Mayor Walter E. Washington has named Bowles C. Ford, 35, former executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Planning and Housing Association, as the city's new rent control administrator - one of the city's most sensitive positions.
Ford comes to the city government after two years as the senior economist for the Urban Mass Transit Administration of the Department of Transportation.
"I believe in local government," he said, in discussing why he sought the job. "It's easier to touch than the federal government . . . A lot of people say you've got to the crazy but my position is that if young bright government types don't hang in there, where will we be? You cannot expect the city to run itself without that reservoir of talent."
Ford said he hopes to assist D.C. agencies and the new housing study commission in preparation of policies that will guide future governmental decisions concerning the city's housing stock.
Ford, who began work this week, comes to his post at a time when City Council member Nadine Winter (D-six), chairman of the council's housing committee, is preparing to introduce a measure that would seek to revamp the procedures of the rent control agency. Under present regulations, the agency has found itself bogged down in paper work and unable to reach quick decisions.As a result, many landlords have gone to court to obtain rent increases.
In appointment Ford, the mayor said he "brings to this position substantial experience in administration and in planning and carrying out new programs, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of housing and related fields . . . I am confident that he will be able to administer fairly and capably our rent control program."
It took from November, when the post was created, until this week to fill the administrator's position because the mayor was not satisfied with the applications that arrived when the job was first advertised, a spokesman said.
"We got a number of candidates but the mayor made the decision to readvertise," the spokesman said. During the second recruitment period, Ford applied.
"It's a very difficult and demanding job," and the mayor wanted someone who was interested and highly qualified, the spokesman said.
Ford, who will be paid $33,000 a year, heads a staff of 24, and an office with a budget of more than $750,000.
For said he viewed rent control as "a stopgap measure - sort of like a Band Aid because "without a comprebensive housing "without a comprehensive housing policy for the city, rent control cannot solve anything."
"It's an attempt to alleviate an inequitable situation where you have greater demand than supply; therefore prices are rising," he added. Rent control is "trying to protect the tenants and that is good in principle but a landlord has rights, too, and he has an equal opportunity to present his case."
Bowies replaces Archie Morris III who resigned last August, six days after the city council passed a measure that would have had the effect of forcing Morris from the rent post. The measure, an amendment to the city's rent control law, would have required that the rent administrator be a lawyer, which Morris was not.
The city council later dropped that requirement. Ford is studying law at Georgetown University Law School.
During the intervening seven months, the rent control office has been headed by acting administrator Frances Lytle, who was detailed from the executive management division of the Office of Budget and Management.
Under her guidance, the office has reduced its backlog of cases awaiting hearings from 245 on Oct. 1, to 101 as of March 31. The number of cases where decisions are pending was also reduced from 168 last October to 137, currently. The cases involve requests for rent increases from landlords, rent decreases from tenants, and appeals of eviction notices.
Under the city's rent control law, a landlord is allowed to raise his rent 12.3 per cent over Feb. 1, 1973 levels and an additional 5 per cent if he is earning less than 8 per cent on his investment.
If after thise increases, the rate of return is still less than 8 per cent, the landlord can ask the commission for additional increases.
Last year, Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore ruled that in addition to the increases allowed under the rent control law, landlords could also pass along to tenants any increased operating expenses they had experienced since 1972 - but this was just a one-time only pass-through.
About three weeks ago, the city's rent control commission recommended that the city council pass emergency legislation granting landlords rent increases ranging from 2 to 10 per cent, depending on the number of utilities that are paid by the landlord. The city council has taken no action on the recommendation.