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St. Paul Residents Speak About Proposed Changes to Rent Stabilization Order

Concerned St. Paul residents voiced their thoughts on proposed amendments to the city’s rent stabilization ordinance at Wednesday’s city council meeting.

In November, voters approved an ordinance that caps rent increases at 3% for each unit regardless of a lease change, with exceptions for landlords to recoup a “reasonable return” on their investments.

Now the city council is proposing some changes — such as exemptions for affordable housing and a 20-year exemption for new construction — that tenants and affordable housing advocates say defeats the intended purpose. by ballot.

On the other side of the coin, developers, landlords and building union leaders say any form of rent regulation would discourage investment and cripple efforts to increase the city’s housing supply.

Members of the business community have argued that the 20-year exemption for new construction – which includes a ‘feedback’ provision retroactive to the date of first occupancy – does not go far enough and should be extended to 30 years .

One such speaker was Tony Barranco, president of operations for Ryan Companies in Minnesota. Ryan is building St. Paul’s largest residential development, Highland Bridge, which features a mix of affordable and market-priced housing.

“The question before us is whether we try to solve this crisis with the regulation of a limited and private supply or whether we create resources and policies that create a new supply,” Barranco said. “Rent control has never worked to increase supply and reduce costs.”

He described debating the issue as a “waste” of “so much time and talent” and added that any form of rent regulation would be “doomed to failure”.

Proponents of rent stabilization pointed out that the task force convened by Mayor Melvin Carter recommended a 15-year rent cap exemption for new construction, a measure that Ward 4 council member Mitra Jalali recommended. sought to honor with an amendment she introduced Wednesday, along with other pro- tenant provisions.

Jalali said the ordinance in its current form would disadvantage low-income populations and tenants of color. She argued that the “rollback” provision would be particularly harmful to tenants.

“At the end of the day, if the City of St. Paul exempts new construction from rent stabilization, we should be able to say what protections tenants in those buildings are getting,” Jalali said at Wednesday’s meeting. “It shouldn’t go any further than a comprehensive community process has already recommended, and it shouldn’t cause current tenants to lose their rent stabilization protections.”

Tenants applauded Jalali’s amendments, which also included measures to notify tenants when their landlords were requesting a reasonable return on investment exemption and removed the rent stabilization exemption for affordable housing.

RELATED: Tenants Claim Landlord Raises St. Paul’s Rent Above 3% Cap

Residents of affordable housing managed by Plymouth-based Dominium – many of whom were subject to 8% rent increases even after the city’s 3% cap came into effect – have spoken openly about the exemption for affordable housing, saying they couldn’t afford the unpredictable rent increases when they are on a fixed income.

“Affordable housing providers receive large government grants in return for agreeing to provide affordable housing,” said Katherine Banbury, a tenant organizer for Dominium residents in St. Paul. “Under the guise of affordability, Dominium is using this money to inflate its bottom line at the expense of low-income and fixed-income seniors.”

City Council will vote on the proposed changes at its September 7 meeting and vote on the final ordinance on September 14.