• December 17, 2009

Ending rent control in the District of Columbia would have minimal effects on District residents and “relatively few tenants would be at risk of a [rent] increase.” These and other conclusions of Nathan Associates’ study of rent control in the District of Columbia met with vigorous and emotional opposition when the study was released in June 2000 and when Stephen A. Schneider, senior vice president of Nathan Associates, testified at a D.C. Council hearing on October 11.

The Washington Post noted that reaction to the report was “muddied by the timing of its release” (“Consultant Advises District to Abolish Rent Control,” July 12, 2000, p. E3). In a budget bill sent to the D.C. Control Board in late June the Council extended rent control provisions to 2005; the board rejected the bill on July 3, citing the provision for rent control extension as “inappropriate.” The board used the Nathan Associates study to pressure the council into hearings, “but hearings are about all the deference the control board can expect” (Up Your Rent! Washington City Paper, October 20, 2000, p. 13).

In the October hearing of the council’s Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, advocates of rent control expressed fears of skyrocketing rents like those experienced around Boston after Massachusetts ended controls. Stephen Schneider, an author of the report, pointed out that high demand, fast growth in the technology sector, and low vacancy rates combined to make that situation unique (“Tenants Decry Study Urging End to D.C. Rent Control,” Washington Post, October 12, 2000, p. B4). In contrast, the District’s population decline and consequently high vacancy rates have led most rent controlled properties to charge only what the market can bear—an amount often less than that allowed under rent control ceilings. Still, the fears aroused by the threat of an uncontrolled rental market turned the monthly call log of the D.C. Tenants’ Advocacy Coalition into a “250-line rebuttal of the Nathan report” (Washington City Paper, p. 14).

In late October Congress approved the Council’s budget and rent control has been extended to 2005.

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