Thursday, June 8, 2023

Citing St. Paul rent control, residents fight Dominium’s 8 percent raises

Katherine Banbury’s rent went up $90 a month even before she signed her first lease. In 2018, Banbury was living in Wisconsin and hoping to move into Dominium’s new Cambric Apartments, which had been marketed as attractive HUD-backed affordable housing on St. Paul’s East Seventh Street. It would take about three weeks for Dominium to complete the means test to determine that she was eligible based on the income limits.

When he walked in to sign his lease, he discovered that the price had gone up. But Banbury, a yoga instructor and health food chef, had already made plans to move to St. Paul. She felt locked up.

“I’ve lived here for over four years, and it’s a revolving door,” said Banbury, who has seen many neighbors move in who are fed up with “Section 42,” rents regulated by the federal government. “It’s like taking candy from a baby. You have to have a means test to get in here, and they’ve raised the rent almost 30 percent since I’ve been here. They say it’s affordable.”

Some of those rent increases occurred at the start of the pandemic or within their two-year lease, drawing the ire of St. Paul-based legal advocates. The attorneys at the Housing Justice Center successfully fought increases that took place within the term of your lease, but another rent increase is coming.

This would increase your rent by 8 percent, more than double what is allowed by St. Paul’s new rent control ordinance, unless the property owner can prove the need for an exception. Banbury, represented by the Center for Housing Justice, is scheduled to present her case at a public appeal hearing on Tuesday, July 19, at St. Paul City Hall on behalf of all tenants of Cambric and Union Flats, a high-rise building. domain apartments. on Hampden Avenue in St. Paul.

Under the new voter-approved city ordinance, rent increases must be capped at 3 percent, unless a property owner can justify higher increases through documentation, such as evidence of increased operating costs or a recent remodel. And there is no evidence that Cambric has been remodeled. “In the eight Dominium buildings in St. Paul, they’re asking for an 8 percent raise, and that’s crazy,” Banbury said. “They haven’t done anything to this building, nothing. We’ve had our exercise machines broken since December.”


Khayree Duckett, a spokesperson for Dominium, confirmed that the company is seeking increases of 8% across the board in St. Paul and 12.5% ​​elsewhere in the East and West metro area, but noted that the company is operating within the maximum increases. permitted by HUD and the city itself. St. Paul allows homeowners to “self-certify” necessary increases between 3 and 8 percent without a formal review hearing.

He said Dominium’s biggest expenses, in the entire metro area, have been property taxes, insurance, utilities and “bad debts” or uncollected rent.

“The city provided a process on how to calculate an allowable rent increase,” Duckett said. “Our calculations showed that we are entitled to a higher than 8 percent rent increase, but in the best business sense, for city staff and our staff time, we believe it made more sense to present the 8 percent in the when we make those requests. ”

Dominium, a Plymouth-based for-profit housing provider, describes itself as the fourth largest provider of affordable housing in the nation, and has been widely praised by elected officials for adding attractive housing for seniors low-income, artist housing, and mixed-income apartments. buildings in cities across the country. He is also known for his historic restorations of properties such as the A-Mill Artist Lofts in Minneapolis and the former Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul.

At Fort Snelling’s Upper Post, the company received support from Hennepin County to renovate more than 20 historic buildings into affordable housing for veterans. It operates eight sites and 1,400 housing units in St. Paul alone.

In recent months, the cheers have died down, and some state legislators have openly described Dominium’s practices as unaffordable for the vulnerable population it serves.

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