TESTIFY for Real Rent Reform, Tues. 9./9



Time of the Essence; Sign-up Deadline to Testify 

is Thursday, November 5 by 5 PM

After months of vigorous public pressure, the Council has finally scheduled a hearing on the Rent control reform proposal long sought by housing advocates.

We, along with fellow tenant advocates, urge tenants to testify in support of this comprehensive reform ("Omnibus") bill. It is the product of years of effort. The hearing will be held on NOVEMBER 9th for public comment, AND WE URGE TENANTS TO SIGN UP TO TESTIFY IN SUPPORT (link below).

The bill would close many loopholes tenants have long fought to close. For example, the law currently allows landlords rent increases always beyond the rate of inflation, lets them force tenants into agreements, and also guarantees landlords obscene profits - a guarantee no business or enterprise has even been granted, by any law at any time, anywhere.  Talk about gifts to special interests! In addition to closing these loopholes, the legislation would strike a major blow for AFFORDABLE HOUSING BY EXTENDING RENT CONTROL TO NEWER BUILDINGS built in the past 15 years. (Rent control currently applies only to buildings built after 1975.)

THE FIRST STEP: TENANTS MUST OPPOSE AND KILL A PROBLEMATIC SUBSTITUTE BILLS THAT PURPORTS TO BE LONG-NEEDED REFORM. Although tenants have worked vigorously for years on the comprehensive reform bill, Councilmember Bonds has introduced her own set of five bills in competition. At first glance, the Bonds Bills appear to be small attempts at reform. Upon closer look, they are really small-minded gifts to landlords and powerful interests that are labelled "reform." The bills seem to satisfy the need in the public mind for sorely needed reform. Truly, this set of "reform bills," claims to satisfy a genuine, honest appetite for reform but are in reality a virtual diet of junk food.

WE ASK YOU TO TESTIFY IN OPPOSITION TO THE BONDS BILLS FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS.  First, the council is rushing the Bonds legislation, hoping to get it passed in a flurry of activity at the end of the council session in December. This end-around would deprive tenants of adequate opportunity to air their concerns. This is a common tactic, slipping in favors to special interests at the last minute, in order to avoid scrutiny in the rush to adjourn.

Secondly, the Bonds bills are a Trojan horse, improving almost nothing for tenants and are not legitimate substitutes for reform. Much in these bills instead provide a fig leaf for long sought favors to landlords. While the Bonds bills have been placed on fast track for the big interests, it has taken months of strenuous grass roots demand to finally schedule a hearing on the tenant-supported comprehensive reform bill. The hearing is scheduled for November 9, and we ask you to mark your calendars.

Tenants need to make their voices heard. We urge you to testify in favor of the comprehensive reform ("Omibus Reform bill") and urge the council to table the Bonds bills. TALKING POINTS AND ANALYSIS ARE AVAILABLE FOR YOU TO USE, AT BOTTOM.

HOW TO TESTIFY. To testify, sign up no later than November 5th by 5:00 PM. Sign up by email: Or call (202) 724-8198. The hearing is on November 9th at 9 AM.

CONTACT YOUR COUNCILMEMBER(S). We also urge you to contact your councilmember and the At-large councilmembers (who represent all wards and voters citywide) to oppose scheduling the Bonds bills and ask them to vote for the comprehensive reform sponsored by CMs Nadeau and Trayon White. Contact info for your councilmembers,





THE BONDS BILLS ARE FAST TRACKED FOR SERIOUS CONSIDERATION INSTEAD OF THE COMPREHENSIVE REFORM BILL SPONSORED ON BEHALF OF TENANT ADVOCATES BY COUNCILMEMBER NADEAU AND TRAYON WHITE, WHICH TENANTS HAVE SPENT YEARS HAMMERING OUT. The real estate lobby and developer donor-driven politicians need cover for protection against public criticism that has grown, now that the excess of decades of landlord lobbyist-made law has been exposed. The Reclaim Rent Control Coalition has done much in this effort. We and other advocates are deeply appreciative of the light they have shed on abuses. In response, the real estate lobby has found much needed political cover in the Bonds bills, by claiming these "reforms" will remedy the ills. In brief, let's look at some of these bills' real substance:

VOLUNTARY AGREEMENTS. While the comprehensive reform bill would eliminate the scourge of voluntary agreements, the Bonds substitute offers a two year suspension of VAs. Experience shows that Voluntary Agreements implementing high rent increases are anything but voluntary. They are "agreed to" by tenants under coercion and duress. Worse (and of dubious legality), tenants under such agreements, sign away future tenants' rights to rent control. Landlords contend this is legal, based on two legal fictions: one, that someone can sign away another person's rights, and two, any tenant has the legal power to approve rent hikes on his or her apartment for the future, outside all rent control laws. However, rent control is tied to apartment units, not tenants. When tenants move, they can't take a unit's rent control with them. Similarly, apartment cannot move out from under the rent control regime. The tenant backed bill will end these practices.

MEANS TESTING FOR RENT CONTROL. Means tests would deprive rent control to tenants of varying incomes, contrary to the purpose of rent control. Rent control is available freely to all renters, of all incomes, colors and creeds. Rent control would no longer be an equal opportunity open to all. Astonishingly, it does not give better accessibility to low income or minority tenants, as landlords claim. The same tenants will qualify for the same apartments with or without means testing. Instead means testing gives landlords a foot in the door to demolish rent control. Landlords could, by stealth, screen out low and middle income tenants and screen in higher income tenants that do not qualify for rent control. By so screening, landlords could ultimately destroy all affordable units left in rent control buildings. Worse, means testing hands over the administration of rent control to landlords, without any oversight. Many have been found to falsify, hide and destroy records. The fox guarding the hen house is no way to administer any program. This provision is the height of irresponsibility and giveaways.

Dividing Tenants into Classes. The Rental laws explicitly forbids treating different tenants as different classes. Means testing would do just that. It would use income requirements to grant tenants lower rent and disqualify other tenants, all in the very same building. Means testing would thus divide tenants within buildings, encouraging potential animosities and jealousies. It would stifle cohesion and unity among tenants and hinder the formation of tenant associations, often desperately needed against bad landlords. As such, means testing would more fully implement landlords' "divide and conquer" strategy against tenants. New York City has a similar problem, giving birth to a terrible creation, "the poor door." Buildings relegate voucher and lower-income tenants to a back door when entering and exiting, while wealthy tenants can use the "privileged" front entrance. Landlord designation of who qualifies as riff raff and who does not, establishes wealth, not character, as the ultimate standard. It in effect makes the government an arbiter of privilege, distinguishing one class of tenants as superior to another. Using comparisons heard during the current election campaign, landlords would bar a poorer Abraham Lincoln from use of the front door that the wealthy Trumps have the privilege of using - - not a good yardstick, at least in many minds.

REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE ALONE SHOWS SOMETHING IS AMISS. Any experienced observer has to note, since when did landlords fight vigorously to help low-income, minority, or even middle income tenants as they are claiming means testing would do? When did they fight to benefit renters out of the goodness of their own hearts?

ASK FOR TRUE FAIRNESS. We say, IF YOU WANT MEANS TESTING, MEANS TEST THE LANDLORDS! If landlords are earning excess millions, they can add rent control to units currently exempt from rent control. Now that is fair. They get all those tax breaks, and pay less a lower rate than their secretaries, sometimes none at all. What could be fairer than giving back to the city that gave them so much?

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