A divided Minneapolis City Council on Thursday voted to move ahead with putting a rent control policy to the city's voters in November — hours before Mayor Jacob Frey said he'll veto it.
The council's action, while only a step in a multistage process, was at least a momentary victory for supporters of the strictest rent control options and a defeat for those who want to quash the idea entirely.
Frey's veto likely means that negotiations for potential compromises will have to happen sooner rather than later if the issue has a chance to make it onto the November ballot.
Here's what happened Thursday in City Council chambers:
The council voted 7-5 to direct the city attorney's office to draft an ordinance that mandates a 3% annual rent cap with few exceptions.
Two things to keep in mind: The drafting of the ordinance would serve only as a first step in what will likely be months of spirited debate. In other words, nothing changed — no actual rent control policy can be adopted without voters agreeing to it.
The 3% cap with few exceptions equates to the strictest version of rent control currently out there, similar to the policy approved by St. Paul voters in 2021 and later softened after backlash from developers.
With the Minneapolis City Council vote, the strict policy became the baseline for future discussions at City Hall, even though it never appeared to have the support of a majority of council members.
Council President Andrea Jenkins voted in favor of Thursday's action because she said voters deserve to have a policy to vote up or down. "We've got to move this along," she said.
However, Jenkins doesn't actually support the 3% policy; it's too restrictive for her. If she gets her way, whatever actually goes before voters will be looser.
"The policy will change," she said after the meeting.
The council faces a statutory deadline of Aug. 25 to approve both a potential policy and a ballot question. Because of the various stages of city legislation, including public hearings and committee votes, the train needed to get rolling Thursday, according to Council Member Aisha Chughtai, who co-sponsored the measure with Council Member Jamal Osman.
Frey veto coming
Frey has previously said he'd veto any actual 3% policy approved by the council. Hours after the council had adjourned, he confirmed he would make good on that pledge.
"I will veto the council's rent control proposal that passed today," he said in a statement. "I do not support a policy that has consistently proven to be counterproductive to housing supply and affordability."
Nine of the council's 13 votes will be needed to override Frey's veto. Some council members have said they'd be amenable to less restrictive policies. But none of them has yet proposed anything, raising the possibility the clock could run out because of council inaction.
Rent control advocates are well aware of the math. While they celebrated the council vote, they said they knew a mayoral veto could come swiftly.
"I think this is a great starting point, and if it needs to be negotiated, that's part of the process," said Jennifer Arnold, co-director of Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia (Renters United for Justice).
Minneapolis voters in 2021 gave the City Council authority to put a rent control proposal on the ballot. Last year, the council established a working group that included landlords and tenants to study the issue. The majority of that group favored the 3% cap — a plan that would give Minneapolis among the strictest policies in the nation. But a sizable minority supported a softer plan.
How they voted
In addition to Jenkins and Chughtai, council members voting for the rent control policy were Elliott Payne, Robin Wonsley, Jeremiah Ellison, Jamal Osman and Jason Chavez.
Council members voting against it were Michael Rainville, LaTrisha Vetaw, Emily Koski, Andrew Johnson and Council Vice President Linea Palmisano. Council Member Lisa Goodman was absent.