Editorial: Proactive policy can solve Twin Cities housing issues

New tenant protection ordinances should be the first step in a line of new housing policy.

Daily Editorial Board

A new Minneapolis ordinance aims to protect residents living in affordable housing. This includes over 1,000 units near the University of Minnesota campus. The ordinance, which passed earlier this month, will ultimately protect students from rent increases and offers renters time to look for alternative housing when appropriate. This is a great measure taken to protect students’ renting rights and ensure students have access affordable housing near campus.

The tenant protection ordinance, which applies to units priced between 30 to 60 percent of the median income, requires landlords to notify the city and tenants 60 days before housing units are sold — specifically for a building with more than five affordable housing units. Furthermore, the 60-day notice is meant to give tenants time to search for alternative housing and promotes transparency between landlords and tenants.

Earlier this year, neighboring cities passed similar ordinances, though none quite as extensive as Minneapolis. St. Louis Park, the first city in Minnesota to adopt such an ordinance, requires new owners of affordable housing to pay relocation fees to tenants due to rent increase and other circumstances. Additionally, Richfield has passed a similar 90-day ordinance, which offers similar protection rights.

In Austin, Texas, the Austin Tenants Council assists tenants, including low-income families and students, in bettering their housing conditions. The ATC continuously helps residents face poor living conditions, outrageous rent and housing discrimination. Further, the ATC continuously enacts new policies, like the tenant relocation ordinance, to aid renters in their housing struggles.

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When comparing Minneapolis’ ordinance to those of neighboring cities, it’s clear the ordinance aims to provide distinct protection and has been enacted to protect renting rights. For the University community, the measure will greatly assist students who are displaced due to rent increase or sale of property. However, the city can work toward further protections by modeling policies after other large cities, such as Austin.

Moreover, the City Council is considering introducing a renters’ bill of rights early next year. While it’s unclear what may be included in that measure, the goals of protection remain the same. 

The ordinance is the first measure needed in protecting affordable housing and renting rights, especially for the University community. With rent steadily increasing across the city, it’s important that City Council recognized the need for affordable housing, especially for students. However, Minneapolis should be introducing and enforcing policy before housing stocks continue declining.

The city should look toward its larger city counterparts, like Austin, in creating new policies that protect residents. We need to be proactive, instead of reactive, and tenant protection ordinances should be our small first step to addressing housing-related issues in the Twin Cities.

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