Rent Control Fails Again

And so does the St Paul, MN, city council, sort of.

Last November, the city’s voters passed a rent control law that caps annual rent increases at 3%. Then reality intruded, and the City Council was forced to attempt corrective actions.

The City Council noted in its reform bill that, “according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there have been only two hundred (200) residential building permits in Saint Paul through April of 2022, compared to 1,391 at the same point in 2021.”

That drop occurred as immediately as any economic reality can—beginning just two months after the cap was passed.

The City Council’s corrective actions are limited to

  • a 20-year rent-control exemption for new residential properties and some apartments that participate in government affordable-housing programs
  • after a tenant leaves or is evicted with just cause, landlords will be able to raise rent by 8% plus inflation
  • property owners can…apply to St Paul for an exemption to the 3% rent cap if their property taxes go up or if there are “unavoidable increases” in maintenance and operating costs, including increases owing to inflation

In truth, this may be all the City Council can do to…modify…the will of the city’s residents. To get serious correction to this rent control fiasco, the question really needs to be resubmitted to those residents.

If those voters reaffirm their position on rent control, we’ll all know what those worthies truly think about housing and access to it by those in the lower economic tiers of the city.

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