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Rent control policies nowadays follow a certain formula. To control for some of the negative effects on housing supply, lawmakers usually exempt new construction, allow vacancy decontrol — whereby landlords can reset rents to market levels once a tenant moves out — and index rent hike caps to inflation.

But all is not well with moderate rent control policies. Even places that have implemented these provisions have faced similar detrimental effects. From San Francisco and Cambridge to Ontario and Berlin, as well as numerous other cities, moderate rent control — aka rent stabilization — has only worked to reduce the quantity and quality of housing.

As far as rent stabilization goes, policies range from bad to worse. And this proposal by some Minneapolis City Council members to follow in St. Paul's footsteps — with a policy that caps rent control hikes at no more than 3% per year, does not allow vacancy decontrol, and does not exempt new buildings — is one of the worse ones.

St. Paul has already seen building projects come to a standstill, and Mayor Melvin Carter has asked the City Council to make amendments exempting new construction. This should be caution enough for Minneapolis.

But numerous other cities have had rent control policies much less stringent than St. Paul's, and even those laws were abandoned due to the negative outcomes. The idea that somehow Minneapolis will come out unscathed and will only enjoy all the benefits that rent control has to offer, namely stability and affordability, without the negative consequences experienced by these other cities, is illogical and destructive.

Unless landlords rent buildings out of the goodness of their hearts and won't mind making losses, there is no way to reconcile the idea that "greedy" landlords will somehow accept less profit without changing their behavior once rent control is enacted.

The fact of the matter is that there are no good or bad rent control policies, only varying degrees of bad. Regardless of what type of policy the City Council pursues, there are bound to be some negative consequences. There is no way to have a robust rent control policy without hurting the housing supply. Just like there is no way to have a weak rent control policy without hurting housing supply — albeit to a slightly smaller extent.

But unlike the St. Paul ballot, the Minneapolis ballot only empowers the City Council to adopt some form of rent control, meaning that there is a lot of leeway for the Minneapolis City Council to come up with a more thoughtful policy.

If Minneapolis City Council members insist on adopting a rent control policy, the least they could do is resist the temptation to make what is already considered a bad policy even worse.

Martha Njolomole, Hopkins

The writer is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.


The basis of morality, stability is family

As you become conscious as a very young child of the world around you, your parents are (or should be) your most important influence ("We must find, nourish root cause of moral decency," Opinion Exchange, Jan. 21). With love and encouragement, together with setting expectations and providing an example by their daily actions, the parents must establish for their children the North Star of honorable behavior.

Over 30 years ago, when I accepted occasional case assignments in federal court as a public defender, I saw the effect of the failure to be that parent. I visited homes where the father was absent, the mother was at work, and the grandmother was left to try to manage not only her grandchildren but also the grandchildren from the adjacent homes.

By the time those grandchildren reached the third grade, they were so far behind in reading and writing that there was almost no chance they would ever catch up. Without those elemental skills, they had no hope for a successful life (by any measure of value).

Without love, there is no hope. Without hope, there is no change. Without change, we witness an endless cycle of amoral conduct one generation after another.

Retired Judge Thomas Wexler is right. The sine qua non remedy is in the home. If there is no moral compass there, no amount of money, no social program and no law will ever cure the disease.

Michael W. McNabb, Lakeville


I'm charmed, touched and hungry

Kudos to Alison Spencer and her brother, Teddy ("Siblings' beefy bond," Jan. 20). The charming piece and their natural, mutually supportive relationship — captured so well by Star Tribune photographer Jeff Wheeler — did more to promote disability awareness and rights than all the tours and speeches I ever gave as a former community relations representative of a vocational rehab facility. Spencer deftly brings to life her appreciative and affectionate bond with her brother, in which both bring their unique gifts to the table, so to speak.

I read and enjoyed every last cheeseburger review, and now have a persistent hankering for something I don't normally order.

Rich Cowles, Eagan


I so enjoyed the story and cute photos of the Spencer siblings!

I, too, had a younger sibling born with Down syndrome, a sister. She died a few years ago, and I miss her sense of humor and good nature every day.

Thank you for tapping into my memories!

Judy Lepp, Stillwater

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