Housing in Brief: D.C. Rent Control Debate Heats Up

Also: San Francisco’s Mission is finally getting some affordable housing, and co-op residents in New York are feeling the retail squeeze. 

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D.C. Rent Control Debate Heats Up

The debate over a proposed overhaul to Washington, D.C.’s long-standing 35-year-old rent-control law was subject to a “marathon hearing” before the D.C. Council this week, DCist reports. The proposal is based on the demands of the Reclaim Rent Control campaign, according to the report, and it would expand rent stabilization policies to cover thousands of new units in the district. Currently, buildings with five or more units built prior to 1976 are subject to an annual rent-increase limit equal to 2 percent plus the rate of inflation, according to the report. If the new bill passes, it would apply to an additional 26,000 units by 2033, and only allow annual rent increases to match inflation. Advocates say the change is needed to slow displacement, according to the report.

“We cannot say that Black lives matter and be complicit in the continued displacement of Black people in the city,” said Veronica Mosqueda, a senior tenant organizer with the Latino Economic Development Center and one of more 170 people signed up to testify at the hearing, according to the report. “The erosion of rent control has greatly contributed to the displacement of Black communities, of the breaking up of Black families and Black neighborhoods in D.C.”

The council is currently undecided on the bill, according to the report, but two newly elected council members have said they support the overhaul, and could help secure its passage next year. Landlords and real-estate industry representatives testified in opposition to the bill, saying it is poorly timed with the pandemic and could put small landlords out of business, the report says.

“Anything that will stifle my ability to increase rent gradually, should I face any hardship, will cripple me and honestly put me in a position of foreclosure in about no time,” said Rody Damis, a member of the Small Multifamily Owners Association, according to the story.

Affordable Housing Plans Coming to Fruition in San Francisco

After getting only 193 new affordable-housing units between 2010 and 2019, San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood is currently undergoing an affordable housing “boomlet,” according to a report in the Mission Local. Four new projects with a total of 508 new units are scheduled to open in the neighborhood in the next five months, according to the report. One new building, Casa Adelante, completed late last year and occupied earlier this year, includes 93 studio and one-bedroom units renting for between $266 and $1,162 a month, the report says. The units are restricted to tenants earning 50 percent of area median income or less, according to the report. Other projects, according to the story, include:

  • a 157-unit building for people earning 45% to 60% of AMI (AMI in San Francisco is $128,100 for a family of four), with 20% of units set aside for people previously experiencing homelessness,
  • A 127-unit building for people earning between 30% and 60% of AMI,
  • An 80-unit building for people earning between 30% and 60% of AMI, with a portion of units set aside for residents of two public-housing projects that are under renovation,
  • A 143-unit building for people earning 30-60% of AMI,
  • A 130-unit complex with 30 percent of units set aside for previously unhoused people,
  • And a 63-unit condominium building with units for sale to residents earning between 80% and 120% of AMI.

The latter project, as Next City reported earlier this year, is the first condo project to be developed by Mission Economic Development Agency. The condos will be sold on a shared equity model, in hopes of keeping them affordable for median-income residents long-term, Next City reported.

Retail Slowdown Squeezes New York Co-Op Owners

A slowdown in New York City’s retail economy caused by the pandemic is also raising housing costs for some residents of the city’s many co-op apartment buildings, according to a report in the New York Times. In order to help struggling storefronts on the ground floors of their buildings, co-op residents have begun raising maintenance fees to offset rent discounts to retailers, the report says. Rent prices are down and vacancies are up for storefronts in the city, because of the pandemic and larger brick-and-mortar retail trends, the report notes.

Many co-op owners are loath to evict store owners because of the convenience of having onsite retail, the potential for rental income in storefront spaces, the difficulty of finding new commercial tenants during the current pandemic and economic downturn and, in some cases, loyalty to the people who run the shops, according to the report. One Manhattan co-op raised maintenance fees by 15 percent, effectively raising rents for residents from $1,200 to $1,400, and lowering rents for an onsite clothing store, coffee shop, deli, and cobbler, the report says. Half of the building’s 70 units are occupied by working-class people on fixed incomes, the report says.

“Most neighbors say they are supportive,” said Robert Chasen, the building’s treasurer, according to the report. “These stores contribute to our neighborhood.”

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: new york cityaffordable housingwashington dcsan franciscorent control

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