Alliance calls on City Council to protect a strong rent stabilization policy
On September 7, the Alliance testified in opposition to an ordinance seeking to undermine the rent stabilization policy passed by St. Paul voters in November 2021.
My name is Juan Luis Rivera-Reyes and I’m a Coalition Organizer at the Alliance. The Alliance works in coalition to advance justice and equity in economic growth and land development in the Twin Cities region. Given the critical importance of housing access, stability and justice in our communities, we were proud to be a member of the Keep St. Paul Home campaign that mobilized thousands of voters to support a rent stabilization policy that could be a model in its strength, scope, and flexibility — not just for the Twin Cities, but for the region, state and nation.
Personally, I was born in St. Paul and have hopes of returning as a renter. As someone who has experienced housing instability, the rent stabilization policy gave me confidence and pride that both voters and policymakers were taking necessary and just steps to make it possible for people like me to put down roots and call St. Paul Home.
So, as a renter and organizer, I’m strongly opposed to Ordinance 22-37 as currently written.
The policy voters approved in November was deeply researched and carefully crafted by renters, researchers, and housing experts to avoid the pitfalls of rent stabilization policies in other cities, including closing loopholes that undermine the intended protections for renters. So let’s be clear: The changes proposed by Ordinance 22-37 are not based on any oversight, failure or even evaluation of our policy, which has barely been in effect for four months. These proposed changes cater directly to the scare tactics of the landlord lobby and big developers who want to protect their supposed right to unlimited profits.
For instance, the new construction exemption is a solution in search of a problem. This carveout gives incentive for landlords to tear down critically important, unsubsidized affordable housing, replacing it with housing that is exempt from rent stabilization. Knowing that permitting application rates are actually surging, it is unclear why a new construction exemption is needed at this time. If we must move forward with a new construction exemption, we support Councilmember Jalali’s proposal to limit it to 15 years, with no look back period.
In addition, the exemption for affordable housing would disproportionately impact low-wealth, BIPOC, disabled, queer, immigrant, elderly, and families with young children — the people who need these protections the most. Excluding affordable housing from rent stabilization would remove protections from nearly 20,000 St. Paul renters and further entrench racial inequities in our housing system. We support Councilmember Jalali’s amendment to ensure tenants in affordable housing are included in the rent stabilization policy as the voters intended.
Rent stabilization is one of the many tools in the toolbox we have to Keep St. Paul Home for everyone — and we urge you to uphold the will of the voters and keep our policy strong by rejecting the changes proposed by Ordinance 22-37. Thanks for your time and the opportunity to testify.