In response to the counterpoint opinion piece on rent control ("On rent control, calmly weigh benefits, costs," Opinion Exchange, Oct. 13): The authors did not comment on the duration of the period that rent control was studied. In a low-inflation environment, a 3% rate of increase as proposed in St Paul might be a very acceptable case, but what if there is a significant increase in the inflation rate? Many of the East Coast cities that dropped rent control did so after the impact of the inflation of the '70s and '80s when lagging increases absolutely undermined the value of rental properties. I laud the small landlords who are comfortable in supporting the proposals, but have they lived through an inflationary economic cycle?
Frankly, the authors make the argument for why rent control is unnecessary in the paragraph referring to their own Minneapolis Rent Stabilization Study, where they state, "if there had been such an ordinance, there would have actually been little impact."
Rent control is a blunt instrument that is ripe for abuse and proven — particularly during periods of prolonged inflation — to undermine the most important factor to the rent crisis: lack of supply. No rational investor will build in a city with rent control. If providing lower income people more housing affordability is the goal, then provide means-tested rental subsidies and reduce the impediments to more supply.
John J. Moroney, St. Paul
Rent control has never worked in any city or region it has been implemented. It is not only a distortion of market forces, as the Star Tribune Editorial Board points out ("Reject efforts to add rent control," Oct. 9), but a disincentive for capital investment, and will result in less housing available to people with less income. I of course have a bias — I own rental property in Minneapolis, including both market-rate and "affordable" apartments that we built under tax incentives and government contracts. Fifty percent of my expenses are fixed: property taxes, utility expense and insurance. I guess what's left to cut is staffing, repair and capital investment.
History informs the fallacy of rent control. If it passes, the supply of good housing will decrease as will the production of new housing options. Let's control the cost of food and clothing while we are at it, then our transformation to a socialist commune will be complete.
Steven Minn, Minneapolis
Thank you to an Oct. 12 letter writer for pointing out that housing rental markets are presently distorted ("Distortion, but the right recipients," Readers Write). These market failures can be seen in the high levels of homelessness and housing insecurity due to inadequate rental units available at affordable prices. Such homelessness, especially of children and their families, hurts all of us. When families must move often or become homeless when rents increase too much, school is disrupted for the affected families, the classrooms and the wider community, now and in the future. Neighborhoods, including local businesses, are also disrupted, through reduced neighborhood stability.
The Center for Urban and Regional Affairs found average rent increases have been less than 3% over the past 20 years, so St. Paul's proposed 3% annual increase in rent, plus variances for special circumstances, allows landlords to recover reasonable costs. Rent stabilization is a critical tool to help homeless children, their families, their schools and the wider community.
Kate O'Connell, St. Paul
St. Paul voters will see a ballot referendum that would limit rent increases to 3% per year, with no provisions for inflation. This is said to be the most restrictive rent control ordinance in the country. At the same time, my mom-and-pop triplex sees double-digit tax increases, a tripling of garbage fees, major increases in natural gas prices and current 5% inflation.
Something has to suffer, be it necessary maintenance, desired improvements or quitting the business altogether. Four of seven St. Paul City Council members have said they will vote against the proposal; the mayor has now said he will vote "yes."
Well-intended measures often have unintended consequences — in this case, the loss of decent affordable housing. Do your own research and vote "no" on St. Paul City Question 1.
Lyle W. Kratzke, St. Paul
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