Councilman makes second attempt to pause rent increases in Anne Arundel County
By OLIVIA SANCHEZ | CAPITAL GAZETTE | JUL 06, 2020
Anne Arundel County renters could get a temporary reprieve from rate increases if a second attempt at a bill from Councilman Andrew Pruski, D-Gambrills, is successful Monday.
Pruski introduced the bill in May after he said he had heard of unfair rental rate increases taking place during the coronavirus pandemic, which he called price gouging.
But he was unable to convince any of his Republican colleagues to vote for the emergency ordinance and failed to secure the five votes needed to pass the bill. Now, as a regular bill, he expects to have more success.
The bill would prevent a residential rent increase of more than 3% during the coronavirus pandemic, until 120 days after Gov. Larry Hogan lifts the statewide emergency declaration. Pruski elected to allow for the slight increase, rather than call for a free of rental rates altogether so that landlords could still keep their prices in line with Consumer Price Index, used to calculate rent prices across the industry.
One constituent, Pruski said, had been facing a rent increase of 10%. Though this bill may not be able to help that person or others, whose lease renewals may have already passed, he hopes it will help others.
It’s unclear how long the coronavirus state of emergency will go on in Maryland. In Anne Arundel County alone, the virus has infected at least 5,092, killed at least 199, and left more than 70,000 residents jobless. Though metrics are trending downward and the county has slowly begun to reopen, officials have warned there is still not cure or vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“People are really hurting right now, economically and mentally,” Pruski said. “I consider my bill common-sense legislation.”
A similar bill is being mulled by the Annapolis City Council, and jurisdictions across the state have deliberated or stood up similar programs to protect renters.
Though he’s likely to be able to convince his Democratic colleagues to support the bill, the council’s three Republican members aren’t likely to get on board. All three voted against the previous version of the bill.
Councilwoman Jessica Haire, R-Edgewater, expressed concern at a hearing for the previous version of the bill about the county government getting involved with private entities. And Councilwoman Amanda Fiedler, R-Arnold, said that though she appreciates Pruski’s intention with the bill, it seems like a situation of “the camel’s nose under the tent, in my opinion.”
But he does have the support of County Executive Steuart Pittman’s administration.