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D.C. Council Passes 6% Rent Control Cap After Inflation Led To Largest-Ever Hike

The D.C. Council passed legislation Tuesday to cap rent increases on rent-controlled apartments at 6% for the next two years, beginning July 1.

The vote comes after soaring inflation led the rent increase cap to reach its highest-ever level this year, and it follows a debate among lawmakers about how far to reduce that limit. 

The D.C. Council at a March 2018 hearing

Caps on rent-controlled housing for seniors and people with disabilities will see even stricter regulations: The council voted on a 4% maximum increase for the next two years. 

D.C. law allows landlords to raise prices for rent-controlled apartments by the percentage of inflation plus 2%, with a maximum increase of 10%. Due to the high levels of inflation over the last year, the District's Rental Housing Commission in January approved an 8.9% increase, which was the largest increase in the program's 40-year history, according to DCist.

The vote was a result of an emergency bill put forward by Council Member Robert White that proposed capping rent-controlled hikes at 6.9%. The council considered the bill during 2024 budget negotiations last week, giving way to a heated debate, with some members pushing for even stricter rent caps, as low as 5%. The council ended up passing the budget and decided to table the bill for one week. 

The amended legislation that passed Tuesday was spearheaded by White as well as Ward 4 Council Member Janeese Lewis George and Ward 2 Council Member Brooke Pinto. White celebrated the bill’s passage on Twitter.

Lewis George called on the council to pass additional legislation to "strengthen and expand" rent control, and she said the council should make it easier to build housing. 

Rent stabilization in D.C. largely applies to older buildings, with the common exemptions being buildings that were constructed after 1975, those that are federally or District-subsidized, owned by an individual, as opposed to a corporation, or buildings that were vacant when the law took effect, according to the D.C. government website.

DCist reported that although D.C. doesn't have an accurate number of rent-stabilized apartments in the city, the figure could be as high as 70,000 to 80,000 units. 

D.C.'s new cap comes as its neighboring regions also deal with debates about rent control. In February, Prince George's County set a yearlong 3% increase cap on rent-stabilized units. In Montgomery County, there are two rent stabilization bills under consideration by the county council, one of which would permanently cap rent-controlled increases at 3% and the other at 8%.

Apartment owners, from small landlords to large corporations, have long opposed rent control measures, arguing the restrictions make it more difficult for developers to build and maintain apartments and that they exacerbate the housing shortage. 

“The landlords asked that we do nothing,” White said, according to The Washington Post. “I had very frank conversations with them that we had to do something.” 

Related Topics: Inflation, DC Council, Rent controls