The financial strain confronting D.C. residents extends beyond mere rent payments. The city’s reputation for upscale dining and nightlife translates into eye-watering prices for even the most basic of experiences. A $26 cocktail, an $80 hookah session, and an $85 brunch may appear as indulgences, but they epitomize the costs associated with living in the District. Moreover, many residents grapple with the increase in apartment rental costs. D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb may have an answer for why rent is high af in the city; he alleges that 14 D.C. landlords colluded to manipulate rental prices.
The Cost of Living in D.C.
Washington, D.C., is renowned for its rich history, iconic landmarks, and a vibrant job market. However, with all these attractions comes a hefty price tag. As of November 2023, the average one-bedroom rent in Washington, D.C., stood at a staggering $2,223 per month, according to apartments.com. This places the city among the most expensive housing markets in the country, making it increasingly challenging for residents to make ends meet.
Rent Inflation Allegations
Recently, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb took a bold step by initiating legal action against 14 prominent landlords in the city. The allegations are grave: these landlords are accused of engaging in antitrust violations, with the assistance of property management software company RealPage, to artificially inflate rent prices by up to 7% across approximately 40,000 apartments in the District. This manipulation translates into millions of dollars overpaid by renters in the past four years alone.
How do you even keep up with a 7% rise in rent when the typical annual raises for U.S. employees only average a measly 3%? Seriously, make it make sense.
The Role of RealPage
RealPage, whose R.M. software is used in over 90% of large building units in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area, is at the center of the controversy. The lawsuit contends that RealPage, along with its clients (the landlords), has effectively transformed a competitive marketplace into one where landlords collaborate to their collective advantage, leaving renters bearing the brunt of the consequences.
Seeking Justice and Relief
The legal action taken by D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb seeks both injunctive and financial relief. The goal is to compel the defendants to cease these anti-competitive practices and provide appropriate remedies to restore competition in the affected markets. If successful, this could mark a significant step towards fairer housing practices in the city.
The financial squeeze experienced by many D.C. residents is undeniable, with the exorbitant cost of living compounded by allegations of rent price manipulation. As the legal battle unfolds, it serves as a stark reminder that housing justice is not just an ideal but a necessary reality for a city striving to balance its rich history and cultural vibrancy with the economic well-being of its diverse population. The outcome of this lawsuit will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications, not only for the residents of Washington, D.C., but for the broader conversation about affordable and fair housing in city centers across the United States.
Defendants named in the suit include Avenue5 Residential, LLC; AvalonBay Communities, Inc.; Bell Partners, Inc.; Bozzuto Management Company; Camden Summit Partnership L.P.; Equity Residential; Gables Residential Services, Inc.; GREP Atlantic, LLC; Highmark Residential, LLC; JBG Smith Properties, LP; Mid-America Apartments, LP; Paradigm Management II, LP; UDR, Inc.; and William C. Smith & Co., Inc.