Opinion: After Rent Stabilization, More Action Needed to Make Housing Affordable

Montgomery County just passed a slew of regulatory and legislative changes aimed at improving affordable housing. One writer suggests several more.

2 minute read

September 28, 2023, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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In a guest opinion piece published in Greater Greater Washington, Mike English describes the major changes to housing policy in Montgomery County that could pave the way for more affordable housing.

As English explains, “Faced with a tight budget and rising home prices, the County Council has looked for ways to increase tax revenue while reducing burdens on tenants, who make up over one-third of the county’s households.”

Among the steps the county took is a rent stabilization law, the first in the county in 40 years. “The new law caps rent increases at 6% each year, or 3% over the rate of inflation (whichever is lower), and allows landlords to “bank” any rent increases they don’t take advantage of for the following year.” The law starts applying to buildings 23 years after they’re built, in part out of fear that applying it to newer buildings would slow development.

Unfortunately, English notes, “vibes matter,” and some of these laws could appear unfriendly to new businesses and developers. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them, but we need to start sending better signals by passing reforms that will help directly, but also help counter the (partially fair, partially unfair) perception that Montgomery County is hostile to growth and investment.”

English recommends several steps now that rent stabilization passed. These include “building on our approved general plan, Thrive 2050, and passing the zoning changes it recommends, chiefly upzoning for more homes near transit.” English also suggests eliminating parking requirements, reforming impact fees on the sale of older homes, and encouraging the construction of smaller houses.

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