Saint Paul STRONG rental housing panel highlights need for action ahead of May 1st

On Tuesday, February 8th, St. Paul STRONG sponsored a discussion moderated by STRONG member Andy Dawkins, covering possible potential challenges, benefits, and amendments to the 3% rent cap passed by referendum last fall. The discussion was live streamed on YouTube (replay available) and televised on the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network

The diverse participants included:  Alan Arthur, immediate former director of Aeon, a local, non-profit affordable housing developer; Jim Poradek, a housing rights attorney for the Housing Justice Center and authors of the referendum; Bob Lux, founder of Alatus, a local real estate development company; Abu Nayeem, a tenant and activist; Kou Vang, owner of JB Realty, and Elizabeth Dickinson, a small landlord.

During the discussion, there was common agreement in a number of areas, including the need for government and developers to fund more truly affordable housing, particularly deeply-affordable housing aimed at those living at or below 30% of average median income.  Particularly highlighted was the urgent need for local city officials, including the mayor and city council, to speedily convene the long-promised, diverse advisory group, so the city can provide direction and guidance in advance of the May 1st rent cap implementation date.

As a result of the discussion and subsequent media coverage, St. Paul STRONG is compiling a list of possible solutions and amendments to the 3% cap that arose during the discussion which it will release on this website and through op-eds.  Some of those solutions may include: requiring landlord rental licenses to operate in St. Paul to increase oversight, safety, and compliance with existing and future ordinances; changing tax codes, including codes to incentivize small landlords to sell their properties to nonprofits vs. institutional investors; and finding non-blanket exemptions for new construction and vacancy decontrols.

As moderator Andy Dawkins concluded: “This forum has resulted in a number of options and solutions on which we have found some broad agreement.  The upcoming test is for the city to find ways to listen to all voices, and to implement those suggestions into policies that make the policy fair and equitable for all, while preserving the intent of the ordinance.”

We will be posting more details of the issues raised and some potential solutions suggested by the panel in the coming days and weeks, and paying close attention to how this issue moves forward. Please follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest from Saint Paul STRONG.