Candidates for Montgomery County Executive discussed rent stabilization and affordable housing during a virtual forum Wednesday evening.
Incumbent County Executive Marc Elrich, Councilmember Tom Hucker, Councilmember Hans Riemer and Businessman David Blair participated in the event, sponsored by the Montgomery County Renters Alliance.
The county’s current rent stabilization measures, passed by the county council, are set to expire in May. All candidates voiced support for stabilization measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elrich said he would support a countywide rent control law, but with some provisions like implementing a cut-off date for properties older than a certain date.
Hucker supports rent stabilization throughout the pandemic and said the county has stabilization built into its housing policy through the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) Program as well as investments in the Housing Opportunities Commission and nonprofit developers. He said the MPDU program needs to be improved and voiced support for stabilization in targeted areas like along the Purple Line Light Rail.
“None of us want to see anyone who has been there, surviving, paying taxes on that underserved corridor, being pushed out by increasing rents along there,” said Hucker.
Councilmember Hans Riemer said leaders should continue tenant protections during the pandemic.
“We need to maintain the protections as long as we are in a crisis,” Riemer said. He is a strong believer that a share of the housing market should be under price protection, but he wants to achieve that through non-profit development rather than rent control. Elrich said nonprofit development will not provide enough MPDUs.
“If I built 10,000 affordable units and got 1,500 MPDUs, that doesn’t even take care of the new people who are coming here,” or others, Elrich said. He hopes to get interest from nonprofits to build on parking lots so the jurisdiction can control that differently. In his response, Riemer cited the Purple Line corridor. He said new development and some redevelopment has produced controlled housing that must fall under nonprofit ownership or other mission-driven ownership.
“We can do that,” Riemer said. The county can finance affordable housing projects in the Purple Line corridor, help nonprofits purchase buildings and meet affordability goals all while letting the market thrive, he said.
“These two goals don’t have to be at odds.”
Businessman David Blair does not believe long-term broad rent stabilization will solve an affordable housing crisis, although he emphasized he supports rent control during the pandemic. He said the key is building more affordable units.
“Particularly maximizing housing construction where transit and transportation infrastructure exists, such as White Flint, Shady Grove, Forest Glen and future Purple Line stations,” said Blair.