The Minneapolis City Council should pump the brakes on rent control

With trouble brewing in St. Paul over the city’s rent control ordinance, members of the Minneapolis City Council are taking notice and trying to avoid the neighboring city’s mistakes as they look into designing a rent control policy for Minneapolis. Yesterday, the Star Tribune reported the following;

With soaring rents and a looming eviction crisis, Minneapolis voters told the City Council last month that the city should adopt a rent control policy.

But a majority of the City Council, including newly elected members, say they want to proceed with caution and design a policy that protects vulnerable tenants but is also workable for developers and landlords.

“The people have spoken clearly that there has to be some type of rent control or rent stabilization, and we were elected to thread the needle,” said Council Member-elect Michael Rainville, who unseated incumbent Steve Fletcher, a proponent of a 3% cap. “I just look across the river at our friends in St. Paul and I just think maybe they went too far.”

St. Paul’s rent control measure, also approved by voters last month, is considered the strictest in the country. It caps rent increases at 3% annually and makes no exemptions for new construction or inflation. The measure has prompted big developers, including Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. to pause major St. Paul projects, jeopardizing hundreds of new affordable housing units.

There is bound to be opposition, however, from city council members who would like to adopt an ordinance like St. Paul’s.

Rainville and other more moderate council members contend it’s too risky for them to go down the same path amid a dire need to maintain and boost affordable housing stock. They will face spirited opposition from newly elected Democratic Socialists Jason Chavez, Aisha Chughtai and Robin Wonsley Worlobah, who centered their campaigns on the issue and say they are bent on creating a similar policy to St. Paul’s in Minneapolis to make headway on racial equity and prevent displacement. They are the only three on next year’s council who have publicly expressed support for a 3% cap on rent hikes in Minneapolis, though they would allow for inflation.

“This is not [a policy] that we need to weaken … and I’m also not interested in passing meaningless policies,” said Wonsley Worlobah. She ousted Cam Gordon, one of the council members who crafted the rent control charter amendment in Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis City Council is right to be cautious. The St. Paul rent control ordinance is already proving to be a disaster. But that does not mean that a more moderate form of rent control will be good for the city either.

Rent control is a bad policy regardless of numerous provisions that other localities have taken. The Minneapolis City Council should pay heed to the evidence in our report and pump the brakes on the adopting of any form of rent control –– however moderate.