BY CAM GORDON
On April 14, the Minneapolis City Council took a step forward towards implementing the rent stabilization charter amendment approved by voters last November.
They voted to establish a work group.
The idea was proposed by Council President Andrea Jenkins at the first Council meeting of this term. In light of the city attorney’s recommendation that a rent stabilization ordinance should be put before the voters to comply with state law, Jenkins proposed that a stakeholders’ group be established to craft a proposal to go on the ballot in November of 2023.
At that meeting some council members, including Council Member Aisha Chughtai, expressed concern and questioned the need for an external work group when staff and council members had the capacity to develop a policy based on the work that was completed before the measure was put on the ballot in 2021 with the help of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA).
Jenkins’ proposal resurfaced again on March 24 on a committee agenda with a more detailed plan. There it was postponed on Chughtai’s request so that she could craft an alternative.
Then, on April 14, two competing proposals were brought to the Council for consideration.
Chughtai’s proposal called on staff to work with the CURA to develop a policy that would include details on a rent cap, exemptions, exceptions, and a plan for implementation and enforcement.
A policy outline would return to the Council by May 12, followed by extensive community input to inform a finalized policy that would come back for approval by July 21, in time to submit a ballot question to voters at the Nov. 8, 2022, election. “Keeping people in their homes and keeping people in the communities they love, that is why I ran for office,” she said. “I owe it to my constituents, and I think we, as a city, owe it to our people, to at least try to the best of our ability to act with the urgency they need.”
Jenkins’ proposal called for the creation of a facilitated 23-person work group to develop the policy and a timeline aimed at submitting a question to voters in 2023. “We need to proceed with haste, but we must be deliberate,” she said. “We must act with the best long-term interest of our entire community in mind, not just the asks from certain parts of our community.”
Chughtai’s substitute proposal was voted down 5-7,with Chughtai, Payne, Ellison, Chavez and Wonsley Worlobah supporting it.
When the Jenkins resolution was considered, amendments were proposed. One noteworthy amendment came after the Council voted to add seats for Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia and the Minnesota Multi-Housing Association to the work group. They then voted against adding a seat for Minneapolis United for Rent Control, a coalition that was active in supporting the rent stabilization amendment in 2021. This failed on a 5-7 vote with Vetaw, Rainville, Goodman, Osman, Koski, Palmisano and Jenkins voting against adding the organization to the work group.
“The conservative-majority City Council went out of its way with a vote to keep our coalition, Minneapolis United for Rent Control – which includes unions of nurses, transit workers, professional employees, teachers, alongside students, clergy, and more from all across the city – off the Work Group,” the coalition wrote after the meeting.
“Strong rent control is already backed by a city study,” they continued, “and voting to bar organizations that advocate for strong rent control from the Work Group is essentially voting to bury the results of the Council’s own taxpayer funded study.”
The resolution passed, as amended, 12-0. The work group will consist of 25 people, 12 appointed by the City Council and mayor and 13 chosen by the Community Planning and Economic Development Director, Andrea Brennan.
“The makeup of the work group is designed to ensure all views on housing/rent stabilization will have a seat at the table as a policy is crafted to meet the needs of our city,”said Michael Rainville (Ward 3). “I am confident that we will see a balanced policy that will bring certainty to renters and landlords while housing development and rehabilitation is not reduced as the rent control policy in St. Paul has done.”
Minneapolis United for Rent Control is concerned that the delay and work group may lead to a weakened policy. “The conservative-majority of the council will hide behind this Work Group,” they wrote,” where corporate interests will have disproportionate power.”
“We authorized staff to begin the process for establishing a 25-person work group that will be comprised of stakeholders, including renters, landlords, advocacy groups, developers,” said Jenkins. “We will ensure there is a commitment to crafting a policy that will be beneficial to the most marginalized members of our community.”
Jenkins said that the group should be formed by June and could have a specific proposal ready by the end of 2022, in time to be on the ballot in November 2023.
Depending on the implementation and enforcement timeline, it will be at least another 1½ to 2 years before any program will be implemented to help stabilize rents in Minneapolis.