property rights

City Council decision infringing upon homeowner property rights

Spring Lake Park, MN issues moratorium on new rental permits for homes into December - and maybe longer.

By Anthony SanFilippo
August 2020

Property rights have been compromised for homeowners in Spring Lake Park courtesy of a unanimous vote by City Council in June.

The vote put a moratorium on new residential home rentals through Dec. 15, although that deadline could be extended even further. Existing registered rental homes are still eligible to be rented.

As such, no new home rental applications will be approved through the end of 2020.

In conjunction with this move, the council announced it would conduct a study of the impact of rental housing conversions on single-family neighborhoods.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and this is something I’ve talked to a lot of people and neighbors over the years,” Mayor Robert Nelson told ABC Newspapers in Anoka County. “I think it’s time for this study.”

The City plans to study police reports, nuisance complaints, and gather community feedback to see the outcome of the moratorium. It is stated within the ordinance that “the moratorium may be extended, by ordinance, if the City is not complete with its review within the six-month period.”

Needless to say, not everyone in the community is happy with this moratorium.

The St. Paul Area Association of REALTORS® sent a letter in July to the council, the mayor and the city administrator seeking clarity on the background of the genesis of this moratorium. As of this writing, they had not heard back.

The moratorium was proposed by Nelson, however, there was no discussion with constituents, nor was there any previous discussion by the council. No public notice was given that this matter was even to be proposed at a meeting.

With the Twin Cities facing a shortage of affordable housing, many middle-income earners look to the nearby suburbs to find a place they can afford to live. This kind of public policy implementation could perpetuate the lack of unattainable housing by decreasing considerably the volume of rental homes available.

Without an explanation as to why this moratorium was put in place, this could well be considered an unnecessary imposition on Spring Lake Park property owners, and if it isn’t addressed, could lead neighboring towns and cities to try to implement their own “not-in-my-back-yard” restrictions on property owners.

Limiting a homeowner’s property rights adds additional financial burdens to property owners, especially when it is unexpected.

Converting homes to rental properties can help stabilize a housing market during economic downturns. This flies directly in the face of that considering the impact the economy has experienced since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak began in earnest last March.

Additionally, people looking to rent homes tend to eventually become homeowners, which always adds a boost to local economies.

The City will likely respond to the REALTORS® at some point, and discussions about this approach are sure to happen.

But no matter how long that happens,  homeowners are having their property rights violated, affordable housing opportunities are decreasing, the housing market is entering a crisis stage and the economy is continuing to struggle, with no relief from real estate in sight.

There may have been valid reasons for the mayor to propose this moratorium and for City Council to overwhelmingly approve it. Those answers are still forthcoming.

However, it could also turn out that this decision is both short-sighted and misguided and is adversely impacting the local and state economy, and that would be a pity.


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