Floreen: Rent Control In Montgomery County Unlikely

An apartment building on Battery Lane, file photo

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) on Monday told a group of Bethesda and Chevy Chase residents it’s unlikely Montgomery County will ever implement rent control and that advocates of the measure sometimes use inaccurate information to make their case.

A Friendship Heights resident and member of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board asked Floreen, of Garrett Park, about renters’ rights.

The issue has been prominent among seniors in Friendship Heights, where residents of the Willard apartments have faced a pair of five percent rent increases since last fall. They are unhappy Montgomery County’s volunteer guideline for a 2.8 percent rent increase last year was disregarded.

“Is there going to be rent control in Montgomery County? I think not,” Floreen said. “The traditional challenge is that to the extent that rents are controlled, the history is disinvestment in those buildings or minimal investment. But after a while, the buildings get worse and worse and the government has to step in. …And that’s expensive and costly to everyone.”

Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) who helped institute rent control in Takoma Park, said at a Montgomery County Renters Alliance forum last year in Bethesda that he received no support for a similar measure he proposed a few years ago at the county level. Takoma Park’s rent stabilization limits rent increases to the rate of inflation.

“I did not and have not yet had a single council member come to my door and even say, ‘Can we talk about this?’ I was told it’s dead on arrival,” Elrich said.

Elrich said he was contemplating a modified proposal that would require building owners to submit a request for why they need to increase rents by more than 150 percent of the inflation rate.

Renters now make up roughly 30 percent of Montgomery County’s population, a number that should increase as the county continues its gradual shift toward higher-density, urban-style development.

And while Floreen agreed with renters’ advocates that tenants need more of a voice in the political process, she said the county’s existing regulations protecting against landlord abuse may already be enough.

“There are a bunch of recommendations that the county executive is implementing on tenants’ rights,” Floreen said. “I’m not sure they’re not working.”

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