A Way to Help St. Paul Residents Stay Home

Reporting by McKenzie Kemper, Freelance Community Journalist

In 2019, roughly 1 in 262 Minnesotans experienced homelessness. Unfortunately, 2020 statistics on homelessness are not available, but it is a safe assumption that the number of persons experiencing housing insecurity has increased in the wake of the global pandemic, and the resulting economic hardship. The City of St. Paul has long said that they would work to end homelessness and even put forth a Plan to End Homelessness, along with Heading Home Minnesota.  A commitment to ending homelessness requires action, and there is a measure on the ballot this year to help St. Paul residents do just that.  

That measure is “Creating Chapter 193A of the Legislative Code (Title XIX) pertaining to Residential Rent Stabilization,” a proposed charter amendment.  The measure basically lays this plan out: St. Paul can establish rent control, and landlords cannot raise prices on rentals beyond 3% per every 12 months unless the landlord can prove an exception (new construction for example). This ordinance would offer protection to tenants by giving them the ability to budget for rent increases, and also help to maintain what little affordable housing there is in St. Paul. 

One organization that is working to educate residents and ensure passage of the Ordinance is Housing Equity Now St. Paul. Working in the Westside, Frogtown, and Southeast neighborhoods, in conjunction with Jewish Community Action, Housing Justice Center, and The Alliance. HENS collected over 9,000 signatures to get the Rent Stabilization measure on the ballot this November. This organization is doing the work to help a community of people that is often overlooked and looked down upon, and it is their work that will hopefully help St. Paul residents stay home and come home. 

“Our campaign made a set of deliberate choices to develop a strong, fair, and equitable rent stabilization policy for St Paul — one that protects ALL St. Paulites, without loopholes that cater to the landlord lobby. We’ve built this policy with input from thousands of St. Paul residents, research from the University of Minnesota, and countless case studies. St. Paul voters are the ones who put this initiative on the ballot, and St. Paul voters are going to win this November. We all want to be able to plan for the future of our homes, no matter our income, age, or race. Rent stabilization makes that possible for renters, while providing plenty of room for responsible landlords to make a reasonable profit. From the West Side to Summit Hill, from Highland Park to the East Side — we care about our neighbors and know that our community is stronger when we all have a home we can rely on,” said Meg Daly, Housing Justice Center Operations and Communications Associate in regards to the ballot measure and ensuing campaign. 

The ballot measure in St. Paul has received some criticism for being too strict and prohibitive of new construction because new buildings would also be subject to rent control. Opponents of the ballot measure argue that by not protecting rent in new housing, the measure would make building in St. Paul unattractive, which could create bigger problems in the future as older construction needs to be torn down and replaced or needs expensive repairs to be maintained. Cities that have rent control right now, like San Francisco and New York, allow new construction to age into rent control after a period of time. Investors and builders can apply for a Reasonable Return on Investment exception to Rent Stabilization when building new construction, but new construction would be subject to the laws established by Statute 193A. 

If the proposed charter amendment passes it will give residents of St. Paul the ability to budget for rent increases. Four members of the St. Paul City Council have stated they will not vote for the ordinance and Mayor Melvin Carter recently tweeted his support for the measure. 

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