The Montgomery County Council decided this week to hold an Oct. 4 public hearing on whether rent control in the county should continue past the expiraion date of Dec. 31.
Council President John L. Menke said in a memo to Council members that he would advertise through posted and mailed notices for comments from tenants, landlords and homeowners at the forum, to be titled "Rental Housing Issues for 1978." The county Council held a previous forum on rent control in late July at which time tenants argued for extension of rent control, and landlords favored allowing it to expire.
At the July meeting tenants claimed that the two-year-old rent control law protected low and middle income residents from excessive rent increases, while landlords said that the control made financing new apartments difficult and caused their profits to drop. The present rent control law bases rent increase on utility cost increases and the consumer price index.
On the subject of housing, the Council also adopted a bill stating that all landlords must offer in writing to tenants the option of a two-year lease on rental property. Tenants must sign the statement offering the two-year lease whether or not they accept the lease.
At the request of the country executive, James P. Gleason, the Council examined another bill concerning housing which would consolidate the Office of Landlord/Tenant Affairs with the Division of Housing and Animal Control in the Department of Environmental Protection, two offices that now handle housing complaints.
Gleason noted in his memo on the bill that the Office of Landlord/Tenant Affairs had been duplicating inspections of apartments and rental housing that the Department of Environmental Protection was supposedly carrying out. Under the reorganization the Office of Landlord/Tenant Affairs would still be responsible for checking out and following through on complaints regarding landlords and tenants, but the Department of Environmental Protection would take on more of the inspection duties. The Council decided to set a date for a public hearing on the matter.
Before the issues on housing were brought up at the meeting, Council member Esther Gelman offered sympathetic support for the school board which has been under fire in the past week from angry parents whose children have lost bus service. Due to a budget cutback school buses only serve students who live at least 1.7 miles away from their schools as opposed to last year's cutoff of 1.5 miles.
"I know many of the people were highly concerned," said Gelman at the beginning of the Council meeting. "I don't blame parents for being concerned, but we were very, very cautious about appropriating money for the school system. Without saying we approve of every change they have made to meet their budget. I think it's terribly important that we support them."
Gelman said later that she felt the Council had treated the school board "shabbily" at budget time in May. "There was a feeling that if they weren't allowed extra money the school board would not fund the raise that they wanted to give their employees," said Gelman.
"They would have gotten the 4 per cent out county employees get, but actually the 4 per cent the county employees got is more than the 6 per cent the school board staff gets after insurance costs."
Gelman said that she hoped to convince the Council to look into ways of funding extra money for the school board to restore total bus service.
In other actions Tuesday, the Council interrupted its proceedings for a one-hour birthday program celebrating Montgomery County's 201st birthday.