St. Paul City Council amends rent control, exempts new construction with 5-2 vote

The St. Paul City Council adopted a number of significant modifications to the city’s rent-control policy on Wednesday despite strong opposition from housing activists and alarm about a citywide halt in home development.

The “rent stability” legislation, which went into force in May and was adopted by the public by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent in November, continues to set a 3 percent yearly maximum on rent increases for homes. The extensive revisions passed by the council on Wednesday, a priority of the mayor’s office, exclude new construction from rent control for 20 years after a new building certificate of occupancy is given.

Thousands more renters who are now living in rental homes will be newly free from the 3 percent restriction thanks to the amendment’s 20-year lookback clause.

Following the decision, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter issued a written statement in which he stated, “This legislation protects renters while assisting in the development of the additional housing units we need for the future.” “I commend the Council for establishing this policy and appreciate all the community members who contributed to its creation.”

Other features include enhanced tenant communication when a landlord applies to the city for a rent-control exemption and partial “vacancy decontrol,” which permits landlords to increase rents on unoccupied units by 8% plus inflation as determined by the consumer price index. The changes also specify how utilities are taken into account when determining rent ceilings, prohibit landlords from evicting tenants only to raise rents, and provide the first-ever “just cause” safeguards for landlords in the city.

The final vote in the council was 5-2, with Mitra Jalali and Nelsie Yang voting against it.

Chris Tolbert, a member of the city council who wrote the master amendment that was later modified by the rest of the council in recent weeks, described the procedure as being the most thorough he has ever seen. According to the public outreach, he believed that trying to find secure homes for residents of St. Paul was a great improvement.

Before the vote, council member Rebecca Noecker addressed the council and said, “We all want families to have stability in their homes, and we all want additional housing.” “I don’t believe this set of revisions is flawless. I believe that policy is seldom. However, I do believe that it finds the correct balance.

Jane Prince, a councilwoman, said that she made an effort “to be sensitive to the renters and the landlords in my district, including a number of tiny landlords for whom their four-plex or their duplex is their retirement income.”

According to Prince, who backed the 3 percent rent ceiling with greater give-backs for small property owners, “They want to offer affordable housing to their neighbors.” “I think a lot of small property owners have been put off from continuing in business by this rule.”

Yang said that the adjustments go considerably further than the suggestions made by the mayor’s work committee of 41 stakeholders this summer.

According to Yang, “it will cause so much more suffering for tenants, for folks in our neighborhood who we know have traditionally been abused.”

Growth and racial fairness are both necessary, according to Jalali. “Racial fairness shouldn’t be sacrificed in the sake of progress. Simply simply, I oppose stripping current rent stabilizer recipients of their safeguards.

Housing advocates from the interfaith advocacy group ISAIAH, the Minnesota Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing, the Minnesota Youth Collective, and other progressive organizations lamented the changes during a public hearing before the council vote and reminded council members that 2023 will be their election year.

They pointed out that record inflation has been greatly influenced by increasing rents nationwide. The Twin Cities are now experiencing the greatest housing crisis in the country, according to a report conducted by the Minnesota Population Center last year.

“People’s access to homes is declining. People’s access to health is declining. B. Rosas, a housing advocate who worked on the mayor’s rent control task team this year, said, “And we’re doing nothing about it. Perform better.

The property owner Dominium, according to Katherine Banbury, a resident of cheap rental housing and member of the mayor’s rent-control work team this year, was pricing out her neighbors by abusing rules permitting landlords to self-certify hikes up to 8%.

Banbury said that apart from the eight Dominium buildings in St. Paul increasing by less than 8% so they could self-certify and avoid communication with anybody, “our rent stabilization did not impact anything at all.”

She said that Dominium is boosting rents 12.5% in other towns, which she referred to as a meagre consolation. Banbury stated, “Sufficient affordable housing is only adequate if it is inexpensive. “People don’t receive what they need when the rent is this exorbitant,”

Jalali and the council’s president, Amy Brendmoen, have openly expressed a desire to pursue more revisions in the future. Prince said that while the city made a mistake by permitting landlord self-certification for rent hikes of up to 8%, “ordinances may be reconsidered.”

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