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Cambridge rent control laws may change

By Reuven M. Lerner

The Cambridge election commission voted last week to change the wording of Proposition 1-2-3, according to an article in last Thursday's Cambridge Chronicle. The referendum, which would allow tenants to buy their rentcontrolled apartments, is scheduled for a vote in November. The decision has left the referendum without any definite wording.

A 1979 city ordinance prohibits tenants from buying their rent-controlled apartments without a removal permit. Proposition 1-2-3 would modify this rule, allowing "any tenant who has occupied a rent-controlled unit for at least two years ... to buy it ... if the tenant and landlord both agree."

On August 10th, Republican Commissioner Artis Spears, who had earlier voted in favor of the referendum, announced that she had changed her vote, and moved for a re-vote on the referendum's wording. With one of the two Democratic commission members away on vacation, the previously approved wording was rejected by a vote of 2-1.

Supporters of the resolution disapprove of several phrases that were added to the original text. They say that if the resolution mentions the words, "changing rent control" in the preamble, people will be less likely to vote for it. Opponents say that proposition supporters simply want to deceive voters.

Referendum opponents also favor the inclusion of the words, "without the presently required removal permit." They feel that by mentioning the removal permit, they would remind residents of potential change in the rent-control law.

Both of these phrases were included in the draft approved by the election commission on July 6th, by a vote of 3-1. A third phrase, which states that any money that would go for the elderly, homeless, and long-time residents would have to be appropriated every year, was removed in an earlier revision.

The election commission has asked City Solicitor Russell B. Higley to solve the dispute. He plans to meet with them later this week.