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Lawmakers Introduce Toned-Down Alternative To 3% Rent Cap Bill In Prince George’s

The Wayne K. Curry Administration Building, where the Prince George's County legislative branch meets

Three lawmakers have proposed a new bill in Prince George's County that would set a much higher cap on rent increases than the rent control proposal that is quickly working its way through the council.

The backers for the newly introduced Rental Assistance Act argue that their measure, which would be permanent and include a rental assistance fund, would prevent rent gouging by landlords while still providing the certainty developers and property owners need to continue providing safe housing in the county.

"The Rental Assistance Act of 2023 is a common-sense policy solution, while the Rent Control Bill is an extreme proposal from the past that should be thrown back into history’s trash heap," At-Large Council Member Mel Franklin wrote in a release announcing the bill. 

The policy fight comes amid ongoing efforts by lawmakers in suburban Maryland to cool sky-high rent increases for some residents while still pursuing hundreds of millions of dollars in development along key corridors.

The fight has played out across both Prince George's County and Montgomery County, where lawmakers are working with tenant advocates and developers to try and find a middle ground to address a range of housing goals.

Given the rising momentum behind renter protections, one of the key pain points has been the level at which rent increase limits are set. The bill proposed by Franklin would set a 20% maximum rent increase across the county and 10% for designated senior and veteran housing. 

In addition to the rent increase cap, Franklin's bill also proposes the creation of a new rental assistance fund that would provide up to six months in funding for any family making 50% or less of the area median income and whose rent increased by more than 5%.

The rival Rent Stabilization Act, which is scheduled for a second hearing before the Prince George's County Council on Feb. 28, would set a 3% rent increase cap for many units for one year. The bill already received a favorable vote from six out of 11 council members on Jan. 31.  

Developers argue that passing such a measure would inject uncertainty into the market over how much revenue property owners could achieve and potentially kill deals. 

Council members who support the one-year cap of 3% have also said they will create a working group to study a more permanent rent control measure moving forward.

But Franklin said implementing the bill would negatively impact residents either way. If indeed the measure is temporary, Franklin said it would create a "perverse incentive" for landlords to dramatically lift rents as soon as they can. 

If the working group recommends permanent rent control with a low cap, it would stifle new construction at a time when Prince George's County is courting development along the Blue Line corridor and attempting to lure the new FBI headquarters, Franklin said.

Council members Sydney Harrison and Calvin Watkins have also signed on in support of Franklin's bill.