St Paul’s rent control/stabilization initiative should be passed as part of the solution to endemic homelessness in our city, but it must be coupled with direct creation of deeply affordable housing, and wide use of initiatives like the city’s 4D Affordable Housing Incentive Program to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing.

An editorial in the Star Tribune last week rejected rent control and argued that market forces of supply and demand will solve the problem by creating more housing supply. However, that editorial does not take into account David Schultz’s op-ed in the Oct. 8 Pioneer Press, which points out that the current housing insecurity and homelessness of low-wage citizens results from a failure of free-market forces. Housing for all must be sustained by the direct building of units affordable to new renters with low incomes, coupled with rent stabilization for current renters.

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Schultz’s column in the Pioneer Press argues that 1) short-term rent stabilization when accompanied by vacancy control primarily benefits existing tenants but it makes it hard for new renters to find affordable units, so 2) it must be accompanied by targeted building of low-income units, which is a separate market from high-end units.

“Building more high-end units will not lower the costs for low-income units. They are separate markets. Developers will build units that yield the highest profit margin, and that is not necessarily middle-class or low-income rental housing, Schultz writes. He concludes, “Used more carefully and in conjunction with other strategies, such as directly building more affordable units, rent stabilization may serve as a partial tool to addressing the problem that a free market delivery of housing produces.”

Elaine Tarone, St. Paul

 

Let the mayor and council decide

I was pleased to hear about the proposal to enact a rent stabilization ordinance for the City of St. Paul last summer. Several social justice groups reached out to me and many other supporters to garner our support. The concept was consistent with our shared values to build a equitable multi-racial society and foster a caring and responsive economy for everyone. St. Paul is a working-class city with a substantial level of poverty and a large number of people of color. St. Paul also has an affordable housing crisis, a significant homeless population, and an aging housing stock.

I know a lot about housing in St. Paul, as the retired Director of the Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI). Since I retired in 2011, I have seen housing conditions continue to deteriorate while the city’s programs have not been able to keep pace to meet the challenges. Rent stabilization can be an effective tool to control increasing housing costs, especially for lower income residents.

I was ready to join the many dedicated social justice groups to advocate for the passage of rent stabilization until I actually read the proposed ordinance.

If I still worked for the City I would have the responsibility to implement the ordinance and frankly I do not know where I would begin.

Besides establishing the 3% limit on rent increases, the ordinance also contains a provision for landlords to request exceptions based on the concept of a “reasonable return” on investment (ROI). There is no definition of what a “reasonable” return would or should be, nor are there any guidelines on how the ROI is to be calculated. The ordinance also specifies, that “rent increases be made only when the landlord demonstrates that such adjustments are necessary to provide the landlord with a fair return on investment.”

That’s it, the ordinance is based on “reasonable and fair.” No definitions, no guidelines, just leave it to the bureaucrats to decide.

If this ordinance becomes law the only thing I know for sure is that we are going to need a lot more bureaucrats to figure it out.

There over 65,000 rental properties in the city and a large group of these properties and landlords are struggling along with the rest of the community. There will be a ton of requests for exceptions and there will be huge delays in processing.

What we really need in St. Paul, I am reluctant to say, is the approach that Minneapolis has taken to allow the mayor and City Council to decide the best way to enact a rent stabilization ordinance.

Therefore, St. Paul must vote “No” on Nov. 3 to avoid a bureaucratic crisis.

Bob Kessler, St. Paul

Not much seems better

President Biden uses the slogan “Build Back Better.” I sure question that. Not much seems to be better.

The southern border crisis is a real disaster. Prices of almost everything are rising at very noticeable rates. Oil, natural gas and gasoline are at the highest prices in seven years. That isn’t better for us.

Ron Erickson, Maplewood

(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)

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