St. Paul wrestles with rental ordinance, rent control


Rent control on ballot?
The fate of a proposed November ballot question on rent stabilization or rent control is now in the hands of Ramsey County elections officials. Members of the Housing Equity Now St. Paul (HENS) coalition June 15 brought boxes full of petition signatures to county officials. Their hope is to impose a 3 percent cap on future rent increases in St. Paul.
If approved, a citywide rent control policy would take effect May 1, 2022.
The group, working at times in what was record June heat, gathered more than 9,000 petition signatures. County officials have started the process of counting and verifying that the signatures are from city residents. More than 5,000 signatures are needed to place the measure on the ballot.
Tram Hoang, policy advocate for the Alliance, said the number of signatures gathered is almost double the needed. She said the signatures send a loud and clear message that “Renters belong in St. Paul.”
St. Paul has become a majority renter city, said Monica Bravo, executive director of the West Side Community Organization. That is, more than half of the city’s residents live in rental housing.
The St. Paul ordinance as proposed would place a 3 percent annual cap on residential rents. It also calls for city officials to set up a process for landlords who wish to receive an exemption from the cap. This might be for landlords who make investments in their properties, or who see higher property tax increases.
A key goal of the ballot initiative is to increase housing stability, said Hoang. “Rent control is just part of the solution to our affordable housing crisis, but it is a solution.”
Landlords and industry groups are skeptical, if not opposed to the notion of a rent control requirement. Landlords cite issues including rising property taxes and higher insurance rates as driving the need for rents to be flexible.
The Minnesota Multi Housing Association contend that rent control could worsen the city’s affordable housing shortage. “Should the rent control ordinance be on the ballot we are confident that the voters of St. Paul will reject this extreme measure. The proposal will only discourage investment in St. Paul, especially in housing, and make rental housing less accessible for new residents.”


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