In #TestimonyTuesday, COVID-19, MD Renters' Rights, Montgomery County, MD
Laura Wallace headshot

JUFJ Testimony in support of Expedited Bill 22-22: Landlord-Tenant Relations – Limitations on Rent Increases
Public Hearing 7/26/2022

My name is Laura Wallace, I am a renter living in Rockville, and I am the Montgomery County Director for Jews United for Justice (JUFJ). JUFJ represents over 2,000 Jews and allies from across Montgomery County, who act on our shared Jewish values to work to advance social and economic justice and racial equity in our local community.

JUFJ has consistently supported emergency rent stabilization since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we appreciate the Council’s passage of the previous two emergency measures. We urge you to help renters who are still in crisis by swiftly passing Bill 22-22. 

Jewish tradition teaches us that we have an obligation to ensure fairness in tenant/landlord law, to ensure safe living conditions, and to prevent homelessness. The Book of Lamentations compares homelessness to the loss of a parent or spouse. Without a home, there is no foundation for all other parts of a person’s life and everything is at risk.

This is an issue I am experiencing personally. After rent stabilization expired in May, my husband and I received a notice of a 10% rent increase. Our landlord made it clear that he could get new tenants who would be happy to pay 18% more than we are paying now, and that we would need to pay the 10% increase or we would need to look for new housing.

We could look for new housing, but we don’t want to uproot our family. We love our home. We are walking distance from our synagogue, our daughter is thriving at Tilden Middle School, and our son is a short bus ride away from his friends and activities.

Since a vote isn’t being taken on this bill today, our 10% rent increase will go into effect while the Council is in recess. Our family will have to make choices, but we can make the finances work to stay in our home. Many folks I have spoken to aren’t so lucky. Members of our community, from young people to professionals to seniors, are experiencing housing insecurity and all the trauma that comes with loss of housing.

The fact is that the COVID-19 crisis is not over. Thousands of renters across Montgomery County are still at risk of eviction. Long-term solutions to the County’s housing crisis will take years to implement. In the meantime, the Council must act now to prevent the displacement of residents who can no longer afford to live in their homes due to skyrocketing rents.

JUFJ urges the Council to pass Bill 22-22, so that we can live up to the promise of safe and stable housing for everyone in our County.

Thank you.

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