Legislators are debating how to phase out the statewide eviction ban that has been in place since March 2020. Critics say the plan does not provide enough renter protections, and disproportionately affects communities of color.
Tiffany Bui reports:
Legislators are debating how to phase out the statewide eviction ban that has been in place since March 2020. The current proposal provides a gradual “off-ramp” before fully lifting restrictions in June 2022.
As of Thursday evening, the House has passed a bill that includes the eviction moratorium “off ramp,” and it now awaits a Senate decision. The new rules would allow landlords to evict a resident if they commit a “material” breach of the lease – like failing to pay rent or having an adult not on the lease staying with them.
Mike Vraa, the managing attorney of HOME Line, says landlords will have more grounds for getting rid of residents during the phaseout, but that may not always be the best decision if a renter owes a lot of money.
“In many of these cases, the only realistic way they’re going to get paid is if the money comes from the federal government,” says Vraa.
And Minnesota has money from the federal government – about $672 million, which the state is using to fund the rental assistance program RentHelpMN.org. The state is offering to pay up to 15 months of rent for eligible residents. State data shows that over half of applicants to RentHelp MN are people of color.
But Nelima Sitati Munene says the plan does not provide enough renter protections. She works with renters of African descent through the community organization ACER, and she says a majority have told her that their landlord has not renewed their lease.
“We have spoken to a number of tenants whose landlords have been frustrated with the slow payment and the slow processing of the rental assistance,” said Munene. And they have promised a lot of their tenants that they will evict them or are not planning to renew their lease, because of the delayed payments.”
Munene emphasizes that racial inequities in housing existed before the pandemic, and will continue unless housing is treated as human right.
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