We are less than a month away from Saint Paul voters deciding if the city will be burdened with the toughest rent control law in the country. The ordinance, initiated by Housing Equity Now Saint Paul (HENS), is well-intentioned, as are those who support it. Unfortunately, the ordinance is flawed and will be harmful to the residents of Saint Paul.

As property owners, we know and deeply care about our BIPOC residents. There have been a lot of generalized statements regarding how housing providers treat BIPOC residents, with no supporting evidence. We embrace all residents, especially those who bring diversity to our community.

HENS has made broad allegations of unjust rent increases, but has not shown any Saint Paul data. Meanwhile, property owners have faced historically large increases in operating expenses (e.g., property taxes, wages, insurance and materials). This needs to be considered when discussing rent increases.

Saint Paul needs to maintain our existing older apartment buildings. Rent control has a history of discouraging investments in those buildings…. These buildings need constant maintenance and updating. With rent control, housing providers would be handcuffed deciding between paying their monthly bills and upgrading their buildings.

We believe our city has a stable rental market that reflects rising costs. If a housing provider proposes an unfair rental increase, tenants often move to a different apartment. Housing providers don’t want to lose tenants. If a tenant can’t afford to move to a different apartment or can’t afford market rent, that is often an issue with income, not rental practices. We all need to help those in need, but those efforts should be led by the city. That does not mean we need rent control.

Saint Paul needs to maintain our existing older apartment buildings. Rent control has a history of discouraging investments in those buildings. Most of the apartment units in Saint Paul are between 50 and 100 years old. These buildings need constant maintenance and updating. With rent control, housing providers would be handcuffed deciding between paying their monthly bills and upgrading their buildings.

Our city needs to welcome new apartment development. The HENS ordinance would push housing development out of our city. Less development means fewer apartments and lower property tax revenue. Both of these would be terrible for homeowners and renters alike, forcing tough choices between raising taxes or cutting budgets.

The value of existing apartment buildings would be negatively impacted by this ordinance. While proponents may not care about this impact on larger corporate housing providers, there are many mom-and-pop property owners who would be negatively impacted.

Housing and income inequality are real and complex issues that should concern all Saint Paul residents. Private-market housing providers should never be forced to bear the entire burden of solving these deep social issues. Solving these issues should be led by city, county and state government. 

The 3 percent cap on rent increases is ridiculous. The current inflation rate is 5.3 percent. Expenses are consistently increasing more than 3 percent per year. And everywhere else in the nation, rent control increases are tied to the consumer price index or are set at a much higher rate. We all have seen and heard about huge increases in real estate taxes, wages, material costs, insurance, etc. Three percent does not come close to matching the increases we are experiencing now and are likely to experience in the future. HENS has made many inaccurate investment assumptions and anecdotal generalizations about rent control outcomes and effects that should not be taken seriously by the public.

Finally, why was there no community engagement before drafting this ordinance? Many local housing providers, homeowners and others in Saint Paul would have welcomed being part of a dialogue.

Housing and income inequality are real and complex issues that should concern all Saint Paul residents. Private-market housing providers should never be forced to bear the entire burden of solving these deep social issues. Solving these issues should be led by city, county and state government.

There is a clear understanding from nearly all non-biased economists that rent control does not relieve housing shortages. Our valued renters need help from our community in the form of more housing options, more rental vouchers and better jobs. Rent control is not the answer.

Let’s help Saint Paul and vote “no” on rent control on November 2.

— Joe Hughes, Ed Conley, Will Rolf,
Bill Dunnigan and Matt Jackson

The writers all own multifamily rental housing in Saint Paul.

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