The Potluck

Rent-control supporters to Minneapolis leaders: ‘We need action now.’

By: - November 9, 2021 1:37 pm

Claire Bergren, campaign manager for Home to Stay, speaks in front of Minneapolis City Hall on Nov. 9 to call on city leaders to act ‘swiftly’ to enact rent control. Photo courtesy of Geoff Dittberner/SEIU.

Campaign leaders of the successful rent-control ballot initiative in Minneapolis called on city leaders to move quickly to enact an ordinance restricting rent increases.

“Make no mistake, this was a mandate,” said Claire Bergren, campaign manager for Home to Stay, standing in front of City Hall on Tuesday. Bergren’s sentiment directly contradicted rent-control statements made by Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey following the election.

“We don’t need more studies. We don’t need to collect more data. We need action now,” Bergren said.

More than 75,000 Minneapolis voters — 53% — approved the ballot question authorizing the City Council to draft a rent-control policy.

Frey said he voted yes on the rent-control ballot question because he supports local control, but also that he does not think its passage is a mandate to pass a rent stabilization policy.

“What [the ballot initiative] says is people want to look at the data and consult with the experts and determine what could be or could not be an appropriate policy,” Frey said.

Frey said he is opposed to rent control in its traditional form, with the government setting how much landlords can charge, but may be open to a less aggressive approach that protects renters from sharp increases but does not apply to new construction.

St. Paul voters approved a rent-control policy by a similar margin that will make it illegal for landlords to raise rents more than 3% per year. When it takes effect in May, it will be the first policy in the Midwest and one of the most stringent policies in the country.

A majority of the city council did not vote for the ballot initiative, and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said he will seek an exemption for new construction, although it’s unclear if he could do so within the next year.

Rent-control advocates at Minneapolis City Hall on Tuesday did not lay out a specific policy they would like to see enacted, instead saying they want the “strongest policy that we can get.”

Following Tuesday’s election, the new council will become slightly more moderate, meaning it’s unlikely they’ll pass an ordinance as stringent as St. Paul’s.

Under Minnesota law, cities are prohibited from enacting rent control unless approved by a majority of voters in a general election. If the Minneapolis City Council approves a policy, they may send it back to voters in a future general election for ratification, as advised by the city attorney.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.