This form of rent stabilization in DC dates to passage of the Rental Housing Act of 1985, which limited rent increases for most apartments built before 1976.
But there’s no firm number available on how many apartment units that totaled. Estimates from the Urban Institute at the time and from the D.C. Policy Center in the present day have ranged from 85,000 to 125,000.
Nearly 40 years later, there is still no definitive list of rent-controlled units. In a 2020 rent control study, Yesim Sayin, executive director of the D.C. Policy Center, estimated that about 73,000 out of the total 124,000 apartments in D.C. were subject to rent control. Sayin said the organization looked at all the available information about the number of buildings constructed before 1976 to evaluate how many apartments would be included. But it’s a hard number to confirm, since units that were originally under rent control can fall out if they’re converted into condos, demolished or subsidized by the government.
“With rent control, you don’t see what you don’t see,” Sayin added.