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City Council election to determine future of Minneapolis rent control

If the election results in nine supporters of rent control on the Council, voters could see rent control in the 2024 November election.
Image by Gabrielle Erenstein
Minneapolis City Hall on March 26, 2023.

Two years after voters approved a ballot question to allow the Minneapolis City Council to build rent control policies and with no rent control policy in sight, the Nov. 7 election will decide the future of rent control in Minneapolis.

The council’s latest rent stabilization effort was cut short in June after a vote to craft a new policy was held while three Muslim rent control supporters on the council were away observing Eid al-Adha. The policy, recommended by a workgroup composed of renters, advocates and realtors, would have banned annual rent increases of more than 3% with exemptions for maintenance improvements.

The policy’s death may have been inevitable since Mayor Jacob Frey vowed to veto it if passed over fears it would negatively impact affordable housing. However, supporters argue the vote was Islamophobic and eliminated any opportunity for compromise or public input.

C Terrence Anderson, director of community-based research at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), said as the housing crisis worsens more renters are pushing the council to support rent control.

“Tenants are interested in rent control because of more or less the condition of housing and the price of housing,” Anderson said. “Rents are rising faster than their income.”

The median cost of apartments for new renters in Minneapolis was more than $1,700 in May 2022, according to a report from Redfin, a national real estate analysis company.

Rent control advocates said rent control is needed to curb rising housing prices, according to Anderson. Opponents said rent control will lead to fewer real estate developments in Minneapolis which will ultimately hurt renters.

Daniel Suitor, a HOME Line housing attorney providing legal help for renters and a member of the city’s workgroup, said in the two years since the ballot question, Frey and the council have not allowed the public to debate or contribute to rent control.

Suitor said for rent control to pass, it will either require a weaker policy or more rent control supporters on the council.

“Any kind of rent stabilization policy is going to have to learn how to count to nine to get a veto-proof majority,” Suitor said. “I don’t think the mayor will approve any rent stabilization policy. I just don’t believe it.”

The number of rent control supporters on the Council will determine the strength of a rent control policy or if a policy is even made at all, according to Suitor. With nine supporters, there would be enough votes to override a potential Frey veto.

Suitor added if the initial rent control effort passed, councilmembers would have debated and compromised on a policy that could have been sent to voters for approval.

Ed Goetz, director of CURA, said in a majority-renter city, many voters will vote for a candidate based on the candidate’s rent control beliefs.

“Most of the voters are renters,” Goetz said. “A candidate’s position on rent stabilization is going to be very important.”

Of the 13 wards up for election, 11 of them have candidates who stand on both sides of the argument.

While there is no rent control ballot question this upcoming election, Suitor said the makeup of the next council will decide the future of rent control in Minneapolis.

“If the council elections go the right way, there will definitely be an option to get some rent stabilization policy on the ballot,” Suitor said.

Renter and University student Kyle Berg said the council needs to create a policy to strengthen renter protections.

“I’m absolutely hoping the council moves forward with a rent control ordinance of some kind,” Berg said. “It’s absurd when landlords are able to raise a rent that some tenants aren’t even able to pay.”

Suitor said as renters struggle to make payments, it is important the council brings rent control to voters, even if the policy is not as strong as he would like.

“Getting something is better than nothing,” Suitor said.

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