BY HARRISON CANN — With a growing Hyattsville population and more development projects on the horizon, Hyattsville City Council is preparing an ordinance to protect renters from increasing rent prices.

According to a memo from the July 17 council meeting, the rent stabilization and renter protection ordinance will focus on regulating costs for the three main groups that are affected: seniors, the disabled and college students. Councilmember Joseph Solomon, who introduced the bill, said these populations typically have financial burdens related to fixed incomes, medical costs or tuition.

“The city is majority rentals, and despite that, we don’t have rental regulation,” Solomon said. “We’re experiencing tremendous growth, but we want to ensure that people can still live here.” According to Solomon, an estimated 55 percent of Hyattsville’s residents are renters and between 800 and 900 citizens would be eligible to apply for the rent stability program.  

Solomon said the program would provide “tenant protection against some predatory leasing practic[es].” The city would restrict landlords from raising a qualifying resident’s rent above the consumer price index for that year. According to Solomon, residents would have to reapply on an annual basis to maintain their eligibility.

Seniors, who often have fixed incomes, may struggle with increasing rents in areas with new commercial investment. Construction of apartment complexes across the city have put pressure on rental prices.

“Some people have lived there for 30 years but are being priced out,” Solomon said. “They like the development and the restaurants and shops, but they want to stay and enjoy those.”

Prince George’s County previously conducted a study to determine whether or not rent stabilization was needed, and it was deemed that it wasn’t needed countywide, so nothing was done, Solomon said.

He added that despite the county, overall, not having a need, Hyattsville could have benefited from rent stabilization when the first study was done, just as it will benefit from it now. “Ten years later and clearly there is still a need, and we’re still having a conversation.”

To clarify, he added that rent stabilization is not the same as rent control. “Control is actually the city telling the landlords the price they can set their rental rates at,” Solomon said. “Stabilization sets a rate at which rents can be raised.”

The city council must consider both the short-term effects on residents who are eligible for rent stabilization and the long-term effects on the city as a whole.