With successful legislation having passed in Mount Rainier, with a unanimous vote, to ensure rent stabilization on Feb. 21, other parts of Prince George’s County are gearing up for the same fight. On the same February day — which was also “Fat Tuesday” — District 7 Council member Krystal Oriadha (D) introduced CB-23, the Prince George’s County Rental Assistance Program and Rental Assistance Fund.
Prior to the Mount Rainier vote, Takoma Park was the only town in Maryland with rent stabilization in place.
Mount Rainier Mayor Celina Benitez was the primary sponsor on the city’s legislation, and she plans to support Oriadha’s legislation at the county level. She thanked her City Council for their support in passing the bill. The Board’s goal is to give renters a voice and with this, Benitez said, tenants will be better informed on housing choices and ensuring affordability.
“I have testified multiple times on her bill in support,” she said. “We stand 100% behind the bill and we thank her leadership, as well as her co-sponsors. We want to make sure we have all [the] tools to help our tenants.”
The Prince George’s County Rental Assistance Program and Rental Assistance Fund would provide rental assistance to county residents who make 60% of median income or less, granting up to six months of rental assistance every two years.
This follows two different bills aiming to ensure long-term rental affordability. One bill, introduced by Council member Oriadha, would cap most rent increases at 3% .
Another bill, introduced by Council member At-Large Mel Franklin (D), would cap most rent increases at 20%. In an op-ed, Franklin characterized Oriadha’s legislation as “rent control” and stated that if it passed, it would lead to blight and harm economic growth in Prince George’s. During an interview with CTV, Laurel Council member At-Large Martin Mitchell (D) characterized Franklin’s legislation as a “landlord bill” and highlighted the similarity between legislation brought to Laurel allowing 20% increases, requested by the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington (AOBA).
According to Laurel Ward 1 Council member Carl DeWalt (R), Mitchell attempted to introduce the bill to Laurel Council President Brencis Smith (D-Ward 2). This bill has, as of yet, not been introduced. Smith recently requested a pause of discussions in Laurel regarding rent stabilization, citing ongoing efforts at the county level.
Mitchell and DeWalt penned a press release indicating they plan to press forward with efforts nonetheless. DeWalt expressed support for Oriadha’s legislation and displeasure at Franklin’s legislation, categorizing it as an “application for the corporations and developers.”
Advocates against the bill took to text messages to advise county residents to testify against rent control, a blast paid for by the Prince George’s County Association of Realtors.
However, housing advocates, such as CASA organizer Trent León-Lierman, said “rent stabilization is the single most impactful policy to maintain affordable housing.”
“Elected officials that are passing rent stabilization at the local and county levels are putting their constituents before corporations,” León-Lierman emphasized.
“We fully support Councilwoman Oriadha’s CB-7 because it caps rents at a reasonable 3% after a period where landlords were able to wreak havoc and increase rents up to $800,” said Jorge Benitez-Perez, lead organizer for CASA’s Prince George’s County division.
“It’s time that we start thinking about development in a smart way, a way that will work for everyone, and CB-7 comes with a promise of working on a permanent solution during the one-year period of the legislation,” Benitez-Perez continued.
In Hyattsville, eight of the 11 City Council members co-sponsored a rent stabilization bill on Feb. 6. The lead sponsors are Joseph Solomon and Danny Schaible.
New Carrollton Mayor Phelecia Nembhard introduced rent stabilization measures in January, and is awaiting reply from her fellow Council members.
“I believe there should be help for the residents, because of what we’re going through with COVID,” she said. “Even with the American Rescue Plan funds, the apartment fees we are paying are burdensome for the city. I don’t see the apartments doing renovations for the residents, despite the high fees. Stakeholders in the community can help get us through this crisis.”
A rally is planned for Feb. 28 outside of the County Administration Building in Largo at 9 a.m.to show support for CB-7. Several unions, non-profit organizations and advocacy groups are expected to attend.