Organizers Win Strong Tenant Protections’ Ordinance in St. Paul
From left: HENS leaders Tram Hoang from the Alliance, Shaquonna Jackson from the Southeast Community Organization, and Michael McDowell and Monica Bravo from the West Side Community Organization
Statement from Housing Equity Now St. Paul (HENS) on passage of S.A.F.E. Housing ordinance
For years, community-based organizations in St. Paul have been engaging and organizing with tenants who have urged city leaders to protect and enhance the rights of renter households. Today, the City Council took important steps toward building lasting renter power with the unanimous passage of the S.A.F.E. Housing ordinance.
In response to the growing number of renter households of color in St. Paul and the essential role of housing in advancing and achieving racial equity, the Housing Equity Now! St. Paul (HENS) came together as a coalition of community-based organizations that center and elevate the voices of those most impacted by economic and housing injustice. Over the course of just a few months, the HENS coalition was supported by individuals and organizations across the city, mobilizing powerful community input that held elected officials accountable and ensured the passage of a strong, impactful ordinance — not one riddled with exemptions.
This policy victory is thanks to the tireless work of community leaders who have been calling for these modest reforms over many years — and the community members who have newly joined this movement to support tenants rights over the past several months. This win would not have been possible without the leadership of allied city staff within the Office of Financial Empowerment, Planning and Economic Development and the consistent and tenacious efforts from Councilmembers Mitra Jalali and Nelsie Yang to safeguard the most important aspects of this ordinance, from the start of this process, so it would have real and lasting impact in our communities.
With the passage of the S.A.F.E. Housing ordinance, we are proud that our city has become the first in the state with Just Cause protections, which will prevent many informal evictions and protect thousands of households from displacement. Tenant screening adjustments will expand housing access to communities that are harmed by unjust practices in the criminal justice, finance, and housing systems. Security Deposit caps will make housing more accessible to low-wage earners. 90-day Advance Notice will not only give households more time to relocate, but will also lay the groundwork for a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase policy, through which the city can increase homeownership and community ownership.
We also know that these measures are just the initial steps toward equity and empowerment for St. Paul renters. Tenant protections MUST be paired with measures that contain skyrocketing rents that are pushing families out of their communities every single day. More than 50% of St. Paul renters pay more than they afford for housing and even a $20 increase — let alone a hike of several hundreds dollars, which we’ve seen across the city — is the difference between staying in place or being cast into chaos and homelessness. Stabilizing rents is essential to housing stability.
As we celebrate the positive impact the S.A.F.E. Housing ordinance will have on thousands of our neighbors, we call on the city to prioritize not just tenant protections but tenant power. For long-term solutions, city leaders need to prioritize and create policies that actively increase community ownership models and create pathways for tenants to come together and decide the future of the place they call home.
We are excited to continue this movement and invite you to join us! Learn more at wsco.org/hens and follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/housingequitynowstp
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