Rent Control's Demise: A Tale of Two Families

Vinnie Bologna and Rick Hill are both trying to raise families in Cambridge.

But today, two years after a state-wide referendum eliminated municipal rent control regulations, only Bologna can afford to do so.

Last January, faced with a $155 increase in his monthly rent and a dwindling supply of low-income housing around the city, Hill and his wife were forced to move their family of six across the river to Boston.

With its ramshackle wooden houses sporting pastel trims that stick out in a light dusting of snow, their new working-class Jamaica Plain neighborhood almost seems like Cambridge.

But as Rick Hill sits in his family's living room and hears his pregnant wife (who asked not to be named) chasing mice around the kitchen of their first-floor apartment, it is clear that this is not Cambridge.


"I lived in Cambridge for 40 years and I never saw a mouse," Hill says. "These mice, I can't catch 'em."

The Hill family's new rodent friends add insult to a more profound injury.

With roots across the Charles River that go back three generations, the move cut the Hill family away from the people who shaped their lives.

Almost as if he had moved to a country where they speak a different language, Rick Hill says he has little contact with his new neighbors.

"If you've known someone for 10, 15, 20 or 30 years, there's a difference than just knowing them for a year," says Hill, a former construction worker.

"I walk down the street now and I can't say hello to them. I don't know who the hell they are."

Features of big-city life--a troubled school system noisy ambulance sirens and the persistent rodent problem--only remind him of the lifestyle he left behind in Cambridge.

This same quality of life attracted Vinnie Bologna to Cambridge 12 years ago.

In late 1984, after spending two years in the Navy and eight years in Someville, the Sicilian native borrowed some money and bought a languishing raccoon-infested house on Harvard Street.

Vinnie and his wife-to-be, Laura Stack, looked at the single-family residence and rear-carriage house with long-term plans in mind.