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Pioneer Editorial: It's Round 2 in Bemidji's rental controversy

Doesn't this seem like déjà vu?

The Bemidji City Council Monday voted to create a committee to examine and suggest changes to the city's rental ordinance.

The committee was named after more than 30 landlords, tenants and real estate agents objected to newly proposed rental rules, which would have increased the frequency and cost of rental inspections as well as implemented a $1,000 conversion fee to change a home from owner-occupied to a rental property.

The committee will be composed of three city councilors, three landlords, three tenants and the city's building inspector, building official, finance director and city manager. They will meet two to three times and consider improvements to rental situations throughout the city.

But was that not the same goal from two years ago?

The council in 2009 decided to embark on a Quality Neighborhood Initiative study, which would establish a task force composed of city officials, community organizations, real estate agents, landlords, renters and homeowners to begin examining housing issues throughout the city.

The QNI study was adopted in response to concerns about the proliferation and density of rental units in certain wards. The city of Bemidji had seen a 40 to 50 percent increase in the number of single-family homes converted to rental units since 2005.

The council opted for the QNI study after voting down a proposed moratorium that would halt for up to one year all new rental registrations for single-family homes converted into rental properties.

The city has a $48,000 contract with Bonestroo, a consulting firm that led the year-long QNI study.

Discussion of the final draft of the QNI study and its recommendations has been taking place since earlier this year.

We can't help but wonder, now, as the city has named another committee to again look at rental issues - what did we pay $48,000 for? And where were the landlords during the QNI process? Why not speak up during the open houses and public meetings?