The Globe reports today that Boston 2024, under pressure from both landlord and tenant groups, has scrapped a particularly ill-conceived part of their plan to find enough housing in Boston for spectators. Here’s what they originally had in mind (p. 33):
approximately 100,000 students live off-campus in privately-owned, rental apartments throughout the city. In line with the academic calendar, the majority of Boston apartment leases are one-year in duration with a lease commencement date of September 1. As a result, students who vacate the city during their summer break opt to sublet their room or apartment to other tenants.
This scenario presents a tremendous opportunity for spectator accommodations, offering places for visitors to stay in neighborhoods popular for students such as Allston/Brighton and Fenway, which fall within walking distance to the University Cluster and provide convenient access to public transit.
Using a third-party specialist to manage the operation and create a streamlined program for Boston-area landlords, leases signed for September 1 of the year preceding the Games could be executed as 9-month leases, as opposed to typical 12-month leases. Regulations would then be in place to support reasonable rates for spectator accommodation for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Wow. First of all, have any of these people actually seen those student apartments? Not exactly what the international tourist set has in mind for an Olympic visit. Second, did they seriously think they can tell an entire segment of the market to execute 9-month instead of 12-month leases?
Third, the most shocking part is the bit about enacting regulations “to support reasonable rates for spectator accommodation” – i.e., rent control. Rent control, of course, has been illegal in Massachusetts since a 1994 ballot question banned it. The Globe gets a great quote on this subject:
Kathy Brown, coordinator of the Boston Tenant Coalition, questioned why regulations to hold down rents, if legal, should be limited to international visitors.
“If they can do some restrictions for spectators, let’s see about some protections for hard-working Bostonians, as well,” she said.
Yeah, how about that.
Anyway, this part of the bid has been dropped – per the Globe, Boston 2024 assures us that “we are confident that there are more than enough accommodations for spectators in the region, and we will not be pursuing it further.” Though it’s unclear exactly where those accommodations will come from, since, as Boston 2024 itself says (p. 33), “the majority of [the 50,000+ hotel rooms in a 50 km radius of Boston] will be allocated to client groups that take precedence over spectators.” It’s unclear who “client groups” are, but my guess is that phrase refers to the visiting one-percenters.
In any event, there’s undoubtedly a lot of other stuff in the Boston 2024 bid documents that, when you read it carefully, might raise a few eyebrows. I confess I haven’t taken the time yet to read the whole set of documents. But there are surely some more terrific nuggets of awful yet to be discovered. This is a great project for the BMG hive mind, so have at it!