When St. Paul’s rent control ballot measure passed in November, it contained a unique provision for national rent control policies: there was no exception for new housing construction. Typically, in order to make sure that new homes still get financed and built, rent control policies only apply to older apartments, either exempting buildings for a certain period of time or only including buildings built before a certain date. The policy laid out in the St. Paul referendum had no such exception.
With the passage of the rent control ordinance, there’s now a useful real-world experiment taking place. Was the conventional wisdom true that rent control would reduce housing construction, and if so, to what degree? Or is it possible to apply rent control to new housing without impacting the new apartments that cities like St. Paul need?
With three months of data on the books since the passage of the rent control measure in November, results are rather grim for anyone hoping for new apartment buildings in St. Paul. Compared to the same period during the previous year, multifamily building permits are down over 80 percent. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis overall construction is up as the economy has rebounded.