Hundreds of renters and low-wage workers from Massachusetts marched from the Boston Common to the State House steps Wednesday.

Their mission was two-fold: Calling on state lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, and lift the ban on rent control, in the hopes of making life in Massachusetts more affordable for low-wage workers.

Ronel Remy was a renter for years before recently purchasing a home in Brockton. He now rents out a floor of his home, where he said he has actually decreased the rent over the years.

“We don’t have rent control. We don’t have minimum wage that could satisfy someone that has a family to live actually OK,” Remy said. “We’re not saying to live in opulence, but actually OK — a decent living. When these things don’t happen, something is wrong somewhere.“

Rally-goers are supporting on two bills on legislators’ desk. One — An Act Relative to the Minimum Wage — would raise minimum wage to $20 by 2027 and then tie minimum wage to the rate of inflation.

The other — An Act Enabling Cities and Towns to Stabilize Rents and Protect Tenants — would end the statewide ban on local rent stabilization measures and allow cities and towns to stabilize rents.

Voters approved a ballot question in 1984 that implemented the across-the-board ban. Several communities — including Boston, Brookline and Somerville — already have home-rule petitions pending at the state Legislature requesting local permission to enact rent stabilization measures.

Renters and low-wage workers rallied on the State House steps Wednesday.
Jamie Robinson GBH News

Noel Lozada, who works with private sector employees at SEIU Local 509, says both bills are integral to protecting Massachusetts residents. She said that, three years ago, she was pushed out of her rental in Lynn after her landlord nearly doubled her rent over the course of six years.

She now lives in Danvers where looming rent raises are a constant stress.

“I’ve watched coworkers become homeless or move in with family members — I’m literally one paycheck away from that. My family might be next because, every January, my rent goes up,” Lozada said. “This coming January, [that] could be my family on the street.”

1199/SEIU sponsored the rally along with several other organizations, including City Life/Vida Urbana, Homes for All and the Boston Teachers Union.

Between 2023 to 2024, median rents in the state increased nearly 8%, according to the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, an increase the rally-goers say the minimum wage has not kept up with.

Laura Frost has rented in Arlington for 20 years and is the lead tenant organizer of the property she lives on. She emphasized the important role that renters — often, the ones who can’t afford to buy — play in their communities.

“I see communities as a tapestry. The teachers and the musicians, and the firefighters, everybody has a role to play,” she said. “But now what’s happening with the large developers buying up the properties and pushing people out, the community tapestry is being unraveled.“

The legislative session ends July 31. Any bills that aren’t passed before then will have to try again in the next session on Beacon Hill, which will begin next January.