Lobbied aggressively by local real estate agents, fair-housing activists and property-rights proponents, Brooklyn Center leaders have abandoned a proposal to limit the number of single-family homes that can be used as rentals.
The council unanimously voted down the proposal at its Monday night meeting, which would have limited rentals to 30 percent.
Mayor Tim Willson said he switched his position after hearing from real estate agents and property-rights advocates, but he added: “Not a lot of residents expressed opinions.”
The number of single-family rentals registered in Brooklyn Center surged from 287 in 2008 to 748 by the end of last year. Fearful that increased rental homes were destabilizing neighborhoods, Willson and the City Council passed a temporary moratorium on all new single-family rentals last October so they could further study the impact it was having on neighborhoods.
City staff members determined that rental properties generated more police calls for service than owner-occupied homes by a ratio of 3 to 1. Rental properties also had a higher percent of property-code violations than owner-occupied homes.
“These statistics indicate that more city services are consumed at rental properties, which more likely have a negative impact to the neighborhood and community,” wrote City Manager Curt Boganey in a memo to the council.
But concerns that rental restrictions would interfere with property rights and exclude people from the city compelled the City Council to vote it down. “It may be somewhat exclusionary to people who want to move into the city,” said Council Member April Graves.
The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors strongly opposed limiting rentals, arguing that the inner-ring suburb should instead enforce existing codes and rental regulations. In a letter to the city, the group argued that younger residents are delaying home buying and renting longer. Rental restrictions may drive them from the city.
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid also opposed rental restrictions, arguing that they would disproportionately affect communities of color, because 75 percent of black residents, 92 percent of Somali-Americans and 52 percent of Hmong-Americans in Minnesota rent housing.
“The ordinance therefore makes housing unavailable in a way that disproportionately burdens racial and ethnic minorities protected by the Fair Housing Act,” said a letter written by Lael Robertson, supervising attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. It also may run afoul of federal fair housing laws that prohibit making housing unavailable to a protected class.
About 65 percent of Brooklyn Center’s housing is owner-occupied, compared with 73 percent statewide.
Four Minnesota cities do limit single-family rentals: Mankato, Northfield, West St. Paul and Winona.