City May Revamp Rent Control

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

City May Revamp Rent Control


Byline: Tom Ramstack, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The D.C. Council is considering a measure to revamp the District's 20-year-old rent control law.

The bill would limit rent increases to once per year and place new caps on how much rent can be raised in rent-controlled buildings.

The Committee of the Whole, which includes all D.C. Council members, is scheduled to meet Tuesday, when they might decide whether to submit the bill for a final vote.

"There are thousands of units across the District that are unaffordable but still under rent control," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, who proposed an earlier version of a rent-control bill. "We're proposing to tighten up a system that in many cases hasn't controlled anything at all."

About 100,000 apartments fall under the District's guidelines for rent control to protect low-income families and elderly and disabled people from high rents.

The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization, says that from 2003 to 2004, Washington lost 2,400 apartments that rent for less than $500 per month. In that period, apartments renting for more than $1,000 per month increased by 4,600.

Under current law, landlords can raise the rent on vacant units to match the highest comparable unit in the building.

The pending rent-control bill, B16-457, would cap any rent increases on the vacant units at 50 percent in most cases.

However, it also makes concessions to landlords.

It eliminates many of the administrative filing requirements of landlords and reduces the time limit for tenants to challenge rent increases from three years to one year.

The D.C. Small Apartment Owners Association says increased energy costs and higher real estate taxes are reducing owners' profits, leaving them little choice but to raise rents.

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