Last week the City of Brooklyn Center introduced an ordinance that would put a cap on the number of rental licenses available for single family homes per block. The cap would be set at no more than 30% of the single family homes on any block could be granted rental licenses. Any situations currently over the cap would be grandfathered in.
Only 5 cities in the metro area have enacted such ordinances: Mankato, Northfield, St. Paul, West St. Paul and Winona. They are typically found near universities as a way to curb frustration that owner occupants felt living next to students. This Brooklyn Center proposal is being sold as an attempt to curb crime and improve housing inventory.
Unfortunately, this ordinance assumes that renters cause problems and the landlords do not maintain their properties. While I know there are bad tenant and bad landlords out there, this seems like a very heavy-handed approach to solving this problem. Why use a sledge-hammer when a precision device is needed? Go after the bad landlords that don’t maintain their properties by enforcing existing housing codes. Also, use the police to arrest the criminal tenants that pop up.
These types of rental cap ordinance hurt the home owners. You will immediately tell 70% of the owners on the block that they can’t rent their house. What if they need to move to another state for a job transfer? What is they are getting a divorce? What if they can’t sell their home for what they owe, but they could rent it to stave off foreclosure? When the homeowners purchased these properties, they had the right to rent their home. That right may now be taken away. You have just shut the door on them.
The rental cap hurts tenants also. It is ultimately discriminatory saying that the City of Brooklyn Center doesn’t want you unless you make enough money and have good enough credit to purchase a home. This philosophy is discriminatory, and ultimately disproportionately harms single parents, non-whites and new Americans, and those of lower incomes, who are all more often renters than homeowners.(1) The city is also losing the opportunity to bring in fresh neighbors in the form of tenant that may find they love Brooklyn Center and want to buy a house and put down roots (pay taxes, spend money, improve their homes). Surveys of renters(2) consistently show they have a strong desire to eventually own their homes. And they are more likely to buy in communities where they already feel welcome.Those tenants will now go to Brooklyn Park, Osseo, Champlin, Fridley, etc.
If you have property in Brooklyn Center, you need to get engaged. The City Council will hold a second reading and public hearing of this proposal on Monday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m. Plan to attend the hearing and speak to the council about this issue. Or you may call the City at (763) 569-3300, or email the City Council via the City Clerk Sharon Knutson and the City Manager Curt Boganey.
1) Joint Center for Housing Study at Harvard, “America’s Rental Housing – Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities (Demographics of Renters),” 2011
2) National Association of REALTORS® “Housing Opportunities and Market Experience Surveys,” 2015