Rent control boards stopped improvements and basic repairs.

Screen shot of the first page of a Boston Rent Equity Board “Landlord Rent Increase Application” from 1980s, when rent control was in place.

Rental property owners were beholden to rent boards.

Rent control boards’ authority began with a mandatory registration for all rent-controlled properties.

Property owners paid a fee to register.

Once registered, landlords could apply to the rent control board for permission to increase rent.

Without permission, no increase was allowed, not even for basic repairs and upkeep.

Alt: A handwritten sample page from a Cambridge Rent Control Board meeting, dated February 16, 1994, with members listed as Cohn, Connor, Jacks, Darwin, with notes on appeals for rent increases.

Rent boards denied scores of repair requests at every meeting.

Rent control boards’ agendas consisted largely of approving or denying landlords’ requests to make repairs.

Thousands of pages of Cambridge Rent Control Board minutes show landlords asking to replace appliances, install water heaters and upgrade kitchens.

This sample shows members’ notes.

“Committee objects to allowance for hardwood floors.”

“Allow cost for standard stove and cabinetry for kitchen.”

A printed page with heading “City of Cambridge,” Staff Memorandum, Proposed Amendment of Regulation 76-03, which explains the requirement of landlords to document any work done on their rentals, and materials purchased, in order to apply for rent increases. A handwritten note to amend the regulation is added at the bottom of the page. Dated February 23, 1994.

Repairs and improvements had to be detailed down to the minute.

Under rent control, landlords were required to submit onerously detailed records of time spent performing repairs on their rentals.

Landlords also had to prove that the materials they purchased were as cheap as possible.

Without detailed proof, requests for rent increases would be denied.

Agenda Item 10. 38 – 44 Shepard St. Remand 4-0 to IS. RA 1982 – 180. H.E. to use 1967 $16,000 figure as landlord requested and extrapolate expenses from red book. Think about figure for maintenance. Recent reg 76 should be factored in. Correction: 1973 refrigerators $153 each, $459 total for 3 units named. Set interim rents because caps amount for $31/unit of recommended rents.

The most common decision was no decision.

On March 2, 1983, the landlord at 38 – 44 Shepard Street, Cambridge, asked the rent control board for permission to replace 10-year-old refrigerators.

The board didn’t decide “yes” or “no.”

The decision was “remand 4-0.”

This means they were going to wait for inspectional services to see the refrigerators for themselves.

Each delay worsened conditions.

Belmont Oil Company. Division of Perino Industries, Inc. Fuel-Oil. Oil burner sales and service. 63 Underwood St. Belmont, MA 02178. December 15, 1981. The following is an itemized listing of all deliveries made to #12 Newport Street, Cambridge, MA (Newport Apartments) from June 1, 1980 through July 31, 1981. 4,730.9 gallons at a cost of $5,524.15.

Rent board decisions worsened climate change.

Because landlords could not charge renters the true cost of oil or gas, renters burned more than they needed.

The rent board allowance for 12 Newport Road was 1,038 gallons of oil per year set in 1979.

By 1983, the renters were burning 4,730 gallons per year.

On March 16, 1983, the landlord tried again to obtain a rent increase to charge renters more for oil.

The rent board examined each monthly bill, as well as the bills for all the properties the landlord owned.

They examined heating bills for 1 – 8 Newport Rd, 1775 – 1783 Massachusetts Avenue and 9 and 11 Forest Street.

The delay of four years caused an extra 12,000 gallons of oil to be burned.

This one delay caused emissions of 122 tons of CO2.

A scan of a December 1989 bar graph from the Green Ribbon Committee showing the distribution of rents across rent-controlled units.

City-funded studies showed rent control didn't work as expected.

Part of the high cost of rent control administration included paying for multiple studies to determine the policy’s effects.

Most of these studies concluded that rent control policy did not help its targeted populations.

The Green Ribbon Committee were asked in December 1989 to find out whether “controlled rents for some of these properties were sufficient for their upkeep.”

photo of a large, four-story, dilapidated building on a corner in South Boston in the 1970s, with cars from that era parked along the street. Several windows are missing, some are boarded over, graffiti painted on others, old flyers taped on boards at street level, very run down.

Rent control boards contributed to urban blight.

Policies interpreted and applied by rent control boards in Boston discouraged development of new buildings, improvement of existing buildings and basic upkeep of rental units.

The result was too often scenes like this, in Southie.