Jun 8, 2021 - News

Push for rent control growing in the Twin Cities

Illustration of apartment doorbells with an intercom shaped like a dollar sign.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Efforts to limit the amount landlords in the Twin Cities can increase apartment rent are heating up.

Driving the news: A coalition called Housing Equity Now Saint Paul has collected roughly 4,000 of the 5,000 signatures needed to get a rent control measure on the St. Paul ballot this November. They're hoping to have 10,000 by June 15.

  • In Minneapolis, the commission that revises the city's charter will consider on July 7 a proposed amendment that would allow the City Council to implement rent control. If approved, the issue would then go to voters in November.

How it works: Rent control has been implemented in 200 municipalities across the country, with varying caps on increases and exemptions, according to a University of Minnesota study.

  • The St. Paul coalition is pushing to cap annual rent increases at 3%, with exceptions that could be approved by the city.
  • The Minneapolis City Council members behind the charter amendment β€” Jeremiah Ellison, Lisa Bender and Cam Gordon β€” haven't specified how they would implement rent control.

Supporters say most landlords don't increase rent by more than 3% annually, so they wouldn't be affected.

  • But they argue that big rent raises often disproportionately fall on people of color β€” who are more likely to rent than white residents.

Opponents say rent control has backfired in some areas, leading to a decline in new housing construction and an increase of conversions from apartments to condos.

  • "While rent control appears to help current tenants in the short run, in the long run it decreases affordability, fuels gentrification, and creates negative spillovers on the surrounding neighborhood," Stanford economist Rebecca Diamond wrote in a Brookings Institution report.

Yes, but: The U of M study found little evidence rent control has deterred housing construction in other cities.

  • It also says research suggests such measures have been effective in holding rents below market rates and moderating price increases.

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