MINNEAPOLIS- As a resident of our city of nearly 500,000 citizens, and someone concerned about the explosion of luxury apartments while affordable housing stock declines, I’m seeking other Minneapolitans help.

We’ve all seen it: taller and taller apartment complexes that offer 1 or 2-bedrooms upwards of $1000-$1500 per month. Areas of the city that may have been relatively affordable for working-class or working-poor citizens, now pricing these citizens out.

Landlords or management companies that seem to prefer suddenly increasing rents or ignoring renter’s concerns about broken doors, windows, pests, mold.

I recently sought some answers from our city government, and one official was very helpful and gracious. But more on that later.

Unfortunately, after reaching out by phone and e-mail over the last month to officials in the Minneapolis Mayor’s Office, no dice. A recent copy of my questions to the Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications Director, and Mayor’s Office Associate of Betsy Hodges:

From Sept. 7:

My previous e-mail outlined questions I had regarding affordable housing, but basically I’m conducting an article on the rapid growth of market-rate/luxury housing in Minneapolis. As both a Minneapolis resident and writer, I’m very interested in researching the current climate and trends that seem to indicate a decline in affordable housing, especially through NOAH and land-use/zoning policies.

I learned recently that the mayor increased money for a city housing trust dedicated to preserving affordable housing. But I was wondering what other steps the mayor has and would take to protect affordable housing in the city? Does the mayor think that private development of apartments and homes, especially within the luxury housing boom, is accelerating at the expense of affordable housing construction? Can these two housing trends co-exist in Minneapolis in an equitable way?

In addition, it recently came to my attention that the Minneapolis city attorney recommended against Minneapolis conducting a referendum on rent control. (See: attachment below) I was curious of the mayor’s response and stance on rent control in Minneapolis? Would she support the voters deciding via referendum? (Through exception rule of attached statute) 

There are a few more particular questions I have, but I’d appreciate getting an initial response from the mayor’s office. Thanks for facilitating,

Forrester Pack

University of MN-School of Journalism and Mass Communication 2016

 

The attachment I was referencing in the e-mail was pointed out to me by a very helpful Minneapolis City Council member. This is a state law that prohibits cities from enacting rent control policies, unless voters approve a rent control measure by referendum. The council member did mention that the Minneapolis City Attorney recommended against the legality of such an exception being possible… much the same way the Minneapolis City Attorney recommended against the city council holding a $15 minimum wage vote last summer. Here’s the state law, which can also be viewed at https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=471.9996

 

471.9996 RENT CONTROL PROHIBITED.

Subdivision 1.In general.

No statutory or home rule charter city, county, or town may adopt or renew by ordinance or otherwise any law to control rents on private residential property except as provided in subdivision 2. This section does not impair the right of any statutory or home rule charter city, county, or town:

(1) to manage or control property in which it has a financial interest through a housing authority or similar agency;

(2) to contract with a property owner;

(3) to act as required or authorized by laws or regulations of the United States government or this state; or

(4) to mediate between property owners and tenants for the purpose of negotiating rents.

Subd. 2.Exception.

Subdivision 1 does not preclude a statutory or home rule charter city, county, or town from controlling rents on private residential property to the extent that the city, county, or town has the power to adopt an ordinance, charter amendment, or law to control these rents if the ordinance, charter amendment, or law that controls rents is approved in a general election. Subdivision 1 does not limit any power or authority of the voters of a statutory or home rule charter city, county, or town to petition for an ordinance or charter amendment to control rents on private residential property to the extent that the power or authority is otherwise provided for by law, and if the ordinance or charter amendment is approved in a general election. This subdivision does not grant any additional power or authority to the citizens of a statutory or home rule charter city, county, or town to vote on any question beyond that contained in other law.

Subdivision 1 does not apply to any statutory city unless the citizens of the statutory city have the authority to vote on the issue of rent control granted by other law.

History: 

1984 c 551 s 1

 

Reasonable questions, I believe. Not only for our current and possibly repeat mayor, but other candidates vying to represent the Mill City. Why can’t rent control be put to a citizens’ vote? What is the legal rationale? Can elected officials on the city council, the mayor’s office, and the state legislature work to change the laws? Rent control can be a serious remedy worth considering in this era of wealth inequality and disappearing affordable housing.

As Renter Week of Action continues, we residents should seek answers from all those in upcoming elections, as well as continue to bring dialogue and spotlights to these important issues.

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