Senate Republicans drop rent control ban from eviction moratorium off-ramp bill

    Photo by Will Jacott/Minnesota Reformer.

    Minnesota Senate Republicans have backed off a previous demand that would have prohibited Minneapolis and St. Paul from enacting rent control as both cities look to put the issue before voters this November.

    Dropping the ban on rent control was a significant concession during negotiations with House Democrats as urban DFL lawmakers’ constituents get ready to decide on rent stabilization schemes in the Twin Cities. 

    But lawmakers are still divided on other housing issues, especially on how to end the eviction moratorium in place since the beginning of the pandemic. 

    House Housing Chair Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said in a news release that the moratorium has saved lives, “and we cannot afford to replace this pandemic with an untenable wave of evictions.” 

    Senate Republicans, who released their latest offer moments before the House DFL held a news conference Wednesday, said in a letter to House Democrats that their eviction off-ramp bill passed the upper chamber with a large, bipartisan majority. It would grant protection to renters who are awaiting state rental assistance in the face of bureaucratic delays that have bedeviled the program, as the Reformer reported in April

    “The Senate’s view is that we need a true, bipartisan eviction off-ramp, not an extension of the governor’s burdensome policy for housing providers,” the offer letter reads. “The House took the opposite approach, instead passing a partisan eviction extension bill that also included significant and controversial landlord/tenant law changes.” 

    The two sides are also divided on how to apportion housing construction bonds. 

    Despite the sharp rhetoric, Rep. Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield, said the two sides should be able to bridge the gap. 

    He said the main sticking points are how long the so-called off-ramp should be. The Senate wants the eviction lifted 105 days after the bill is signed, while the House wants 135 days. 

    The House, Howard said, wants renters to be given adequate notice that rental assistance is available and notice that they could face eviction if they don’t apply for rental assistance. 

    “We’re doing more talking about each other than to each other,” Howard said of the current impasse, “But if we can get together it shouldn’t be that hard.” 

    The housing debate is just one of many faced by the nation’s only divided Legislature, which needs to finalize a two year budget by June 30 or state government will shut down. 

    Lawmakers will return to the Capitol Monday for a special legislative session to try to work out the differences in areas like education spending, public safety and health and human services.

    J. Patrick Coolican
    J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.