The Kennedy-Warren building near the National Zoo is one of many rent-controlled buildings in D.C.
The Kennedy-Warren building near the National Zoo is one of many rent-controlled buildings in D.C. Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

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D.C. residents in rent-controlled units could soon see their rents increase by as much as 8.9 percent, and 5 percent for units occupied by seniors and persons with disabilities. This would be the highest increase the city has seen since 1982.

D.C. Rental Housing Commission Chief Judge Lisa Gregory said during an oversight hearing in the D.C. Council’s housing committee Feb. 9 that the commission’s decision will become effective as of May 1.

“I’m very concerned about it,” Johanna Shreve, chief tenant advocate at the Office of the Tenant Advocate, said during the hearing. “I don’t know yet what it’s going to mean to the city, but it’s going to be a real problem … I think it’s an area where the [D.C.] Council needs to consider shoring up some more subsidy for people who are going to be evicted, and particularly my concern are the elderly and the disabled.”

The Rental Housing Act of 1985 directs the Rental Housing Commission to determine the maximum allowable rent increase for rent-controlled units based on the area’s consumer price index for the previous calendar years. The law limits rent increases to the rate of inflation plus 2 percent, and not more than 10 percent. By law, the Rental Housing Commission does not assess whether its determination on allowable rent increases is affordable for D.C. residents.

In her testimony, Gregory acknowledged that despite the commission’s independence, “the integrity of the commission is always at stake.”

At-Large Councilmember Robert White’s questioned whether Gregory believes the commission should consider affordability in its determination.

“We are balancing both interests,” Gregory said. “It’s really the purview of the Council to look at the reasonableness of the CPI and make the appropriate adjustments under the Act.” 

It’s unclear how many rent increase applications have been filed with the Department of Housing and Community Development so far this year. Landlords are required to give tenants 30 days’ notice before they can jack up the rent.

The RHC’s new determination comes as gentrification and displacement are changing the demographics of the District and pushing out longtime Black residents. A report from rent.com released in May 2022 found that the average rent for a one-bedroom unit was $2,450, a 4 percent increase over the previous year. And D.C.’s rent report from apartmentlist.com found that median rent in D.C. is nearly 34 percent higher than the national average.