Aug 24, 2022 - News

St. Paul weighs changes to voter-approved rent control

Illustration of apartment doorbells with an intercom shaped like a dollar sign.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Proposed changes to St. Paul's rent control policy will get a public hearing today.

What's happening: Several City Council members plan to introduce amendments to the policy at today's meeting as lawmakers weigh whether and how to change the rules this fall.

The big picture: The new policy — which caps rent increases at 3% annually with few exceptions, even if a unit turns over — has been the subject of debate, hand-wringing and a legal challenge in federal court since it was approved by voters last November.

  • New construction has slowed in the wake of the policy's passage.

Zoom in: A proposed ordinance from Council President Amy Brendmoen and Council Member Chris Tolbert includes exemptions for new construction and affordable housing.

  • Owners would also be able to "bank" their annual increases to raise rents when a unit becomes vacant.

Yes, and: The proposal also includes tenant protection provisions and requirements that renters are notified about increases above 3%.

The intrigue: Several other council members have their own amendments on the agenda, some of which would modify or roll back elements of the Brendmoen-Tolbert package, The Pioneer Press reports.

Driving the debate: Developers say the policy has forced them to pause or reevaluate projects, including future buildings at the Highland Bridge site. Some top lawmakers, including St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, have called for changes to the policy.

  • Supporters, meanwhile, want the strict cap to stand. Many have expressed concerns that some property owners are passing increases onto tenants in the form of higher utility fees.

Of note: As written, the current ordinance does allow property owners to seek a bigger increase under certain circumstances.

  • The city received 121 exemption requests between May 1 and July 31, according to information Axios obtained via a public records request.
  • Ninety-five were approved and one denied as of early August. The rest were pending staff review.
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