Proposed Rent Control Reforms Desperately Needed in DC

There are various forums and organizations spearheading the drive for rent control reform: our own TENAC meetings (the first Wednesday of every other month, except summer months; the Office of Tenant Advocate (OTA) http://www.ota.dc.gov “Stakeholder Meetings” where all concerned can meet to strategize and hammer out reforms; and others, such as Housing Counseling Services, most of which are listed in The Tenant Survival Guide, accessible by web search and from OTA. All are cordially invited to these meetings, to learn about, and offer real remedies for, the affordable housing crisis confronting the District.  It is our hope the energy, efforts and input you contribute secure real initiatives for reform and commitments for substantive and specific rental housing reform from the City Council.


As a helpful beginning, TENAC was instrumental in extending the rent control renewal cycle from five to every ten years - - time we can use to implement meaningful housing reform.
Our next thrust, along with other advocates, aims to strike at the heart of the affordable housing crisis by several means (We ask you to keep these in mind when talking to councilmembers and at tenant meetings):

- “CPI-Only:” Limit Rent Increases (currently "CPI + 2 percent"), to the percent increase in the CPI alone. Historically the "CPI-only" increase was the allowed limit (when rent control started in the 1970s until 2006, when the law was changed to favor landlords in this respect).  The extra 2 percent, when compounded, will almost triple current rents over 20 years (even CPI-only increases would almost double current rents over the same period, which we think is ample); This change would return rent control to the rent increases it always had, prior to changes implemented by the recent (2006) reform law.

- Eliminate “Faux Affordable:” (the loopholes classifying expensive housing as "affordable") Current law (e.g. in inclusionary zoning) bases affordability on the higher averages of the entire D.C metro area income, (not as it should, on average income for D.C. alone).  This formula allows the same game of giveaways, only in disguised form: By keeping affordable eligibility to include income averages of surrounding suburbs, the richest in the country, landlords can essentially escape offering truly affordable housing to District middle and low income residents;

- ”Click and Submit:” Institute an Internet-based Inspections reporting system which includes email, that requires inspectors to "click and submit" violations simultaneously to the inspections agency and the tenant at the time of inspection and in the presence of tenants affected.  “Ya can’t delete what’s been sent”  This would help end the frequent tales of inspection reports mysteriously disappearing or later suddenly showing no, fewer or lesser violations than originally cited to the tenant at inspection time. 

-  “Build up” Rent Control – Expand It to Newer Buildings built after 1976.
Currently rent control is limited to buildings built before 1976. This stock is being depleted rapidly by demolition, conversion to high income condos, and other means. Extending rent control to newer buildings (e.g., those built before 1999 or 2001), we think is vital.   We feel rent control is the most effective means to preserve affordable housing. The increases allowed under it are plain, spelled out, and easily to understand. Better, it is harder to avoid, allowing fewer loopholes than murky regulations and laws established for other types of affordable housing initiatives, e.g., inclusionary zoning, that clever landlords and lawyers can find ways around. 

 

- A “Real Start” to Closing Scurrilous Laws and Loopholes: some allow landlords unjustifiable and dubious increases if the regulatory agency simply fails to act; some permit landlords to run down their buildings in order to easily evict tenants and then sell to developers; the list goes on and on;

These and more - - it’s mostly up to you! 

 

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Proposed Reforms for Rent Control, Points for Focus and Discussion.doc19.5 KB