed that landlords be allowed increases that would permit increased insulation. Landlords said they would need rent board assurances that they could pass along the costs of the conservation measures before banks would lend money for the moves.
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