Montgomery County Council will vote on a new rent stabilization bill Tuesday, seeking to end months of negotiations and deliberations as the county grapples with soaring rent prices impacting residents who rely on rental housing.
The county considered two competing bills before advancing Bill 15-23, which would limit rent increases to 3% plus the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of inflation, or 6%, whichever is lower. The bill came as the result of intense negotiations between the two bills, the HOME Act, which would have limited rent increases to no more than 3% each year, and the Anti-Rent Gouging Bill, which offered a cap of 8% plus CPI.
If six or more council members vote for the bill on Tuesday, the new limits will be in place, prohibiting landlords from being able to raise rent by up to 6% each year.
Under existing laws, there are no limits on the amount landlords can raise the rent, allowing landlords to take advantage of tenants despite rising prices. The county publishes voluntary rent guidelines to advise on reasonable increases, which was set at 5.8% for 2023, but this serves merely as a recommendation.
Currently, around 35% of occupied units in Montgomery County are rental units, 23% of whom pay 50% or more of their income in monthly housing costs. Over the past 10 years, rent has increased annually by an average rate of 2.1%, affecting these residents.
However, the pandemic led many renters to see steeper rent increases, with the average rent increase in 2021 reaching 9%. Data also revealed that these rent hikes disproportionately impacted Black and immigrant residents.
Montgomery County Council President Evan Glass said the entire council recognizes the help and protections that renters need, working to ensure the final bill fulfills these needs while also encouraging continued developments in the county.
Glass said that the Council is united behind the belief that incidents of intense rent hikes should not take place.
Montgomery County ranks among the highest counties nationally both in median income and rent. The median household income in the county currently sits above $115,000, but 8.5% of residents live in poverty.
Montgomery County’s bill would follow similar measures passed over the past year by Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C. to protect against rent increases. Prince George’s County’s bill limited increases to 3%, but these protections are only in place for a year, while D.C. Council passed a 6% limit for rent-stabilized buildings. Montgomery County’s bill would be more extreme, seeking to protect tenants from rent gouging.
During Tuesday’s discussions, the Council will consider various amendments, including increasing the cap to 9%, providing exemptions for newer buildings, providing vacancy controls and sunsetting the bill after three years.
Glass acknowledged the concerns about affordability that some renters and residents have raised, attempting to balance between ensuring that renters are still able to live in their homes while also building homes for future residents. Glass said that tomorrow’s vote will not come without much discussion considering tenants’ demands and needs.