D.C. City Council Chairman David A. Clarke said yesterday that he plans to push for the deletion of a provision that would exempt all single-family houses from rent control before the council takes a final vote on new rent-control legislation next week.
The council gave initial approval to major changes in the city's rent-control law on April 16. The changes included giving landlords the right to higher rent increases, exempting more properties from controls, including single-family houses, as they become vacant, and providing incentives for increasing the city's apartment stock.
A second and final vote on that legislation is scheduled for Tuesday, the same day the current law expires.
Clarke said during a press conference that the provision that would exempt an estimated 5,000 rental houses from controls could lead to a legal challenge that might endanger the entire rent law because it could be argued that the law does not provide all property owners with equal protection.
The current law, and the proposed one, generally exempt individuals and companies that own four or fewer rental units. But Clarke said that that exemption had been upheld by the courts.
Clarke, who failed to gain passage of a bill he had introduced to continue the current law, said that he had tried to compromise with the seven members who wanted major changes in the law. But the negotiations broke down because they wanted vacancy decontrol, he said.
The legislation passed by the council last week contains three vacancy-decontrol provisions. In addition to single-family houses, properties that are 80 percent vacant would have controls lifted on a case-by-case basis, and in four years, controls would be lifted from all units as they become vacant, provided that the city has a 6 percent vacancy rate and a rent subsidy program that is funded and operating.
"I do believe that in the end . . . the council members responded to their constituents," said Clarke. He added that the constituents of the seven members pressing for the changes included real estate organizations and The Washington Post.