Thursday, December 1 2022


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Voters in St. Paul went to the polls on Tuesday to determine whether residential rent increases will be capped at 3% per year, overall and without exception for small landlords or new housing construction – one of the toughest “rent control” measures in the country.

The results were still falling late Tuesday night, but initial feedback and interviews outside the polling stations showed that the “rent stabilization” ballot initiative had generated considerable interest in the tenant-majority city.

“We believe that families deserve stability and to be able to take root,” said Sarah Degner Riveros, a resident of Dayton’s Bluff, a Spanish teacher who voted “yes” alongside her 18-year-old daughter, Anna Fields, who voted for the first time.

Others said they would vote “yes” despite reservations, and expressed concern about raising funds against the community’s real estate development initiative.

“I would like there to be a larger, longer term discussion with the people of the city, with the voters,” said Alisha Nehring, after voting at the Martin Luther King Community Recreation Center in Ward 1 “I feel like it’s thrown on the ballot. There are big business behind the “Vote No” initiative. … I have concerns about what changes can be made before city council and what that process would look like. So maybe I don’t agree with the specific terms, but I don’t want the problem to go away.

The prospect of apparently voting with real estate developers on tenants seemed to deter some voters, even those who had questions about how rent control works. On social media, a voter calling himself @MinnesotaSpicy said he “voted ‘yes’ on game day, mostly based on who supported the no.”

Supporters such as TakeAction Minnesota, the Alliance, the West Side Community Organization, the Frogtown Neighborhood Association and other housing advocates have said the cap will prevent excessive rent increases when rental properties change hands. Landlords have traditionally increased rents by less than 3% per year, they said, and the city would be responsible for creating a process to allow special exemptions if needed.

Critics have expressed concern that a rent cap in St. Paul, which is already lagging behind Minneapolis in new housing construction, will complicate financing and scare off investors, undermining efforts to increase housing numbers. from the city. The people in charge of Ryan Cos. noted that in the districts funding tax increases, a slowdown in construction at market rates at sites such as Highland Bridge, the former Ford Motor Co. campus in Highland Park, could have an effect of drive that removes a vital source of funding. for new affordable housing.

In Seattle, some studies have shown that a rent control initiative has led small landlords to sell modest properties to national chains, convert units into condos or move into them, reducing the supply of affordable units. owned by locals.

In St. Paul, the opposition was led by the Sensible Housing Ballot Committee, which had raised $ 4 million by mid-October through a coalition of multi-family building owners, real estate developers, real estate agents. and builders, including the two largest in the state. unions related to housing construction. Their concerns about unintended consequences were echoed by four of the seven members of St. Paul City Council and, to some extent, by St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who said last month he would vote ” Yes ”for rent control while looking for changes.

The question of whether changes are possible remains open. In the week leading up to the election, the city council learned in a presentation from the city attorney’s office that changing a voter-approved voting measure could be tricky and would open the city to litigation if the changes appeared to deviate from voters’ intention. . Under the city’s charter, however, the ballot measure could be repealed in its entirety after one year.


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