Who are we?
We are a coalition of groups representing St. Paul neighborhoods and constituents, focused on housing justice and rooted in community, specifically in low-wealth communities of color most affected by economic inequality.
Why housing justice? Housing is the foundation to a healthy life, and a social determinant of education, health and other outcomes. In the United States, housing has also been a foundation for racism, discrimination and exclusion through financial, criminal justice and urban planning institutions. By focusing on housing justice, we have the potential for the largest positive impact on resident stability, and immense leverage for significant intersectional systems change. The current pandemic makes it as clear as ever how critical safe and stable housing is to our ability to not only survive in our communities, but thrive.
What are our shared values and principles?
We are rooted in the reality that our current housing system does not work for everyone, and thus, does not work at all. Long before the pandemic started, communities of color and low-wealth communities were experiencing a housing crisis. This has only been exacerbated by the current situation. In our work with renters every day, we see how structural realities jeopardize community stability. In St. Paul, 51% of residents are renters, and of those, the overwhelming majority are both households of color and disproportionately cost-burdened.
With the COVID-19 pandemic cleaving a deeper divide into existing inequities, all of us, especially governments and institutions, need to radically change the ways we respond (or don’t respond) to crises. Now is the time to prioritize a response that elevates those who are most vulnerable. This necessitates the acknowledgement that those who are most vulnerable are a result of the decisions society has made about who is valuable and worth helping. Now, more than ever, we must prioritize renters and low-wealth communities of color.
We call for policies that protect tenants, and advance community control of land and housing that supports equitable housing conditions for all residents. Housing is a right, not a commodity. When we view housing as merely another investment opportunity, we not only fail our renters, but everyone who calls St. Paul home. By failing to acknowledge the critical role of equitable housing in public health, we neglect the health of the city as a whole. By failing to treat housing as a right, we perpetuate the accumulation and extraction of wealth from low-wealth communities of color. Everyone deserves safety and dignity in their housing status.
What are we fighting for?
We have a set of demands for St. Paul City Council, ranging from immediate to medium-term
We demand full support and passage of the S.A.F.E. Housing ordinance to protect renters’ most basic rights.
We demand a city-wide rent freeze. Given the current economic crisis, any increases in rent should be considered price-gouging.
We demand a citywide vote on the November 2021 ballot to support a rent control ordinance in St. Paul. With our city charter, St. Paul has the unique opportunity to be statewide leader in rent stabilization policy.
We demand city advocacy at the state legislature to lift the pre-emption on municipalities to enact rent stabilization ordinances.
We demand increased and sustained funding for community ownership models, such as limited equity cooperatives and community land trusts. This will be critical to prevent outcomes like those of the 2008 foreclosure crisis, after which the proportion of non-local investor-owned properties skyrocketed across the country.
For most of us, this time is filled with fear and uncertainty. However, we should also recognize the multitude of possibilities to foster justice and equity. Right now, the very systems and structures that have discriminated against, disinvested from and excluded our communities are beginning to crumble. The narratives and ideologies that have conditioned us to put individual wealth and success above collective well-being and public good are reaching a breaking point.
This period provides an opportunity to reimagine and rebuild. Now is the time to serve the most impacted and vulnerable through the framework of targeted universalism. In this way, we will ensure that broad policies serve every household, thereby creating racially and economically equitable systems.
Follow us on Facebook for updates and ways to take action!