St. Paul leaders on Wednesday said that they want new protections for renters in the city, including limiting security deposits and tenant background checks, and requiring landlords to notify the city before they sell a property.
“Housing is a basic human right,” Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher said at a news conference Wednesday. “When everyone in our community can access fair housing, all of our children and all of our families are stable, our workforce is stronger and our entire community is safer.”
Tincher and Council Member Mitra Jalali announced the policy proposals, which make up an ordinance that will go before the City Council next week. They were joined by Council President Amy Brendmoen, Council Members Rebecca Noecker and Jane Prince, city staff and tenant advocates.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter was expected to join the news conference when it was announced Monday but was away from work after the birth of his daughter, Amila Maelle Carter, early on Tuesday.
Some of the proposals mirror policies that the Minneapolis City Council has adopted in recent years. With renters making up a majority of residents in both cities, leaders believe one way to fight the housing crisis is to bolster the power of tenants to find apartments and stay in them.
The St. Paul City Council will take up the renter protection ordinance March 11 and will likely vote on it in early April. If approved, the ordinance would take effect in January 2021.
The ordinance reflects years of work across mayoral administrations, said Jalali, who is a renter herself.
It would create five requirements for landlords: providing information about renters’ rights and responsibilities at lease signing; charging no more than one month’s rent as a security deposit; using standardized criteria for screening a tenant’s rental, criminal and credit history; alerting the city before putting a property on the market; and giving just cause for nonrenewal of a lease or termination of tenancy.
Central High School senior Naysha Paw, who is a renter and organizer with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association, spoke at the news conference and told the story of a renter who was forced to move after her lease was not renewed.
“This caused her great hardship, and it is not just the money or the time to find a new place, but also emotionally damaging to be kicked out of her home for no apparent reason,” Paw said. “All of this could have been avoided.”
To craft the ordinance, St. Paul officials held 14 community engagement events and talked to renters, homeowners, landlords and organizations.
Jalali said she sees the ordinance as one piece of the city’s larger efforts to keep renters from losing their homes. More than half of St. Paul residents are renters, and they are disproportionately people of color.
“We’ve undertaken significant city efforts to produce and preserve more housing,” Jalali said. “I see these comprehensive tenant protections as part of addressing rising displacement concerns in St. Paul, as equally important and part of a much bigger city strategy that is incredibly necessary.”