A move for the reconsideration of rent controls for apartments in Montgomery County was soundly defeated by the Montgomery County Council this week, but sponsor Elizabeth Scull, the council president, vowed to "continue to introduce this bill once a month until council members are willing to consider it."
"It is not an unreasonable bill, it is not a ridiculous bill, and it is ridiculous to say it is," Scull said this week. "I've never known council members to refuse to consider a bill."
Scull's bill would have limited annual rent hikes to 65 percent of the inflation index for holdover tenants and permit an additional 5 percent in increases for vacant units.
She said the legislation was necessary because the voluntary rent guidelines, which were enacted after the council terminated rent controls last December, were not working. The voluntary guidelines asked landlords to limit rent hikes to 6.1 percent annually. While 63 percent of the landlords have held their increases to the suggested limits, others have raised rents by as much as a third, and occasionally nearly 100 percent.
The council terminated rent controls by a 5-2 vote, with Scull and council member Jane Ann Moore in the minority. Moore co-sponsored the new rent-stabilization bill.
Scull's move annoyed other council members. "It's harassment of the majority," said council member Esther Gelman. "If its purpose is not political, what else is there to gain when you know you have only two votes?"
Noting that "no issue in past years has more bitterly divided the council and the community than has the issue of rent control," council member John Menke contended that "reconsideration, much less reimposition, of rent control will kill a new and fregile spirit" which is arising between the council and the business community.
Developers' "glimmerings" of interest in building badly needed apartments for county residents should not be drenched by rent control legislation, he said.
Scull's effort to reconsider was defeated 42, with only Moore supporting her. Council member Dickran Hovsepian, who is ill, was absent, but he urged in a memorandum that the measure not be reintroduced.