Senate Approves Home Rule

But Won't Override Likely Weld Veto

BOSTON--The state Senate narrowly voted yesterday to allow Boston and Cambridge to spread out the abolition of rent control over five years, but by a margin too small to override the veto Gov. William F. Weld '66 has promised.

Despite its unsuccessful attempts to delay the decision, the Republican leadership claimed victory in its battle against prolonging rent control.

"Rent control is dead," said Senate minority leader Brian P. Lees (R-East Longmeadow) following the votes. "We have the votes to sustain the veto. The arrogance of the politicians in these communities did not win, the voters won."

The Senate voted 19-17 to approve Cambridge's home-rule petition to gradually eliminate rent control for elderly, disabled and low- and moderate-income tenants. The Senate also approved, 19-16, Boston's petition to phase out rent control, but rejected a similar plan from Brookline by a vote of 22-13.

Two-thirds of the Senate, or 27 of the 40 senators, is required to override a gubernatorial veto.

The House of Representatives approved the petitions last Monday. Yesterday's vote sends the petitions of Boston and Cambridge to the governor's desk. But Weld has repeatedly said he will veto any petitions to maintain rent control. "I don't like any of the ones that have been drafted," he told reporters yesterday.

Cambridge, Boston and Brookline--the only three communities in Massachusetts with rent control laws--filed the petitions after the passage last month of Question 9, the ballot initiative to abolish rent control effective on January 1.

Of the three home-rule petitions, Boston's generated the most debate. The city's petition allows it to write a new rent control ordinance but gives no guidelines for who the new system would protect.

The Cambridge plan would eliminate rent control by July 1 for most units, but would extend rent control through 1999 for families earning less than 80 percent of the Housing and Urban Department (HUD) median-income guidelines, and for elderly and disabled tenants.

Rent control--which the city adopted in 1970--restricts the rents of approximately 16,000 of the city's units, more than a third of Cambridge's total housing stock.

Brookline's petition asked the state to allow a vacancy decontrol plan started in 1991 to continue.

The rent control debate divided the Senate along partisan lines, with Republican leaders heading a vocal effort to amend, delay and finally reject the petitions.

"The voters already voted," lees said. "They don't want rent control."

"This body should be ashamed of itself to be addressing an issue like this when are there are literally thousands of bills bottled up in committee," he added.

"Rent control is unfair, it's unjust and most's un-American," agreed Sen. Richard R. Tisei (R-Wakefield).