We did it!
The S.A.F.E. Housing Tenant Protection Ordinance passed City Council with unanimous support this Wednesday, making St. Paul home to the strongest renter rights in Minnesota. This ordinance is the result of community efforts- so thank you to all you West Siders who came out to support this issue by giving our Council member Rebecca Noecker a call!
Starting March 1st of 2021, this ordinance will change five points of tenant-landlord law:
- capping security deposits at one month’s rent
- reforming tenant screening criteria (with regards to credit scores and criminal history)
- forbidding landlords from terminating leases without a “Just Cause” in writing
- requiring landlords of affordable housing to give advance notice of sale and
- requiring landlords to provide tenants with a manuel on their rights and responsibilities
Just Cause is in particular a huge cause (if I may) for celebration! Just Cause means that a lease can’t be non-renewed or terminated for no reason. Landlords must provide a defined reason, in writing, that falls within certain categories like nonpayment of rent or illegal activity to end a tenant’s lease. Only a handful of cities in the country have Just Cause provisions, which are proven to reduce evictions and so increase renter stability. For a city that had (before now) virtually no unique tenant protections, Just Cause can be counted as a major victory for Saint Paul renters.
These tenant protections, though still humble in many ways, will shift the current power imbalance between landlords and renters and address several racist practices of our current housing market (namely evictions and screening guidelines, which most negatively affect Black renters). Housing and land are always entangled with race. Who gets to take up space (physical or social?) Who is expendable, evictable, displaceable? What processes of racial capitalism have shaped the conditions of our houses, the neighborhoods we call home, the city we live in. The U.S. landscape is marked by racist violence. Land theft from Indigneous peoples, redlining and racial covenants, urban “renewal,” predatory lending and debt-as-control. The architecture of our relation to space is buttressed by racist policy.
We’re up against a lot! Individually, we all come to the work of community organizing from different generational and personal experiences. But we can work together toward a future where housing is a right, not a commodity.
The SAFE Housing Ordinance is a step toward that future. It might be a baby step in the grand scheme, but let’s celebrate it!
Join WSCO and our coalition partners with Housing Equity Now St. Paul at a *socially distant* party at our beloved Icy Cup, this Tuesday, July 14th at 5:30 - 7pm.
Enjoy cheesy fries, churro sundaes, community speakers, and feel the neighborhood love from 6 feet away! Bring your own mask, and we’ll have lots of hand sanitizer.
Thank you, West Siders!
p.s. I think this article from the Minnesota Reformer does a good job of explaining the ordinance in more detail, if you’re curious!