Drive to Put Rent Control on the November Ballot in St. Paul

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Minnesota states capital, Saint Paul residents, may get a chance to vote on the newly proposed rent control proposition in the upcoming November’s city election. This new petition drive, introduced on 30th March, Tuesday, was initiated by a new coalition of community groups, working under the banner Housing Equity Now St. Paul (HENS). The main objective of this community is to bring housing justice for residents of the capital city. Further, the community calls for policies that protect tenants from paying higher rents.

Why is this Drive?

What they propose is to cap the rent increase amount to 3% per year. Apart from being beneficial for all renters in the city, this rent stabilizing proposal can improve housing equality, especially among low-income group residents and people of color. The group also claims that almost 58% of Asian residents, 82% of Black people, 62% of Latino residents and 64% of Indigenous residents are tenants in the city. With less than 40% of white residents are renters, this group claims roughly more than half of the city’s residents stay in rental housing. The drive follows a similar effort that is underway in St. Paul’s twin city Minneapolis.

Positive impacts on city tenants

According to HENS, the new renter’s proposition can bring an end to an unreasonable rent increase of landlords. As Danielle Swift, a member of HENS explained this spiking rent as a strategy of owners to make more money and forcing families out of their houses. She also mentioned how racial exploitation, especially for BIPOC households, is related to this unreasonable rent raising issue. So, they appeal to the residents to make sure in the November ballot that landlords increase the rents reasonably every year.

So what is it about or how will it affect the city’s rental compliances? It will protect low-income group families and solve the issues of the ongoing affordable housing shortage. They claim it can bring an overall racial justice for residents.

Social Justice

Quoting policy advocate and a member of coalition Tram Hoang, “Rent stabilization is a proven policy that protects tenants from unreasonable rent spikes, accounts for the operating expenses of landlords, and is cost-effective for our city and taxpayers.” Once being a tenant of St. Paul, advocate Hoang also mentions her own experience as well. She said about the ambiguity regarding the rent increase policies with her landlord at St. Paul. Whether it’s St. Paul or Minneapolis, advocates for rent stabilization policies suggest that this proposition will bring social justice among the largest disparities in wealth, homeownership, and education.

Actually what happens, according to HEMS, most of the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) residents live in a rented house. And most of them are low-income group people. So a spiking rent increase without any regulation pushes these people out of communities.

Supports and Opposition

A St. Paul City Council member Mitra Jalali, connected the renter protection action to the national reckoning which took place around racial disparity following the killing of George Floyd in June 2020. While promoting renters’ rights, she said, “We are severely limited in our ability to address a lot of these types of policies”. She also mentions on black neighbors experience higher issues of displacement, eviction, or housing discrimination.

On the contrary, the Minnesota Multi-Housing Association, an organization of landlords across the state, opposed this rent capping proposition. The President and CEO of this organization said rent control can impact the affordable housing projects and real estate business of St. Paul. He argued that in the long run, developers would likely build in other cities and hesitate to invest in existing rental properties of St. Paul. And this will mainly happen due to this rent regulation policy.

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