February 22, 2021
As cliché as going vegan as a college sophomore, Minneapolis has hit the Rent Control part of our journey to progressive utopia.
We eagerly await the findings in tomorrow's "Study Session: Rent Stabilization Research" where we expect to hear CURA give a completely objective and unbiased assessment of the efficacy and long term consequences of what is more accurately called Rent Control (spoiler alert, the presentation is available here).
Then, with the lightening speed that City Council expects residents to absorb and react to this research, they have followed up with a Public Hearing on Rent Control a mere 24 hours later.
As a former Economics major, I can promise you that there is no new research CURA can produce that will make me rethink what I already know: Rent Control is bad for Minneapolis (there's a whole Freakonomics podcast backing this up). I do not say this as a landlord or a renter. I have no vested interest in how this turns out. What I can tell you is - Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, who partners with 100+ local church congregations - knows what it takes to locate affordable, supportive homes for those with the lowest incomes. Last year, Beacon provided emergency shelter for 53 families and more than 650 affordable and supportive homes in the Twin Cities metro area. It turns out, these experts also have an opinion on what is most effective in generating affordability: rent subsidies. You can read all about their position, and their advocacy at the state level here.
“Bring It Home, MN” rent subsidy legislation has been introduced in the legislature (HF40 & SF333) by Representative Howard (Richfield) and Senator Dziedzic (Minneapolis) which would invest in housing stability for all. The House bill has more than 25 co-authors from across the state. They know rent subsidies are a simple, effective way to take a leap toward a fair, prosperous Minnesota that works for all of us.
So with such deep expertise from our non-profit partners, why is our City Council trying to "go it alone" and enact Rent Control at a municipal level? Much like creating the Office of Violence Prevention, our City Council seems to prefer to keep Minneapolis on a private island of services and their disdain for collaboration has reached epic levels. We have mental health experts at the Hennepin County COPE program, but instead of investing more needed resources at a County level, we have to reinvent the wheel and duplicate services as a City. Maybe if City Council made some effort to partner with various county, state and federal agencies - we would not be facing the Derek Chauvin trial with skimpy security and half-hearted coordination.
The proposed Rent Control Charter Amendment is not about creating more affordable housing for renters. If there was true commitment to that goal, the lobbying would occur at the State level. Some insiders are warning that even if the Rent Control amendment were to get on the ballot, and were to pass - it would be challenged legally as this would have to be state legislation. So what is it? Why is Council rushing this thru by "studying" Tuesday, checking the box with a Public Hearing on Wednesday, and voting on it on Friday?
This amendment is the bright shiny object to attract the critical demographic of renters to the polls.
Not only are renters occupying 53% of the Minneapolis housing units (source: Census data), there is a correlation between renters, young voters (18-35 years of age) and police abolitionist Public Safety Charter Amendment supporters.
The real endgame here is not providing affordable housing.
Economists and affordable housing nonprofits know better than to believe that Rent Control is a solution.
This amendment only serves as virtue signaling, it does not have the capability to hold up to legal scrutiny at a municipal level. It is being used as bait to get more renters, and likely more police abolitionists, to the polls.
Go ahead and tell your Council Member how you feel about the proposed Rent Control Charter Amendments.