Like the District Opportunity to Purchase Act, another tool for the preservation of affordable housing that the District has entertained without implementing may also soon be put to use.
Two years ago, the city passed the Rent Control Housing Clearinghouse Amendment Act as part of the budgetary process for fiscal year 2016. The law is intended to establish a searchable online database with information for tenants seeking or residing in rent control lodgings.
The database would also enable housing providers to submit any documents online required by the Rental Housing Act of 1985 to the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Rental Accommodations Division. All landlords would be required to submit data on their housing units subject to rent control for inclusion in the database.
The original bill tasked DHCD with creating the database within two years of the bill’s passage, and with that period coming to a close soon, the DC Council is tasking the Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) with implementation. As part of the current budgetary negotiation process, the council is routing $500,000 in funding to OTA in order to create the Rent Control Housing Clearinghouse.
During the first phase of establishment of the clearinghouse, OTA will have two years to create a pared-down version of the database to serve as a demonstration of the final version.
As of 2011, there were 79,145 units in the city across 4,818 developments that were potentially subject to rent control — a vague categorization that highlights the need for improved record-keeping. Similarly, a study in early 2016 identified nearly two-thirds of the city’s rental stock as rent-controlled.
Rent control mechanisms generally restrict landlords to raising tenants’ rents by the consumer price index-plus-2 percent annually and no more than 10 percent (5 percent for the elderly or disabled). There are some loopholes that can permit higher increases.