An estimated 9,000 rental units in the District would be kept out of the reach of condominium conversion if legislation now pending in the City Council is approved.
The bill, introduced last week by council members John Ray (D-At Large) and Nadine Winter (D-Ward 6), is the result of rent increases recently approved by the Rental Accommodations Commission. Rent increases, based on landlords' operating costs and ranging as high as 9.4 percent, will begin to take effect June 1.
The new increases, the commission said, would make some 9,000 rental units eligible for conversion to condominiums and cooperatives. When the rents in an apartment building rise above a stated level, all of the unit become eligible for conversion.
Ray and Winter's bill would make these estimated 9,000 units ineligible for conversion by raising the eligibility level by 9.4 percent.
The proposed legislation also call for the base rents for conversion eligibility to increase yearly by the same percentage as rent increases, if any, recommended by the commission in its annual report. a recommendation from the Rental Accommodations Commission.
In a joint statement, the two council members said their bill is intended "to assure stability in the rental housing market by not allowing across-the-board increases to result in automatic eligibilty for comdominium conversion."
The Rental Accommodations Commission urged the council to enact legislation before June 1, the earliest date that rent increases could go into effect.
Ray and Winter urged the council's committee on housing and urban development "to expeditiously schedule a public hearing to allow residents and landlords to testify" on it.
Pierre Wessel, staff attorney for the council's housing and economic development committee, said the committee "has not come to a determination on how to handle this bill." With the council in recess this week for Easter holidays, no decisions or actions could be expected before early next week, he said.
The Department of Housing Community Development is responsible for determining whether a building is eligible to convert to condominiums or cooperatives. The rent guidelines the department now uses are $221 for efficiencies, $267 for one-bedroom units, $314 for two-bedroomunits and $408 for units with three or more bedrooms, said Mimi Jones, a DHCD staff member.
The department multiplies the number of each type of unit in a building by the guideline rent for that size unit, then reaches a total guideling figure for the entire building. This amount is compared with the total rent actually collected in the building each month. If the total of rent collected exceeds the total of the guidelines, the building qualifies as "high rent" housing and is eligible for conversion.
Council members Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large) and Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward8) also introduced legislation on condominiums last week. One bill would give tenants three years notice of a building's conversion.
The second piece of legislation is known as the Preservation of Rental Housing Act. Janet Keenan, Mason's executive assistant, said the bill provided, "if the vacancy rate is 5 percent or less, then no conversions could take place unless 60 percent of the tenants in a building agreed to it. The bill would also give lifetime tenancy to persons over 60 years of age and to the handicapped."