Rent Stabilization Charter Amendment

Learn how Council President Bender and Council Members Gordon & Ellison propose to change the charter to allow for rent stabilization in Minneapolis.

The problem we are looking to solve

Renters have very little control over their housing costs, leaving them at the mercy of the market. Currently, landlords may raise rental prices with no limitations and without providing justification.

Rents in many parts of our city have increased faster than renters’ incomes, especially for renters of color and renters with the lowest incomes. Prior to the COVID Pandemic, Minneapolis rents were increasing at record levels. Over half of Minneapolis households rent their homes. And over half of renters earn less than 60% of the area median income. Of those families, more than three-quarters paid more than 30% of their income on housing and nearly half paid more than half of their income on housing. [1] Families spending so much of their income on housing are less able to cover their basic needs, and are at higher risk of homelessness.

These cost-burdened households are disproportionately likely to be members of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and immigrant communities. In 2016, there was not a single neighborhood in the city of Minneapolis where a Black household with the median income for Black renters could afford the median-priced rental unit. [2]

Our proposed solution

Cities in Minnesota must seek authority from voters in a general election to enact rent stabilization. Minneapolis currently lacks any process for putting a question before voters, other than proposing an amendment to the City Charter. It is clear that the Charter is not the appropriate place for this kind of specific policy language. Therefore, we are proposing to create processes in the Charter through which the Council or the people may enact rent stabilization.

The proposed Charter amendments will allow either the Council, or the people of Minneapolis by a petition process, to adopt a rent stabilization law. There are two proposed amendments, which: 

  1. Council initiative: Provide the Minneapolis City Council the power to adopt a rent stabilization ordinance or put a rent stabilization ordinance to the voters, and
  2. Resident initiative: Provide a petition process for residents to put a rent stabilization ordinance to voters.

When these Charter amendments pass, they will not, on their own, create a rent stabilization policy. Rather, they will give the Council and the people of Minneapolis all possible options to adopt a rent stabilization policy through the methods allowed under current state law.

Work that has been done to date

In May 2018, elected officials, city staff, and community leaders from 10 cities around the country were brought together by PolicyLink to form the Anti-Displacement Policy Network. Council Vice President Jenkins and Council Member Ellison represented the Minneapolis City Council in this work. Rent stabilization was a clear focus of the community forums held in Minneapolis. Community recommendations included “Stronger tenant protections, such as support for tenants facing eviction, right of first refusal policies, training for landlords, rights to organize for cooperative ownership and rent control.” [3]

In 2019, the Council adopted a Renter First Housing Policy [4], which articulated the vision for Minneapolis that “all residents who rent their homes will live in safe, dignified, stable, and healthy housing.”

The City Council unanimously funded a rent stabilization study as part of the 2020 annual budget, adopted in December 2019. That study is now being conducted by the University of Minnesota Humphrey School Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA).

Timeline

To put these questions on the 2021 ballot, the Council must act by the end of February to send the proposed Charter language to the Charter Commission, in order to give the Minneapolis Charter Commission 150 days to consider the amendment and return it to the Council for a decision on whether or not to place the amendment on the fall 2021 ballot.

By the end of 150 days, the Charter Commission may either recommend that the Council put our initial proposal forward to voters, recommend a substitute that they draft, or recommend that the question not move forward. When the Charter Commission returns its recommendations to the Council, the Council may vote to put forward the initial proposal, the Charter Commission’s substitute, or not put forward a question.

We expect to receive a final report from CURA on the rent stabilization study they are conducting in February, 2021.

Charter amendment questions require 51% or more of the votes cast on each question to pass.