A rent stabilization charter amendment could be coming to this year’s ballot in Minneapolis. You may be tempted to begin debating policy specifics — but that’s not what’s on the ballot. Because state law says Minneapolis can’t enact rent stabilization without voters first giving permission, the first step is simply saying yes to the concept. Developing the policy comes later.
So the question in 2021 is not if you can imagine a poorly considered version of this policy. The question is: do you believe there’s a reasonable case for a rent stabilization policy of any sort? This is similar to how you could support the concept of a municipal minimum wage without supporting every conceivable hourly increment from $7 to $70.
Decisions about the situations and sorts of buildings this applies to, as well as the degree to which rent increases would be limited, will come later. Whether you prefer rent caps at 5, or 10, or 15%, vote yes. If you think it should apply only to buildings of a certain age or unit count, vote yes. If you see this solely as an emergency anti-displacement measure, vote yes. Even if you believe cases where landlords raise rents on low-income tenants by extreme amounts from year to year are atypical, vote yes. Our city council should have the power to enact laws that protect people from uncommonly bad situations and abusive practices.
Here’s one example of a limited circumstance in which rent stabilization could be applied but is currently not allowed by state law. The City Council is now in the early stages of considering a “tenant opportunity to purchase” ordinance. The finished policy could include a cap on rent increases in cases where the tenants assign their purchase rights to a third party — but this would be possible only if rent stabilization were approved by voters first.
Ward 7 Council Member Lisa Goodman is just the kind of person who will try to overcomplicate this for you. She says the process is “rushed” and “chaotic,” instead of honestly explaining what’s happening and why she opposes it. It’s also a stretch to say things were rushed when she voted against the city conducting a study of the issue way back in 2019.
Goodman quoting Richard Nixon: “as we rush this through… creating chaos and confusion in the community… not with activists… but with the SILENT MAJORITY overwhelmed with charter amendments.” pic.twitter.com/Qw9Hs3LWN7— Wedge LIVE!™ (@WedgeLIVE) February 12, 2021
It’s not rushed. It’s not chaotic. It’s simple: The first step is giving permission to pursue a policy, the second step is the policy itself.
If this goes to the ballot this year, don’t overcomplicate it by debating the merits of one form of rent stabilization over another. This is an easy one to support.