Prince George’s County Council to tackle rising rents, tobacco stores 

The council in Prince George’s County, Maryland, is taking up a list of bills on Tuesday, which include efforts at rent control — or rent stabilization as backers of the plan call it.

Under the legislation, which easily passed a committee earlier this month, landlords would be prohibited from increasing rents by more than 3% over the next year. Rental units that qualify as affordable housing and receive federal or state support would be exempt, as would apartments that are less than 5 years old.

“The heart of this legislation is the idea that you could wake up one day and have your rent increased 40%, 20%, 50%,” said Council Member Krystal Oriadha, one of the sponsors of the bill, during a Jan. 19 committee meeting that she chaired.

Oriadha described cases wherein landlords, in the hopes of pushing long-term residents out, would allow rodents to run around buildings that were in need of maintenance, while jacking up rents.

“It (rent control) is notoriously unsuccessful, and it’s very difficult to find even one example where this has been implemented successfully anywhere in the country,” said Lauren Graziano, with the Maryland Multi-Housing Association. She added that the 3% cap ignores operational increases in costs.

“A lot of increases in rent are going to mitigating increases in employee wages, property taxes, maintenance costs, things like this,” Graziano said. “The average increase in cost our members are seeing are about 6.2%,” with some saying it goes as high as 17%.

Tuesday’s hearing will be the full council’s chance to debate the measure and hear again from landlords and tenant advocates. Oriadha said the votes will be there on the full council to institute this new cap.

The plan is for the one-year cap to be in place while a work group spends the next nine months coming up with a longer-term solution to the issue. Then have it pass before the cap expires.

Tobacco stores bill

During a different committee meeting earlier this month, Oriadha said she is dismayed that she sees an abundance of tobacco stores in her district.

“This is an issue that is really prevalent and important for me because of what you see in my district inside the Beltway,” Oriadha said at a different committee meeting earlier this month. “We have tobacco stores disguising themselves as convenience stores on every single corner. While we don’t have grocery stores, access to healthy eating places, restaurants, retail.”

If approved, the council would limit tobacco stores to industrial areas in the county, and they would no longer be allowed to operate 24/7. Instead, they will be limited to operate between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

“It’s really crucial that it doesn’t take up the key retail space in our residential communities,” Oriadha said. “Moving these shops to industrial spaces will really help to make sure we get the actual things we need in our communities and not just liquor stores and tobacco stores.”

Her concerns were echoed by Council Member Ed Burroughs, who said the county “deserves better.”

“It should not be in the mecca we are, or purport ourselves to be, that there is a 24-hour tobacco store and a gas station on every corner,” Burroughs said. “We are better than the development we’ve been receiving, and we are sick of having junk put in our community as if we are less than, as if we don’t matter.”

The law, if passed, would take effect over the course of several years.

Several other bills are also on the agenda on Tuesday too.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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