Montgomery County residents appealed to the County Council Tuesday evening to extend rent control beyond its Jan. 31 expiration date to save what they called "the most persecuted, unprotected, basically ignored, deliberately annihilated segment of our country -- the tenant/renter."
"Whenever I tell anyone I live in an apartment, they ask me, 'When are you going to buy a house and live like a real citizen?' It's prefectly legitimate for me to live in an apartment and I will do so as long as I am permitted," said Stuart L. Graff, president of the Pavilion Apartment Tenants' Association in Rockville.
About 100 persons, many of them elderly, attended the public hearing on three rent stabilization bills before the council.
One bill would continue until 1983 the current Rent Stabilization Act, which keeps annual rent increases below 10 percent for about 17,600 of the county's 44,000 rental units. Another puts a ceiling on rents for controlled units, and a third bill, proposed by County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist, calls for a 10 percent voluntary guideline for rent increases.
"One of the reasons for allowing rent control to expire is the belief that it has contributed to condominium conversions," said Richard Ferrara, director of the county's Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs. "Landlords who, despite the opportunity to sell out, might want to stay in the rental housing business, for whatever reasons, have been discouraged by our history of rent controls and thereby encouraged to convert." d
David Hillman of the central Management Co., which owns or operates 2,700 apartment units in the county, testitied a day earlier before the council that rent controls discouraged investors and gave the county a "reputation as a bad place to do business."
"When the loans come due, I won't have any choice but to condo my properties," Hillman said.
Both proponents and opponents of rent control cited reports on the effects it would have on condominium conversion and new apartment construction.
Rhoda Kirsch of Silver Spring, representing the newly formed Montgomery County Housing Crisis Coalition, said: "There is no satisfactory evidence to support the contention that moderate rent control has led to reduced multifamily construction, a decline in building maintenance, increased condominium conversion, or an erosion of the tax base."
"Until new and innovative forms of making secure, affordable housing available to residents of Montgomery County are found, emergency measures such as rent stabilization must continue in effect," Kirsch said.
The coalition, which includes representatives of the Gray Panthers of Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Association of Senior Citizens' Organizations and the Montgomery County Tenants Association, organized a motorcrade Saturday in Rockville to draw attention to tenants plight.
Abraham Bloom of the Gray Panthers told the County Council that the loss of rent control would be a severe blow to the elderly.
The Montgomery County Education Association entered a plea for the young couples who "cannot support their families while already paying unrealistic rents."
The council is scheduled to hold a work session Dec. 15 on the rent stabilization bills.