St. Paul Voters Could Pass the Nation's Strictest Rent Stabilization Ordinance

The extremely strict proposal would eliminate sharp rent increases, but could stifle housing construction and worsen the city's housing crisis.

September 10, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

St. Paul Minnesota

CC0 / Public Domain / Good Free Photos

Bill Lindeke describes the details of St. Paul's proposed rent stabilization ordinance, which, if passed by voters in November, "would place unprecedented restrictions on the construction of new housing," leaving "an open question what it would do to the city’s housing market."

As proposed, "[t]he law would cap rent increases for all of the city’s 65,000 rented homes at 3% per year, but includes a complicated list of factors that allow landlords to apply for a variances — things like property taxes, maintenance issues, capital improvements (only if needed to bring a building to code), and a few others." According to Shane Phillips, author of The Affordable City, "historically, rent control policies have sometimes made housing crises worse by reducing the size and quality of the housing supply." Consequently, most of today's rent stabilization programs are "explicitly designed to ensure that the housing supply keeps growing."

Lindeke points to three issues with the St. Paul plan that could exacerbate the city's housing crisis. First, the policy does not exempt new construction, which could discourage developers from building in the first place. Second, the plan does not account fo inflation, yet "[a]lmost every other program is pegged somehow to the consumer price index (CPI) or enlists a committee that sets annual rates based on local conditions." The third factor is the unusual step of controlling rent on vacant units, rather than for each individual tenant, creating a situation "rife for potential corruption" and discrimination.

"if the HENS proposal passes, it would put St. Paul on its own," says Lindeke, and "will almost certainly cause other problems that would make the housing crisis even worse."

Thursday, September 9, 2021 in Minneapolis Post

Soldier Field

Phase 1 Revealed for $20 Billion Chicago Megaproject

Plans for One Central, a proposed megadevelopment that would add 22.3 million square feet of buildings to the city of Chicago, are taking shape.

October 19, 2021 - Chicago Tribune


Boston Introduces 'Maximum Parking Ratios' for Large Buildings

Large buildings with uses of all kinds will be subject to Boston's new "Maximum Parking Ratios."

October 14, 2021 - Streetsblog Mass

A person in a bright green vest with the words "Covid Marshall" patrols a street fair in Australia.

5 Tips for Planning Safe Post-Pandemic Events

As community events start move off-screen and become available to the public again, here are five ways organizers can ensure public health and safety.

October 13, 2021 - Devin Partida

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.