College Park rent rate will not rise
Council members vote not to loosen cap, citing possible hikes
College Park residents who rent homes in the city are unlikely to see rent increases any time soon, as the City Council rejected a plan Tuesday night to ease restrictions on city landlords.
The council rejected a proposal that would have eased restrictions set by the city's rent stabilization ordinance, which limits the rent residential landlords can collect within the city, citing concerns that the proposal could lead to sudden rent increases and damage the ordinance's effectiveness.
The ordinance, first passed in 2005, bars city landlords from collecting monthly rent greater than 0.6 percent of a home's assessed property-tax value.
Councilman Robert Catlin (Dist. 2) proposed in March that the city raise the cap to 0.8 percent, to counter declining property values that affected many homes this year.
His proposal was shot down Tuesday night, 5-2. The city has yet to enforce the law due to an ongoing lawsuit but hopes to begin later this year.
"We're finally able to start moving forward, and I'd hate to see us undermine our own program by raising the cap," said Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3). "We may want to consider changes to the ordinance in the future, but I don't think this is the time to do it."
In past years, the council has tightened the cap to counter rising home values. The ordinance originally set a 1 percent cap in 2005 but was lowered to 0.8 percent in 2008 and 0.6 percent in 2009.
Catlin, a retired economist, has been in charge of monitoring the rate and advising the council from year to year. He abstained from voting, while council members Christine Nagle (Dist. 1) and Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1) supported the proposal.
"Perhaps I shouldn't have made assumptions that this was a routine thing to happen," Catlin said, adding that the council originally took a "balanced, light-handed approach" to setting the cap. "We're getting away from that, which certainly doesn't make me happy."
While Catlin said the adjustment would have just offset lower home values, other council members argued it could lead to unwanted consequences and that landlords are in too good financial shape to need the higher cap.
"Landlords still seem to think they can make a profit converting houses in College Park [into rental properties]," said Councilman Marcus Afzali (Dist. 4), who said many available houses in his district are being bought by landlords. A 2008 study estimated 43 percent of residential homes in the city are renter-occupied, compared to just 34.2 percent throughout the county.
The city could likely begin enforcing the ordinance soon after it receives a ruling on a lawsuit brought by a group of landlords over the ordinance in 2006. The case was dismissed in 2008, but landlords appealed and the state Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear the case in May.
Catlin has said the city could begin enforcing the ordinance as soon as July. The city is still in the process of forming a rent stabilization committee and determining how it will collect necessary data and enforce the law.
E-mail David Hill at email@example.com.