Minneapolis City Council members Aisha Chughtai (pictured) and Jamal Osman successfully introduced a motion at the Minneapolis City Council meeting on Thursday, May 25, 2023, to craft a rent control policy that could go before voters this November. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

Minneapolis City Council members Aisha Chughtai and Jamal Osman successfully introduced a motion Thursday to compel the city attorney to draft an ordinance capping rent increases at 3 percent despite recommendations from city staff against rent control. 

The motion was approved on a 7-5 vote. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in an email statement Thursday that he plans to veto the motion. 

“I do not support a policy that has consistently proven to be counterproductive to housing supply and affordability,” Frey said in the statement.

Should Frey follow through with the veto, that would send the motion back to council members for another vote at their June 15 meeting. If a majority of the council—at least nine members—vote in favor of the motion, that would overrule Frey’s veto and allow the ordinance to be drafted and presented to voters on the November ballot.

Chughtai and Osman’s motion calls for capping rent increases at 3 percent each year and creating a compliance body to enforce the ordinance. The rent cap would apply to all rental properties.

“It’s important to understand how sensitive the timeline for action on this issue is,” Chughtai said. “With how many meetings we have between now and that deadline [August 25], we are out of time.”

Council members Chughtai, Osman, Elliott Payne, Jeremiah Ellison, Andrea Jenkins, Jason Chavez and Robin Wonsley voted for the motion. Council members Emily Koski, Michael Rainville, Linea Palmisano, LaTrisha Vetaw, and Andrew Johnson voted against it. Council Member Lisa Goodman was absent for the vote.

If the motion moves forward after the City Council’s June 15 meeting, public hearings would be held to gather feedback on the ordinance’s language at the city council’s Business, Inspections, Housing and Zoning committee meetings. Minneapolis residents would then vote on November 7 to accept or reject the ordinance as they also elect council members to all 13 seats on the council.

The ordinance must be completed by August 25 to make it on the ballot this year. If the ordinance passes the ballot vote, it would go into effect six months later, according to the motion

“This is something that is important to our residents. Housing is a human right and one thing we cannot do is stay quiet and not move forward,” Osman said. 

Other council members also highlighted the importance of getting a rent stabilization policy on this year’s ballot. 

“We’ve got to start with some kind of baseline,” Ellison said. “There will be plenty of opportunities for changing the policy along the way.” 

According to the motion, the ordinance would be consistent with a rent stabilization plan known as Framework 5 that was created by the city’s Housing/Rent Stabilization Work Group report. The group is made up of 25 city-appointed renters, rental owners, and housing organizers. The group also created a second policy known as Framework 7. 

Fourteen members of the working group voted for enacting Framework 5, which proposed capping annual rent increases at 3 percent. It also proposed enforcing stricter rules for landlords seeking exemptions from the cap. 

Eleven members voted for Framework 7, which proposed implementing a more flexible rent cap, and allowing exemptions for new construction, subsidized affordable housing, and owner-occupied housing. 

In April, city staff published a report recommending against rent control. The staff report said “a small percentage” of residents would benefit from rent control and that the negatives would outweigh the positives. 

Some of the council members said they were not opposed to exploring rent stabilization as a tool to address the city’s lack of housing affordability. However, they did not support the details in Thursday’s motion. 

Johnson said Framework 5 would slow down the construction of new housing units and would also incentivise landlords to raise rent at the maximum rate allowed. Palmisano expressed similar thoughts.

“What I cannot support is a policy with flexibility or one that eliminates development in our city,”  Palmisano said. “Rent control has to strike a balance between protecting renters from unreasonable practices and not be an impediment to new housing.” 

Advocates from the Home to Stay Rent Stabilization Coalition, a group of organizations and unions representing Minneapolis renters advocating for rent control, showed up to support the motion. 

“When we fight, we win!” they chanted in the hallway of city hall after the council’s vote.

“Home to Stay is really happy that the city of Minneapolis is moving forward on something after so long for renters in Minneapolis, following the will of the voters in 2021—that finally there’s a step forward in creating a real policy to support renters in Minneapolis,” said Jennifer Arnold, executive director of Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia.

Katelyn Vue is the housing reporter for Sahan Journal. She graduated in May 2022 from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Prior to joining Sahan Journal, she was a metro reporting intern at the Star...