Councilmember Jane Prince: Vote "No" On Rent Stabilization

Housing Hub stands behind St. Paul City Councilmember Jane Prince (Ward 7) and her stance on rent stabilization:

"As a strong affordable housing advocate on the city council (and throughout my career), I came to this ballot question intending to support rent stabilization. I had reviewed the CURA study and had talked to Professor Ed Goetz, its lead author.

That said, the rent control ordinance, which fails to follow much of the guidance of the CURA study, is far too blunt an instrument. The Saint Paul ballot ordinance will set back any progress we have made in increasing the supply of affordable housing in Saint Paul. And of particular concern for me, it will further victimize vulnerable low-income renters in the neighborhoods I represent.

I do not trade in scare tactics. I considered the letter of the proposed Saint Paul Rent Stabilization ordinance and immediately took grave issue with its ill-conceived provisions:

  • A 3 percent annual rent cap, instead of a cap tied to the Consumer Price index as recommended by CURA, and a cap that effectively puts a lid on property values in Saint Paul, hurting our city’s already fragile tax base.

  • There is no exemption for new construction – an exemption that is part of virtually every rent stabilization ordinance across the US. Without this exemption, we will be discouraging developers from coming here to help us increase our supply of units that is at the root of our housing affordability crisis.

  • There are no exceptions in the annual cap to account the increased costs of owning and maintaining housing, requiring property owners to file individual appeals, and leading to a bureaucratic morass at City Hall, which we have no idea how to staff or fund.

  • And as in every other city that has rent control across the country, the ordinance builds in a disincentive for property owners to perform routine maintenance and property upgrades to maintain our city’s housing stock.

Predatory landlords will not be discouraged if you vote “YES.” If I’m a predatory landlord of an average 2-bedroom unit, renting for $1K a month on the East Side, I am encouraged by this ordinance to raise rents $30/month or $360/year, compounded annually into perpetuity. And I’ve never worried about turnover – at the low end of the market where deeply affordable units are scarce -- I’ve always been able to rent my property!

Finally, Mayor Carter has irresponsibly assured you that if you vote “yes,” we at City Hall “will fix this ordinance quickly,” to make sure it fulfills your intended goals.

Not so fast, Mayor Carter. This week, the City Attorney – the Mayor’s own appointed attorney - advised the City Council that any substantive amendments to an ordinance passed by initiative will be viewed as “overturning the will of the voters.” Your city council will not be able to repair this ballot measure.

Saint Paul, I share your concern for those in our community who are victims of the current housing market. Like you, I wanted to vote “YES.” But please know, this poorly written ordinance – considered to be the strictest in the nation - that was not vetted through a public process and subject to economic analysis -- is not the answer.

I have no reason to engage in scare tactics. I’m sharing my truth."

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