The City Council is considering two charter amendments that would give Minneapolis residents the opportunity to pursue Rent Stabilization. What are the charter amendments, why are they happening, and what do they mean?
You may have heard about a state preemption for rent stabilization. Minnesota state law says that no city or county can exercise control over rents unless the citizens vote on it in a general election. This means that the City Council can’t just create a rent stabilization or rent control policy; Minneapolis has to vote on it.
What is Rent Stabilization?
While the city isn’t at the stage to discuss details, the big-picture idea is a limit on how much a landlord can increase rent every year. Small increases, usually tied to cost of living, are allowed, but a landlord can’t dramatically increase the rents. While there is no one policy that will solve Minneapolis’s housing crisis, this could be an effective tool to work with other renter protection policies and funding for affordable housing to stabilize the market and prevent displacement. There are a lot of details that would need to be worked out to form an effective policy, but first there has to be a change to the charter to allow that conversation and debate.
What do the charter amendments say?
The first charter amendment gives the City Council the authority to exercise control over rents in Minneapolis. They would then be able to pass a rent stabilization policy as they would any other policy, and there would still be opportunities for public input and engagement as the policy is formed. Because this has never been done in Minnesota, it also says that if a lawsuit blocks the City Council they can put a rent stabilization policy on the ballot in 2022.
The second amendment gives citizens of Minneapolis the ability to draft a referendum that would go on the 2022 ballot for the sole purpose of rent stabilization. This would be a community-led process that would require a certain number of petition signatures before going on the ballot, and then would need to get a majority vote in November of 2022.
Both of these amendments need to be approved by the City Council and passed to the Charter Commission to get on the ballot this November, and then would require a public vote to pass. If they pass, City Council and/or Minneapolis citizens could begin work on a rent stabilization policy in January of 2022. If they don’t pass, rent stabilization likely wouldn’t happen in Minneapolis for a long time.
Why two amendments? Because of the state pre-emption, there are a lot of complicated legal factors. While the City Council members who authored these amendments have been working with the Attorney General’s office, there are sure to be legal challenges. Council members believe that advancing both charter amendments gives the best chance at a successful path to rent stabilization.
So why can’t Minneapolis residents vote on rent stabilization in November? The Minneapolis City Charter lays out a pathway for citizens to vote on Charter Amendments, but not policies or referendums like Rent Stabilization. So, the first step is to change the City’s Charter so that Minneapolis can have conversations about what a rent stabilization policy could look like.
The Policy and Government Oversight Committee will host a public hearing on these charter amendments on February 24th at 1:30 pm. You can sign up to testify here.
If you want to learn more about Rent Stabilization as a policy, there is a study session from CURA planned for February 23rd at 1:30 pm. Even if you can’t catch it live, it’ll be available on the City of Minneapolis’s Youtube page.
Remember, the City is not at the stage where they are debating the merits of rent stabilization or details of the policy; the question at hand now is should Minneapolis residents have the option to vote on rent stabilization? Should Minneapolis be able to consider and propose a rent stabilization policy?