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City Council approves measure to freeze rent increases during COVID-19 pandemic

Baltimore City Council President Brandon M. Scott

The Baltimore City Council Monday passed the Baltimore City COVID-19 Renter Relief Act (Bill 20-0526). This legislation, introduced by Council President Brandon Scott at the April 27 City Council meeting, will prohibit landlords from announcing rent increases during a declared state of emergency and within 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted.

If enacted, the legislation would also prohibit fees for late payment or no payment of rent, as well as all rent increases scheduled to take place during the state of emergency.

“COVID-19 continues to have a significantly detrimental impact on our residents,” said  Scott. “While many are struggling to make ends meet, rent increases will be one less thing that our residents will have to worry about during this crisis. I am excited to have had this bill pass through the council, and I urge Mayor Young to sign the Renter Relief Act into law without delay.”

Scott has continued to be an advocate for renter protections during the COVID-19 public health pandemic, introducing a resolution (Bill 20-0208R) on April 6 that called on the State to declare a moratorium on rent increases for the duration of the State of Emergency. He also introduced a resolution during the April 27 City Council meeting (Bill 20-0216R) calling on Congress to create a direct Rental Housing Assistance fund to assist residents, protect landlords, and help stabilize communities.

The Council President also introduced two pieces of legislation at Mondays virtual council meeting.

The first, Ordinance 20-0532: Temporary Street Space for Pedestrians and Cyclists, requires the Department of Transportation to provide additional street space to pedestrians and cyclists during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will allow Baltimoreans more room for social distancing as essential workers commute and as residents enjoy the short and long-term health benefits of being outdoors. The legislation also requires that the provision of additional street space be distributed equitably through the City, and applies to all, despite neighborhood or zip code.

“As the weather begins to warm up, it will continue to get more difficult for our residents to want to remain indoors,” said Council President Scott. “But it’s crucial to remember that COVID-19 continues to stand as a threat to all of us. This legislation will make it safer for residents to practice social distancing while enjoying the pleasures of the outdoors, as well as protecting our essential workers while they travel to the jobs that keep our city running.”

The second piece of legislation introduced was Resolution 20-0224R: Request for State Action - Override Veto on House Bill 1300 - Blueprint for Maryland’s Future - Implementation. This resolution calls on the Maryland General Assembly to override Governor Hogan’s veto of House Bill 1300 - Blueprint for Maryland’s Future - Implementation, which would have protected the educational rights and the future of all of Maryland’s students through funding and education reform.

“I am deeply saddened with Governor Hogan’s decision to veto the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, but I hope that this resolution will encourage our state lawmakers to overturn this reckless act that will have a detrimental impact on the future of the lives of our youth.”

Watch the Baltimore City Council meeting here.