Councilor Edwards Looks to Pass Revamped Condo Conversion Laws

As Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Government Operations, Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards will recommend passage of an ordinance extending and enhancing protections for tenants facing displacement by condominium or cooperative conversion, during Wednesday’s weekly Council meeting – which came beyond deadlines for the paper.

The docket was sponsored by Councilor Edwards and will strengthen existing protections afforded by the current ordinance in light of the rapid increase of small apartment buildings being converted to condominiums in Boston. This docket was referred to the Committee on January 27, and a hearing was held on February 26, where public comment was taken. 

The ordinance increases relocation benefits for residents facing displacement, provides additional notice requirements, and establishes a condo conversion permit and notification system within the City of Boston’s Office of Housing Stability and Inspectional Services Department. In addition, the ordinance establishes a look back period of 12 months which will assist in determining whether the tenants are provided all of their rights and benefits in cases of a building clear out.

“The proposed language strengthens the current ordinance, closes loopholes, and further protects tenants from displacement during this citywide rental housing emergency,” said Councilor Edwards. “I’d like to thank my Boston City Council colleagues, especially City Councilor Ed Flynn, Chief Sheila Dillion and Tim Davis at the Department of Neighborhood Services, and all administration officials who worked diligently to make this happen.”

Since 1983, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has afforded municipalities the option to enact protections for tenants residing in properties subject to condominium conversion. Boston’s condominium conversion ordinance, updated in 2014, affords residents of covered properties a notice period, right of first refusal to purchase their unit, relocation assistance, just cause eviction, and relocation benefits if the unit is converted to a condominium. 

Last year, Councilors and administration officials held a hearing and working session, Docket #0389, on July 27, 2020 and October 15, 2020 examining issues of building clear-outs that occurred prior to a building owner starting the formal process to convert a building, increasing the relocation assistance provided in order to better reflect the economic realities of the current rental market, and expanding the groups covered by the ordinance beyond protected classes to include families with children and tenants that have lived in a unit for longer than five years.

The city extended condominium conversion protections in 2019, 2020, and 2021 in order to allow time for revisions during prior years’ session.

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