City Councilmember Mitra Jalali posted this update on Saint Paul's rent stabilization policy on September 8, 2022:
"Tonight, the City Council held a public hearing on proposed amendments to rent stabilization and passed changes that significantly alter the policy for the worse. I spoke weeks ago at this draft ordinance’s introduction that I oppose the changes to our rent stabilization policy based on numerous concerns I have about what’s in the latest proposal.To address these issues, I worked very hard on and brought four tenant-focused amendments tonight that were voted on.Tenant notification (PASSED): I brought an amendment that requires the City to notify you as a renter if your landlord is requesting an exception to the policy, fixing the current problem of tenants not receiving any notice until the City has made a decision about the exception request, which is effectively far too late to do anything meaningful to contest it. The amendment also extends the amount of time you have as a renter to appeal a granted exception from 21 days to 45 days. This change will empower renters with equal time and information about decisions that impact them.Striking disorderly conduct language (PASSED): I brought an amendment that removes vague “disorderly conduct” language from the policy, which could have been used to legally discriminate against renters for a wide range of actions that don’t constitute any reason to remove them from their home. “Disorderly conduct” is racially biased language that could be used against BIPOC renters for things like raising your voice, playing music too loud, a disagreement with the landlord, displaying posters, or any number of real-world examples my office has had to deal with in the past. This language has no place in the policy and has been deleted.Relocation assistance for displaced tenants (DID NOT PASS): Under the latest proposal, landlords can defer/store up their rent increases and then use them all at once, without any upper limit – meaning a tenant could experience 5-10 years of no rent increases but then suddenly get hit with a 15-30% increase all at once. I brought an amendment that would require landlords to provide relocation assistance for tenants displaced by rent hikes in a range of qualifying scenarios; it failed 4-3.Limiting any new construction exemption so renters don’t lose current protections (DID NOT PASS): The city received the recommendations of a CURA community task force that recommended a 15-year new construction exemption from the rent stabilization policy. The proposal presented by CM Tolbert goes beyond this to create a 20-year retroactive and future rolling new construction exemption. This means thousands of my constituents who live in buildings constructed in the last 20 years will lose rent stabilization protections under the current policy. I brought an amendment to limit the exemption to 15 years in line with the task force, without any lookback period, so that nobody currently protected loses coverage; it failed 4-3.Striking the affordable housing exemption (DID NOT PASS): One of my gravest concerns with the latest proposal is the full exemption of many kinds of affordable housing from rent stabilization. This broad exemption goes much too far in removing rent stabilization protections from thousands of renters who are disproportionately BIPOC, immigrant and low-income. I brought an amendment to re-include subsidized affordable housing properties in the policy; it failed 4-3.The greatest disservice to our community tonight, though, comes in the form of the passage of a full vacancy decontrol amendment brought by CM Prince. This change to the rent stabilization policy makes it so that a landlord can reset the rent with no limits after a tenant leaves the unit. This policy change is extremely problematic because it incentivizes landlords to evict or otherwise push out tenants so that they can raise rents on the newly vacated units. It is widely discouraged based on its negative impacts in places with this policy around the country. I voted NO against this amendment but it passed 4-3.I cannot support the proposed changes to our rent stabilization policy based on these developments today. Any policy we pass can and should get reviewed to make sure it’s working well for our city. What was passed tonight by our Council, though, goes far beyond what a comprehensive stakeholder process studied, and stands to harm entire groups of people in our community who need rent stabilization the most.We need both growth and racial equity to succeed as a city. We should not sacrifice racial equity in the name of growth.I will not vote next week to pass this proposal as it currently stands.If you have feedback on the latest proposal, you can view it at the link below and e-mail the Council at [email protected] with your comments.I will keep fighting for my constituents to preserve strong rent stabilization in Saint Paul."