At Issue: St. Paul voters will determine rent regulations |

At Issue: St. Paul voters will determine rent regulations

Ricky Campbell
Created: October 10, 2021 11:10 PM

People on both sides of the ballot question in St. Paul can agree — there’s an affordable housing crisis in the city. It’s the solution that divides them.

“For the lowest income households, people with the fewest options, people with the highest barriers and people of color, we were seeing large rent increases,” President of the Housing Justice Center Margaret Kaplan told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “This was happening before the pandemic and this was happening during the pandemic.”

Voters in St. Paul will choose a mayor, school board members and whether or not there should be an ordinance governing rent increases. The ballot question — one side calls “rent stabilization” while the other deems it “rent control” — asks voters if the city should adopt a proposed ordinance limiting the increases to 3% each year.

Kaplan also works with a political action committee that has dedicated more than $53,000 toward supporting the rent stabilization measure. TakeAction Minnesota has also reported another $11,700 to help support the proposed ordinance.

“We also realized there would be substantial organized opposition against this because every time there’s an attempt to put any kind of regulation on our housing system, there’s substantial opposition to it,” Kaplan said on “At Issue.”

But opponents aren’t just landlords. Developers are working side-by-side with the carpenters’ union in an effort that spills over into Minneapolis, too.

Cecil Smith, president and CEO of Minnesota Multi-Housing Association, tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the coalition has come together because they believe the ordinance would limit new construction and doesn’t provide any incentive for property managers.

“Rent control is being proposed as a solution but it’s the wrong solution,” Smith said. “It’s a solution that doesn’t work.

“There’s no question that rent control works for renters who get a rent control unit, but the rest of the market suffers.”

Some St. Paul residents have been greeted by mailers and text messages telling them to vote “no” on the lone ballot question. The campaign has likened the measure as more restrictive than similar policies in San Francisco and New York City.

“There’s far greater restriction, far fewer exemption than those cities have,” Smith said. “So this would be a massive experiment with the housing market in St. Paul.”

At least two city council members, Nelsie Yang and Mitra Jalali, have publicly supported it. That leaves a majority who have either publicly opposed it or who have stayed quiet on the issue.

“Every St. Paul City Council member is one vote,” she added. “And I’m one vote and everyone who’s going to go to the polls in St. Paul is one vote. We all have power in this system to decide what is going to be the best in the future of this city.”

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