Appendix: How Would Reclaim Rent Control Proposals Change the District’s Rental Housing Landscape?


Three sources of uncertainty make it difficult to know exactly how many units exist in multi-family buildings and how many are subject to rent control.

First, we do not have complete administrative records on the number of units in multi-family apartment buildings and this information needs to be compiled using several resources. This is because unlike condominiums and conversions, where each unit is registered separately for tax purposes, rental apartment buildings (and co-ops) have a single entity that owns the entire building. Sometimes the number of units is reported in the Computer Assisted Mass Assessment database, and sometimes they are not. The step-by-step details of these calculations can be found here.

Second, we do not have complete administrative records as of the date a building received its building permit, making it difficult to determine whether a building is subject to rent control laws. The tax assessment files do not contain actual year of construction (AYB) data for 99 multi-family rental apartment buildings representing approximately 3,810 units. We include them in the controlled rent inventory as shown in Table 3.

Third, we have little information on owners who own dwellings in disparate buildings, including condominiums. An analysis of the district’s rental stock in condominiums, conversions and apartments (excluding rental apartment buildings of five or more units) shows that this number may be low. We could find 130 of these small landlords who collectively own about 1,520 rent-controlled units. This estimate is obtained by grouping the dwellings belonging to the same owner (as registered in the tax rolls) in buildings with the appropriate code of use (residential apartments, condominiums and conversions), and includes only the properties that do not benefit from a homestead exemption.

Five other bills propose more limited changes to rent control laws.

Bill 23-237, An Act to amend the Rent Concessions Act, 2019 requires that, when advertising a home, the housing provider disclose base rent, surcharges and, when offered, rent discounts for an introductory period, commonly known as concessions. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that tenants are fully aware of the base rent they would have to pay at the end of their discount period. The bill also states that a reduced rent offered to a new tenant cannot be less than 90 percent of the base rent.

Bill 23-530, Rent Stabilization Act 2020 Amendment Act, 2020 sets up income ceilings for tenants eligible for rental from the controlled rent park. Currently, there is no income test or verification requirement for tenants in rent-controlled housing. Under the proposed bill, a tenant would be eligible to rent rent-controlled accommodation only if the tenant’s monthly income during the previous calendar year was 5 times or less the monthly rent.

Bill 23-877, An Act to Amend the Substantial Rehabilitation Petitions Reform Act, 2020, limits the length of time a housing provider can apply surcharges to cover the cost of a substantial rehabilitation to the amortization period as determined by Internal Revenue Service rules for residential properties. (The depreciation period for rental properties under IRS rules is 27.5 years.) Under the bill, the net cost of rehabilitation is calculated by subtracting from the cost any cost savings of operation that the owner could achieve as a result of the rehabilitation (for example by installing an efficient heating or air conditioning system) and the costs are distributed among the tenants in proportion to the size of their units. Under the current law, rent increases in the context of a substantial rehabilitation request are permanent and the increases do not take into account the cost savings resulting from the rehabilitation.

Additionally, in order to be able to charge extra, the bill requires rehabilitation projects over 10,000 square feet to meet or exceed Green Communities certification standards – a set of requirements on the design. , construction and operation of multi-family buildings that contain affordable housing. To be eligible to receive certification, rental apartment buildings must serve residents at 60% or less of the region’s median income. The bill does not require the provider to receive Green Communities certification, but leaves it up to the rental administrator to make that decision.

Bill 23-879, An Act of 2020 to Amend the Petitions Reform Act for Capital Improvement, 2020 Likewise, places limits on how much homeowners can recover, and over what period, if they invest in capital improvements that are not large enough to qualify as “substantial rehabilitations.” The bill specifically directs housing providers to spread the cost of capital improvements over 27.5 years, thereby reducing the temporary surtax they can impose on rent. In addition, it caps rent increases at 15% and requires that surcharges be applied in proportion to the size of the unit.

Bill 23-878, Voluntary Agreements Moratorium Act, 2020 proposes a 2-year moratorium on voluntary agreements.

DC Policy Center Fellows are freelance writers and we welcome the expression of a variety of perspectives. The views of our fellows, published here or elsewhere, do not reflect the views of the DC Policy Center.

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