St. Paul to spend taxpayer money studying its disastrous rent control policy

Mayor Melvin Carter has been trying to make changes to St. Paul’s rent control ordinance before it goes into effect on May 1. To that, he announced on Friday that he was forming a rent control stakeholder group. The group will receive funding from the city in order to study the city’s rent control ordinance.

According to the Star Tribune,

The group will be convened and facilitated by the Center for Urban & Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota. The stakeholders will meet virtually through May to “identify considerations on improving and enhancing rent stabilization in Saint Paul, with a final report completed by this summer,” according to a news release. Stakeholder meetings will be livestreamed.

The committee will be co-chaired by Tony Sanneh, of The Sanneh Foundation and Phillip Cryan, Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. Other notable members include Housing Equity Now St. Paul (HENS) campaign manager Tram Hoang, Ryan Companies North Region President Tony Barranco, St. Paul City Council Member Chris Tolbert and the Saint Paul Area Association of Realtors.

The Rent Stabilization Stakeholder Group has a budget of $49,900, paid for through the city’s Innovation Fund, according to a news release.

“Saint Paul voters overwhelmingly voiced their support for rent stabilization in November,” Carter said in a statement. “I believe in our ability to meet this housing crisis with thoughtful policy that drives our goals for both equity and growth.”

The first committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 22, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Given that Mayor Carter, as well as some of the people involved in this group, have a favorable view of rent control, it is highly unlikely that any part of this discussion will involve considerations to scrap the policy that is already proving to be a disaster. CURA, for example, published a report in 2021 supporting some form of a rent stabilization policy.

However, as American Experiment has already noted, “there are no good or bad rent control policies, only varying degrees of bad.” So, this stakeholder group will only be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The fact of the matter is that regardless of what type of policy the City Council pursues –– even if changes are made –– there are bound to be some negative consequences.

There is no way to have a robust rent control policy without hurting the housing supply. Just like there is no way to have a weak rent control policy without hurting housing supply — albeit to a slightly smaller extent.

Certainly, some changes to make the policy more accomodating wouldn’t hurt. But the best way to address the housing crisis without negatively impacting stakeholders is to enact policy that addresses excessive housing regulations and fees.