HYATTSVILLE – As Hyattsville housing prices rise and the city continues to catch eyes in the housing market, some on the city council hope to address rising rent and housing costs before lower-income residents are priced out of the area. On Monday, the council took a first look at a few proposed changes and possible […]
HYATTSVILLE – As Hyattsville housing prices rise and the city continues to catch eyes in the housing market, some on the city council hope to address rising rent and housing costs before lower-income residents are priced out of the area.
On Monday, the council took a first look at a few proposed changes and possible new ordinances penned by Councilman Joseph Solomon that could introduce some rent stability to Hyattsville in addition to some renter protections.
“Before you is a list of recommendations aimed at preserving the city’s affordable housing stock for new residents, but also for long term residents currently facing the problem of being priced out of the city they love,” Solomon said.
Solomon said the goals of his ordinances are to create rent stabilization, create a revenue stream for any potential loss in revenue due to the rent stabilization, and to define protections for renters in the city.
“The ordinance seeks to protect certain groups of people: seniors, military veterans, disabled individuals and college students who file with independent status,” he said.
Specifically, Solomon’s proposal would create “targeted rent stabilization” to residents who meet the criteria through an application process. Those criteria are broken into two lists of prerequisites that must be met to be deemed eligible, such as being over age 60, or being an independent college student taking six or more credits, and either having an income less than the median in Hyattsville or a rent that is more than 30 percent of their annual income.
The city would establish a “Hyattsville Rent Commission for Rent Stabilization Protection” that would then review the applications, and those awarded would receive an approved limit to rent increases set by the commission. Tenants could also be approved for rent increase exemptions. Both types of residents would have to reapply each year for the stabilization, however.
In addition, the proposal also includes a renter’s “bill of rights” and the steps to establish an affordable housing fund with monies collected from a proposed tax on short-term rentals.
Solomon said rent stabilization and the people it would help is a personal quest for him as it had a large impact on his own family.
“My mother was a mother of four children at the time, who hadn’t gotten through college all the way before she started her family and was an independent, single mother looking for any opportunity that she could use to help keep costs down in order to be able to raise a family,” he said. “And finding a rent stabilized home was something that helped her be able to afford living conditions for four children, while still trying to pay and work her way though school.”
While many councilmembers agree with Solomon that rent stabilization is something the city should begin to look into, a number of the elected officials pointed out concerns they have with the current iteration, which is a proposed draft.
A large concern is the “unintended consequences” that may accompany the proposals in Solomon’s bill, specifically if such a bill would discourage developers and landlords from building in the city.
Councilman Thomas Wright said there are elements of the proposal that give him anxiety, though he said he could get behind the general idea of affordable housing.
He said he didn’t know if rent control was the right, or the only way, to move forward.
“I think as it’s currently in place, I’m not sure that I would be able to support it, without some further analysis of how we can actually deal with or look at getting a better inventory of affordable housing without actually having to impose a rent control ordinance,” he said. “There’s other ways that we can achieve that.”
Wright said he would like to break the proposal apart from a full package to individual projects that could be looked at one by one. That was an idea others on the dais echoed, saying they could get behind a tenant bill of rights or other aspects of the proposal now while continuing discussion others.
Councilwoman Shani Warner was one of those who said she would like the council to “dip our toe into the water” and then build upon the program instead of jumping into a “huge program that’s going to cost a lot of money.” She is also specifically concerned with taxing short-term rentals like Airbnb, especially when she believes some residents use such side hustles to “make ends meet.”
“I’m not crazy about the whole short term rental and imposing a fee in part because I feel like I know a lot of people who are doing the whole Airbnb and the like and it seems like a lot of these people – its money that they desperately need,” she said. “They need to do this to be able to pay their mortgage.”
Warner pointed out other “red flags” for her, such as the workload the new commission would have to take on and how the city would find qualified residents to volunteer for the commission.
Mayor Candace Hollingsworth also had several questions about the overall cost of the program, how the city would be able to tax short-term rentals, and if the program would actually meet the goal of increasing the city’s affordable housing stock.
“It’s not settled enough for us to get to an agreement on and say ‘yeah, this is something we definitely want to see,’” she said.
Solomon was asked to go back and crunch more numbers before the council’s next meeting in September, when Hollingsworth said the council will discuss the proposal in more depth before asking city staff to make an analysis.