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'It would force me out' | Tenants fight to extend and improve rent control law

The law is set to expire in 2020. Currently, there are 80,000 rent control units in D.C.

WASHINGTON — D.C.'s rent control law is set to expire at the end of 2020, and even though the City Council is poised to extend the measure until December 31, 2030, advocates argue the law needs to be improved and extended.  

"I can feel the pressure around and I'm wondering when the dike will break," Roger Williams, a 30-year rent control tenant, said. 

Williams feels the pressure of living in a city full of new developments and big price tags.He fears living without rent control would break him. 

"Rent control is really the tool to keep people here long term and offer stability," Executive Director of DC Jobs with Justice's Elizabeth Falcon said. 

Rent control applies to buildings built before 1975, and protects rent from skyrocketing. In most cases, rent control tenants pay half of the average market value. But Falcon said the initiative needs to be expanded "so more people are protected and can stay in the city."

Right now, there are about 80,000 rent control units in D.C. That's nearly half of the city's rental apartments. Still, advocates said if newer buildings were included, more people, like Roger Williams, would be able to stay in their homes.

"To consider just one segment of your population and not the hardship of others is unconscionable," Williams said. "They can still make a decent profit without pushing people out."

Rent control does have its critics, like landlords who say low rent precludes them from having the money necessary to make improvements to their buildings. Others say it makes affordable housing in the city worse, because many rent control buildings don't have an income requirement, so those who need it most may not get that low rent unit.

Reclaim Rent Control will hold a rally Saturday, October 26, 2019 at 3 p.m. at Lamont Park.

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