Fight for rent control in Minneapolis advances
Minneapolis, MN – At the May 25 Minneapolis City Council meeting, a 7-5 majority voted to start the process of writing a rent stabilization ordinance to be put on the ballot for voters to decide on in the November 2023 city elections.
The motion was proposed by Ward 10 Councilmember Aisha Chughtai and Ward 6 Councilmember Jamal Osman who represent the parts of the city with the highest concentrations of renters. It directs the City Attorney’s office to write the ordinance language for the Council to then debate, amend, and vote on.
Mayor Frey, who opposes rent stabilization, tried to veto the motion but was rebuked by the City Attorney’s office, who said the mayor doesn’t have the authority to stop the Council from directing the City Attorney to draft an ordinance.
The motion directs the City Attorney to draft a rent stabilization policy with the following guidelines:
- Fixed rent increases at three percent annually, with no adjustment for Consumer Price Index
- Vacancy control and no “rent banking”
- No exempted types of housing and no exemption for new construction
- Exception process for investment/substantial capital improvements and for deferred maintenance and habitability
- Requirements for City certification, the creation of an oversight body charged with program compliance and enforcement, and an appeals process
- If approved by voters, the policy to become legally effective six months after certification of results by the Minneapolis Canvassing Board
Regarding the rent stabilization motion she co-authored, Councilmember Chughtai said, “Housing is a human right. Like the 80% of Ward 10 residents who are renters, I believe a critical part of building public safety is recognizing housing as a human right. For years, rents have been rising much faster than residents’ incomes. Too many of our neighbors spend most of their paycheck on making rent. And too many of our neighbors have been pushed out of the neighborhoods we love because they cannot afford basic necessities like housing, food, clothing, and transportation.”
Chughtai continued, “As this crisis continues to go unaddressed, we’ve seen the rate of food insecurity and homelessness grow in our city. This displacement is continuing in Ward 10 right now, and I’m committed to acting with urgency to keep residents in their homes and the communities they love. Some of the most powerful forces in our City claim the sky will fall if Minneapolis adopts rent stabilization, especially large developers and big landlords that have made massive profits off renters. They want to keep raking in big profits, no matter how much our community is harmed. I want to protect the vast majority of my constituents.”
Minnesota state law says that cities can only implement rent control if approved by the voters. In the November 2021 election, Minneapolis voters passed a ballot measure authorizing the City Council to create a rent control policy which would then be brought back to voters in a later election. Since the 2021 vote, Mayor Frey has repeatedly tried to stop the City Council from passing a rent control policy.
Given Mayor Frey’s opposition to rent stabilization and his influence over several City Council members, many observers were surprised that this motion to write a strong rent control policy passed. While the policy still faces a near-certain mayoral veto if and when the City Council passes a finalized ordinance, this vote re-energized the movement for rent control and showed that despite the mayor’s efforts to stop it, a majority on the City Council could be won over to vote in favor of some version of rent stabilization.
After the CIty Attorney drafts the ordinance language, the next step for rent stabilization is that it will come back to the City Council and be referred to the Business, Inspections, Housing and Zoning (BIHZ) Committee for debate, amendments, and a public hearing.