The Midwest’s First Rent Stabilization Act – The Oracle

Voters on the final day of the election chose to enact the Midwest’s first rent stabilization ordinance, and what some call one of the strongest in existence.

Saint Pauliets approved a ballot measure to enact the first and one of the strongest rent stabilization measures in the Midwest on election day earlier this month.

The measure makes it illegal for landlords to increase rent by more than three percent each year. The measure directs city council and the mayor’s office to implement a system that would offer exemptions to landlords if they had to raise higher rents, due to property taxes, costs of improvements or repairs that cannot. plus allow a “reasonable return on investment” at that three percent cap.

Many say this ordinance is one of the strongest and strictest in existence, the ordinance applies to all units, whether they are new construction or were built in the 1800s. plus, the rent cannot be increased by more than three percent per year, even if the unit is empty or if tenants change tenants.

Until now, it was legal for landlords to raise rent rates as much as they wanted, and anything that would increase their bottom line further, they could double or triple the rent under income restraint principles, without any repercussions.

According to, an online apartment listing site, approximately 45 percent of residential units in Saint Paul are occupied by tenants (51,135 units).

Housing Equity Now Saint Paul, or HENS, is a coalition of advocacy groups and nonprofits, they were the lead organization of the “Keep Saint Paul Home” campaign, fighting to push through rent stabilization.

Tram Wong, is the campaign manager for HENS, a Portland native who moved to Minneapolis and earned a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“I went through a lot of neighborhood changes, I witnessed a lot of gentrification and displacement before I even realized that this was what was happening, and I was really interested in community organization”, Wong said.

HENS was facing a major campaign funded primarily by landlords by the Sensitive Housing Voting Committee. The Sensible Housing Ballot Committee’s “vote no” campaign spent $ 3,510,016 in the last two months of the campaign, according to campaign finance report documents. This compares to just $ 198,724 spent by HENS during the same period.

HENS says they ultimately won through the hard work of many volunteers, having had many conversations with their neighbors in Saint Paul.

“Housing and this idea of ​​home is a universal experience, so everyone has this lived experience to think about. If you have stable housing you want it for others, if you don’t have it you want to fight for it, ”Wong said.

Despite the huge sums spent on the race, HENS and the “Keep Saint Paul Home” campaign won, with voters approving the measure with 52.89% of the vote. A big win for tenants, especially tenants of color, who Wong says are disproportionately affected by rent increases.

“What we know from the history of systemic racism and housing, not only in St. Paul, but across the country, is that housing instability continues to have a disproportionate impact on tenants of color and residents of color. low-income tenants, ”Wong said.

Turnout in this municipal election was quite high, with 34.45% of registered voters voting. The average turnout over the past decade (2011 to 2021) in municipal elections stands at around 27.73 percent, according to data compiled by the Oracle from the Ramsey County elections.

On Monday, November 8, Katie Galioto and the StarTribune announced that newly re-elected mayor Melvin Carter intends to ask Saint Paul city council to exempt new developments from the new voter rent stabilization measure.

Mayor Carter, who himself was overwhelmingly approved for a second four-year term by voters with 61.63% of the vote in the first round, announced he too would vote for the stabilization measure. rents.

“Not because the measure is flawless as written – we can and must improve it and quickly – but because it’s a start,” Carter wrote on social media.

The mayor, who announced his support for the ballot issue just three weeks before the elections, said he was very concerned about new constructions and new developments, and that he was weary of weakening incentives to develop new ones. new housing in Saint-Paul.

Some, including the group that wrote the actual text of the order, HENS, are wary of any attempt to dilute the order.

“The will of the voters was that they wanted to see this ordinance implemented as passed,” Wong said.

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