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The market will not save us: why I vote yes


In the weeks leading up to the November election, I saw the courage of white liberals shattering in real time. This year, residents of St. Paul have the chance to support a voting measure initiated, researched and led by communities of color, a policy that would fundamentally change the unbalanced relationship between landlords and tenants.

Voting yes to stabilizing rents should be an easy choice. But an influential fraction of white town planners muddled the conversation on Question 1, giving well-meaning whites the opportunity to turn unfounded caution – and a desperate desire to be “right” – into complicity with landlords and people. the richest in our city.

The “Yes in My Backyard” or YIMBY concept was created as an inclusive and tenant-friendly contrast to the “Not in my Backyard” or NIMBY movement which relied on whistle racism to oppose new housing in predominantly white neighborhoods. Sadly, a small handful of mostly white men have given too many YIMBYs a reason to vote no to this critical policy.

These white planners reassured potential voters that they are a good person, that they really care about tenants, that they really want rent stabilization, honestly, but not this one. They clearly identified the housing crisis and its devastating effects, but did not go further. If they tried to solve the problem, they would no longer have the right analysis. There would then be expectations, a responsibility beyond another article mourning the supply of housing.

None of these people have spent thousands of hours building a community, collecting signatures, standing fiercely towards the wealthiest people in town. The Keep St. Paul Home campaign did. The voting policy was created and implemented throughout the petition process and thus far by women, organizers of color and tenants. These three groups are seldom the driving force behind the biggest political conversations in our city. But in the whiter, more powerful circles, they’re often bothered. “How to get them to participate? “” How can we increase their participation in important election years? “” How do we know what resources they need? ” I found a simple answer to these questions: support their work and follow their leadership.

So it is both baffling and disappointing that when communities of color are engaged, when tenants have a significant issue to solve in an election, those same people turn into wheelchair housing experts with superior insight than those who have direct experience of housing instability.

Among the paternalistic criticisms of town planners is the hypothesis that the Keep St. Paul Home campaign has not done its homework. That the policy – which would limit annual rent increases to 3% for all units in the city – will have unintended consequences the authors weren’t smart enough to see.

Some of the most common concerns:

The ordinance does not exempt new housing.

This is because simply adding new homes at market price to our real estate ecosystem and waiting for the mythical trickle down effect is not enough. New homes can still be valued cost-effectively for developers, but by including them in the ordinance, it prevents out-of-control rental spikes. The homes in our community should be homes and not speculative investment products.

“The ordinance does not index rent increases to inflation.

Until workers’ incomes are indexed to inflation, why should landowners have such favorable profit controls attached to the price of their “product” (which also happens to be people’s homes). If there was a hypothetical inflation crisis, would we rather see tenants evicted across town as rents move away from wages, or banks and developers getting their hair cut while neighbors? stay at home?

“The ordinance does not include the abolition of the control of vacant posts. “

Control vacancy is when a unit is released from price control after a tenant leaves. It is also the genesis of all the horror stories about landlords in cities with stabilized rents leaving their properties to deteriorate to drive out tenants so that they can raise the rent. Deregulation is a tax incentive to neglect and cruelty.


Obviously, there are good reasons why none of these items are included in the ordinance: each has been used as a loophole for the benefit of homeowners.

What is really in conflict here are the two different frameworks of thought. Critics of YIMBY fear that the order does not offer enough deference and support to the market. Supporters and directly affected residents know that the market is the genesis of our current housing crisis and we must separate housing from the demands of profit. We have tried market-based solutions to deal with the housing supply and have only delved deeper into this crisis. It’s time to take a new approach.

The root of the opposition is as predictable as it is well funded: the Minnesota Multifamily Housing Association. Under the guise of the Sensible Housing Ballot Committee, they have raised nearly $ 4 million – the majority of which comes from outside the Twin Cities – for senders, dialers and canvassers. This is because no self-respecting politician or community leader would do their job for free, in shilling for the unlimited profits of those who already have all the money. That’s why it’s deeply baffling to see YIMBYs embrace their talking points, giving every white voter, college graduate, and homeowner the incentive moment they needed to shy away from the best chance at this year to shake things up on the housing crisis.

The YIMBYs do not see that one or the other position on rent stabilization undermines their position as “correct on housing”. In support of this, they should have shed their merchant mantras and found themselves among the socialists and tenants, all the resources of the real estate industry were deployed against them, telling them they were wrong. In opposition, they tried to have it both ways and it cost them their credibility. The real estate industry will be happy to use and lose them and the tenants will remain helpless as before.

Landlords have inherent power over tenants. Their financial control over a person’s housing means that by exercising their right to freedom of expression, a tenant can endanger the safety and security of their housing. People are tired of living their lives under threat. People are no longer happy with a housing strategy that concentrates profits on the wealthiest citizens of the community. People are ready to call the housing industry the bluff. We have to be brave enough to change the paradigm. The market will not save us, we have to save ourselves.

Editor’s Note: Find your polling station and sample ballot for the November 2 election on the MN Secretary of State’s website

As indicated in our “About” section: The views, opinions and positions expressed by each author – and those providing comments – are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the board of directors of street.mn or any other contributor to the site. Additionally, the editor worked with the author of this article after publication to remove a few phrases and word choices that had offended some readers, while leaving the main points and arguments of the article intact.

Signage “Keep St Paul at home: vote yes on November 2 for stabilization of rents”


Tags : real estate
Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson