A study of rent regulations in Montgomery County is coming, according to Natalia Carrizosa, a legislative analyst at the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO), who spoke during a discussion Wednesday with the Montgomery County Renters Alliance.
The need for the study arose because two competing rent stabilization bills have been put before the Montgomery County Council.
The OLO is an independent office of the County Council and, according to Carrizosa, is “responsible for helping the council fulfill its oversight function by providing accurate information, analysis and independent findings and recommendations.”
The two rent stabilization bills that currently stand before the Council are the HOME Act, which caps rent increases in the county at 3% or at the regional consumer price index (CPI), whichever is lower, with certain exemptions, and the anti-rent gouging bill, which caps annual rent increases at the CPI plus 8%, with certain exemptions. As the current CPI is 4.4%, the anti-rent gouging bill would set the rent cap at 12.4%.
Carrizosa said her office would be conducting an in-depth study into rent regulations in Montgomery County. She said her office would be examining case studies on rent regulations in other jurisdictions, a literature review on the social and economic impacts of these regulations, complaint data on rent increases, the county’s annual rental survey of landlords and data on Montgomery County’s rental housing market.
Attendees asked Carrizosa whether the research would include wider policy contexts, such as analyzing affordable housing across different areas of the county, discussions about multifamily housing developments and how that impacts rent regulations overall.
“We do want to be aware and allow our reports to be responsive to the questions that people have and because of that, we’re certainly paying attention to what the [wider] discourse is, but in terms of findings, we have to rely on the research that’s been done and summarizing that research,” Carrizosa said.
Matthew Losak, executive director at Montgomery County Renters Alliance, said there needs to be a holistic approach when examining rent stabilization and rent regulations.
“We know what the rental housing industry says about how rent stabilization is going to limit profits, but what we don’t see in those analyses is how they’re trying to trade off to the other costs that it’s going to limit in terms of social impact and financial impact on people,” he said. “And what the potential is for prosperity when we have stable affordable housing for the long run, and other types of [having a] broader holistic view of the economics.”
Along with a discussion of OLO’s study, Renters Alliance officials also discussed their own observations of rent hikes and evictions in the county and voiced their support for the HOME Act.
“Renters’ Alliance has seen rent increases in the double-digits, and evictions are skyrocketing. We are seeing the forced migration of working low-income families and seniors and middle-class folks who have done the math and figured out the rents are going to rise like this over the next few years.” Losak said. “…So, we as a community, have to decide what the role of stable affordable housing is in Montgomery County.”
Losak said as the Renters Alliance talks through both bills and negotiates with County officials, the organization will be taking a balanced approach and not getting overly focused on the numbers, while keeping the renters’ rights in mind.
“We believe that a landlord has a right to maintain their profits and keep up with legitimate expenses, balanced with the tenant’s need to know what the rents are going to be, to not have excessive rent increases and to have stable affordable housing. So that’s our position,” he said. “And we look forward to a serious, sober, good faith discussion on how to get to a reasonable piece of legislation.”
For the next steps, the two bills will be discussed by the county’s Planning, Housing and Parks Committee during a work session on June 15.