Montgomery holds off on rent control, other housing proposals

Montgomery County officials are resisting extensive changes to
housing policies -- primarily rent control -- presented in a report
Tuesday that outlines ways to keep renters from being priced out of the
wealthy suburb.

Appointed by County Executive Ike Leggett, the "tenants work group,"
composed of government officials and renters, told the County Council to
enact rent control and housing rules that prevent baseless evictions.

Though County Council members say modifications may be needed, they
are reluctant to pursue them at the onset of election season. And
mirroring Leggett, most have come out against rent control.

"My view is the next council ought to take up housing policy," said
Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large, adding "2010 is almost gone"
and victim to the "realities of the election calendar."

Rental policies have become an increasingly pressing topic for
jurisdictions nationwide, as residents complain their paychecks don't
keep up with spikes in the rent.

A quarter of all houses in the Montgomery County are rentals.

Housing advocates say renters can't afford to wait for the political
environment to change, with rents skyrocketing by double-digit
percentages annually in some cases.

The council's most vocal supporter of rent control, Councilman Marc
Elrich, D-at large, called Leggett's resistance "short-sighted" and
added, "we are losing affordable housing faster than we can create it."

Still, he said he would not bring a rent control bill before the
council this year, predicting certain failure.

Still, he said he would not bring a rent control bill before the
council this year, predicting certain failure.

Leggett says rent control would discourage housing development
during a time when builders are already reluctant to pursue new

The tenant group also recommended a county law to restrict
groundless, and sometimes retaliatory, evictions. Their study found that
some were afraid to report problems out of fear of being kicked to the

Under county law, landlords can raise rent only once per year, but
there is no limit to the increase.

Virginia does not use rent control, and landlords don't have to give a
reason for not renewing a contract. The District employs rent control
in large apartment buildings built before 1978, and leases are renewed
unless the tenant wants to leave or the landlord presents a legal reason
for eviction.

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