March 5th, 2023
Dear President Glass, Vice President Friedson, and County Councilmembers:
The Montgomery County Young Democrats (MCYD) urge the County Council to support Bill 16-23, Landlord-Tenant Relations – Rent Stabilization (The HOME Act), establishing an annual maximum rent increase for rental housing in the County and permitting a landlord to submit a petition for a fair rent increase. Renters are experiencing a lack of stability and predictability for the cost of their homes, leading to many residents geting pushed out and facing eviction. This bill is needed to ensure that people have access to affordable housing in Montgomery County with market stability.
As previously mentioned in our letter of support regarding Bill 22-22, during the COVID-19 pandemic the County Council enacted limits on rent increases in order to protect residents harmed by high unemployment and to ensure they could stay in their homes during a global pandemic. However, the once temporary protections must now become permanent, in order to ensure members of our community are not improperly subjected to unfair rental increases. MCYD continues to understand that landlords have a right to earn a living, but in a decent and fair society, residents should have a right to equitable and predictable housing market changes as well.
Montgomery County continues to face a housing crisis where many residents are struggling to find affordable housing. Renters make up approximately 37% of Montgomery County residents and already tend to pay higher percentages of their income on housing than homeowners. The Washington Post reported that since 2019 average rent prices in Montgomery County have increased by 8.3%. But many County residents are reporting far more significant rent increases–10%, 20%, and even higher hikes–which have resulted in people being priced out of their homes. Silver Spring residents wrote to the Council of monthly rent increases of $200-$400. While renters do have the power to file complaints about rent increases, many people are unaware that they have this right or lack the knowledge to navigate that process. Bill 16-23 aims to limit rent-stabilized units to annual rent increases matching the predetermined Voluntary Rent Guidelines (VRG), which is a rate of 3% or lower.
Black and Latino families disproportionately rent their homes instead of owning them. Because of a shortage of housing, people encounter substantial difficulties in finding and keeping their rental property. Moving is also costly and risky for residents, who have to pay security deposits, move their belongings, and get situated. And when residents are evicted due to their inability to meet rent increases, the results are traumatic, often resulting in people becoming homeless and living on the streets. Eviction harms people’s mental and physical health, hurts their financial wellbeing, hinders their efforts to rise out of poverty, and harms their future attempts to get housing.
Bill 16-23 outlines necessary solutions to the disproportionate and inequitable rent increases occurring all through the County. For over 10 years, the Voluntary Rent Guidelines were around 2.25%, and averaged 3% over the last 20 years. Bill 16-23 is proposing a 3% cap which would be well within County standards, allowing for much needed predictability to tenants. The bill also provides an opportunity for landlords to petition and apply for rent increases above the proposed annual allowance by filing a Fair Return Petition. By allowing landlords to petition for rent increases, they can state their claim for why the rent increase helps cover their bottom line: current net operating income. The measures in Bill 16-23 will provide much needed protections for renters in the light of unaffordable housing and account for the landlords who are accountable for covering their operating income so as to make a profit.
Housing is a human right. Bill 16-23 will ensure that renters are protected against unpredictable and unstable rent increases, ensure that more people have access to affordable housing, reduce evictions, and promote equity and justice in our society.
MCYD urges that this bill be brought up for a vote and for a favorable report on the bill. Codifying rent stability as permanent law will significantly help renters disproportionately burdened by profiteers. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
The Montgomery County Young Democrats