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DC City Council Passes 6% Rent Increase Cap

June 08, 2023

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The previous formula of inflation plus 2% led to 8.9% hike in January.

The City Council in Washington DC has capped rent increases on rent-controlled apartments at 6% for the next two years, replacing a formula that tied the rate cap to the inflation rate.

In what the council member who sponsored the legislation called an “emergency” measure, the council acted after the current formula—based on the CPI plus 2% produced the largest rent increase on record in January, an 8.9% hike.

The law in effect when the January increase hit capped increases on rent-controlled apartments at 10%.

In addition to the 6% cap, the DC City Council approved a 4% cap on increases at rent-controlled apartments occupied by seniors and people with disabilities.

During the debate on the emergency measure, which initially proposed a 6.9% cap on rent hikes, some council members pushed for stricter caps as low as 5% before settling on 6%, DCist reported.

DCist estimates that there are as many as 80K rent-stabilized apartments in Washington, mainly older buildings.

The suburban counties surrounding DC also are moving to enact caps on rent increases for rent-controlled apartments. In February, Prince George’s County established a yearlong 3% cap on increases for rent-stabilized apartments.

In Maryland’s Montgomery County, there are two rent stabilization bills being departed, including a bill that features a permanent 3% cap and another that sets an 8% cap.

Meanwhile, a rent control measure passed by the Boston City Council in March that would limit annual rent increases to 10 percent awaits action by the state legislature to lift a statewide ban on rent control in Massachusetts.

Several states have preemption laws on the books that prevent municipalities from adopting rent controls. The Massachusetts cities—Boston, Cambridge and Brookline—had active rent control policies in place when the statewide ban was enacted in 1994.

A bill to lift the state’s preemption law has been introduced in the state legislature but is still in the early stage of consideration. Despite support from Gov. Maura Healey, the measure faces an uphill fight in the legislature, which includes several members who are landlords, the Boston Globe reported.

Experts have noted that the 10% cap on increases, which is higher than rents have ever been raised on Boston, would have a marginal effect if adopted. According to a report in the Harvard Crimson, the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies has compared the Boston bill to “anti-gouging legislation.”

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