In the nation’s capital, as in the rest of the country, the pandemic had made things tough on landlords. So, when the Housing Committee of the DC City Council attempted to pass a raft of rent control legislation at the end of 2020, the District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® (DCAR) pushed back with a Call for Action that prompted nearly 300 messages from REALTOR® members and the public, urging reason and restraint – and, for the time being, spared property owners from further restrictions.
The proposed measures, all fairly permanent, would have expanded all levels of rent control to buildings with fewer than five units, as well as to newer buildings not currently subject to rent control, and limited voluntary agreements and the way housing providers could interact with tenants, among numerous other requirements.
DCAR is fully mindful of the current housing crisis, and sympathetic to the difficulties faced by many renters during the sudden economic downturn, says Katalin Peter, the association’s Vice President, Government Affairs/General Counsel. “At the same time, landlords were already so restricted with the federal mandates that had been imposed to protect renters during the pandemic. We couldn’t watch the City Council enact this comprehensive bill that would put most of the rental units in DC under rent control, which would ultimately create serious unintended consequences for the overall cost of the DC rental market and significantly curtail housing growth.” She notes that, given the pressures that landlords are under, and the high cost of maintaining and improving rental properties, many of the mom-and-pop-sized operations of just a few units would likely convert to condos, taking away an important segment of relatively affordable housing.
Evan Loukadakis, DCAR’s Associate Government Affairs Director, orchestrated the grassroots response to the sweeping rent-control bill. Using both the Call For Action email and REALTOR® Alert text services from the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program, DCAR got its message to the Housing Committee, urging it to focus on addressing the needs of the present emergency, and re-evaluate longer term proposals once the health crisis had stabilized. “It was a request to push the pause button,” explains Loukadakis. “It wasn’t at all antagonistic, and showed our willingness to work with them as we figure out the housing landscape, which is clearly in an unnatural state at the moment. The committee just needed to be shown the dangers of what they were considering. Our members came through, and overall, the message was successful.”
In fact, after the CFA had made its point, the Housing Committee eased off its more dire proposals, and proceeded with a few measures to tighten Fair Housing ordinances, all of which had DCAR’s support. The mayor formed a Rental Housing Task Force, an objective entity representing all stakeholders, including small housing providers. And DCAR is making constructive suggestions in the spirit of compromise, such as giving tax credits to smaller landlords for making capital improvements to their rental properties. “As the dust settles, it seems that the Housing Committee is, if anything, feeling a bit more favorable toward the REALTORS®,” notes Peter, “and is taking a more moderated approach to rent control.”
To learn more about how the District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® is working to help lawmakers understand both sides of rental issues, contact Vice President, Government Affairs/General Counsel Katalin Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973.699.6936.