Rent policies: in Saint-Paul, ignore fear-mongering tactics, stay the course on elections

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With a resounding victory at the polls, a strong majority of St. Paul voters in six of the city’s seven wards supported the adoption of a strong and clear rent stabilization policy. In all respects, this was an unprecedented step in housing justice, placing St. Paul at the forefront of developing policies that truly center the dignity and humanity of those who rent their homes. .

Instead of sinking into the false emergency fueled by the opposition that has spent millions to push back this transformative step forward, let’s breathe. Let’s take a rational and measured approach to implementing the policy.

Over 30,000 residents voted for real change for the nearly 58,000 tenant households who deserve the opportunity to keep St. Paul Home. Our local government has a duty to deliver.

To be clear, it wasn’t a narrow victory. The policy of limiting rent increases to 3% per year for all units in St. Paul was exceeded by a six point margin. Over 64% of the city’s constituencies voted yes. In our most diverse neighborhoods, which typically register lower voter turnout, majorities of up to 60% of voters (first neighborhood) supported stabilizing rents. This election was a clear mandate from tenants, landlords and landlords in St. Paul that the status quo – which offers no protection against predatory practices and massive rent increases – is no longer acceptable.

Contrary to the condescending and racist rhetoric of the opposition, the voters of Saint-Paul are not ignorant. As well-funded corporate opposition flooded voters with shiny letters containing vague threats and archival photographs, the Keep St. Paul Home campaign had thousands of neighbor-to-neighbor conversations at the gates, by phone. and via SMS, thoughtfully engaging and answering questions about the intricacies of politics.

Voters said yes because they understood the specifics and importance of this measure, which has been carefully designed to to avoid gaps in rent stabilization policies in other cities that undermine the impact on tenants. The inclusion of new construction was not an oversight – it was an intentional choice, based on housing finance expertise, economic data and national research, to protect all tenants.

The apocalyptic reactions of the developers the next day are quite predictable. But city council members who have publicly opposed the policy now have a clear mandate from their constituents – and a responsibility to find solutions that honor the will of the voters.

While decades Of economic distress and displacement of troubled tenant households met with little urgency, a few anecdotes of developers “suspending” their projects made headlines and galvanized panic among city leaders. This despite the fact that the ordinance – and the public conversation for months – makes it clear that this policy is not a rent cap or a rent freeze, meaning developers can set their rents at any rate. what level ensuring them a reasonable return.

It is indeed a great moment for Saint Paul. How we move forward with implementation, enforcement, and potential changes is important and should be guided by informed dialogue, real data, and an unwavering commitment to honor the will of St. Paul voters. . If developers can transparently document their needs, such as all low income tenants need access to rent assistance – let’s make reasonable changes based on facts, not gut feelings.

But let’s not be afraid of the courageous and necessary change that we have won, just because it does not match the demands of the developers and owners who have spent $ 4.5 million to protect unlimited profits, rather than invest these desperately needed resources in solutions to our affordable housing crisis.

For Minneapolis neighbors and tenants across the country, St. Paul has the opportunity and the obligation to lead. We have taken bold steps in the past and now we have over 30,000 voters leading us. Voters have made it clear that they are ready to support the action. Elected officials and staff must stay the course.

Elianne Farhat and Mai Chong Xiong are Executive Director and Chairman of the Board of TakeAction Minnesota, respectively.

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