Rent stabilization means stability for workers

The Minneapolis City Council did not have enough votes Friday morning to override Mayor Jacob Frey’s veto of the amendment that would give the community the power to petition for rent stabilization.

However, the other measure that would allow the council to adopt a rent stabilization policy will move forward. Voters can decide whether or not to give the council that power during the election this year.

This article by Hibah Ansari (@AnsariHibah) from the Sahan Journal explains and contextualizes the movement behind rent control in Minneapolis, including recent decision-making by the city council. Mayor Frey eventually vetoed the one allowing community members to petition the council, which the council failed to override. Solomon Gustavo (@SolomonYGustavo) from MinnPost reports on the movement in St. Paul, where voters may be able to pass a specific cap on rent.

Denise Herrera Bello, who is interviewed and photographed in the piece by Ansari, spoke with me at a rally for the #HomeToStay campaign at Boom Island Park in late July. She used to work for Naf Naf Grill downtown, but was furloughed during the pandemic. Now, she works cleaning houses and organizing with Inquilinxs/Unidxs por Justicia or Renters United for Justice. “We’re going to set an example for the real American dream, which is ‘together we can’,” she said to the rally attendees.

She said rent stabilization would be important for her, and important for families in her community. “It would mean all the difference, because oftentimes in my community, we’re very hard workers, and we’re not making enough money to be able to pay rent, so it would offer stability in our lives,” she said in a translated interview with Workday.

Laura Carpenter, a food service worker in Minneapolis Public Schools and member of SEIU, is also speaking up on behalf of workers for rent stabilization. She has a lot of experience living in rented spaces. “There’s a lot of trauma that comes with a disruption in your living situation,” said Carpenter. “Landlords don’t want to provide safe spaces.”

In one of her living spaces, the landlord wouldn’t fix a broken stove for over a month. In the more affordable places, they had to deal with freezing cold temperatures and drafts, and lead paint levels that were off the charts. Her family has moved four times in four years, twice during one of her son’s preschool years. “The stress of moving was really hard on my children,” she said. 

From a press release from the group Minneapolis United for Rent Control,

Sheigh Freeberg with Unite HERE Local 17 and Twin Cities DSA said, "As the Secretary-Treasurer of a union whose members have been hit hard by the pandemic, we believe that people who work in this city deserve to also be able to live in this city. If we sit back, the corporate landlords and big developers will fight for the loopholes that have eroded strong rent control in the past. We will need to get organized to fight the real estate lobby myths about spontaneous affordability in housing, and force the council to bring forward the strong rent control that Minneapolis needs."

Lynn Butcher, the Statewide Secretary of the MN Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) said, “rents in Minneapolis set the tone for the rest of the state and a strong rent control here can raise the confidence of workers statewide to fight for housing affordability. MAPE is proud to be a member of Minneapolis United for Rent Control and we look forward to working with renters, homeowners, and our fellow union workers to fight for the strongest rent control policy. High housing costs can eat-up what we win at the bargaining table in wage increases, and yet still unions face attacks when we organize for workers’ rights. Similarly, blocking the renter-led pathway to rent control is an un-democratic attack on all of us.”

As a renter myself since leaving my parents’ home to go to college, I’ve moved 3 times since 2016, and am about to move to a place in St. Paul where a family friend has offered to help me out. Rent stabilization would be a chance to give people some power to hold landlords accountable for increasing rent. What does rent stabilization mean to you and your community?

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Everyone deserves a safe home. We are each other’s harvest.