Evictions and limited housing access can affect a renter’s housing options for the rest of their life, especially during a pandemic. While the number of evictions in Minnesota has marginally decreased, close to 16,000 evictions are filed across the state every year. Limited housing access and barriers can create insecurity, long-term instability, and can lead to homelessness without resources or options for shelter. Evictions further impact developing communities of color. With 50% of tenants in two North Minneapolis zip codes evicted in two years, the devastating impact of disparate housing and evictions disrupts families and directly affects the safety and security of the entire community.
In 2019, the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance was enacted by the Minneapolis City Council to place reasonable limits on when prospective tenants could be rejected by landlords because of a past criminal record, rental history, credit record, or income. The ordinance serves to protect housing access and limit displacement in communities of color that are disparately impacted by unfair screening and eviction practices. Many landlords in Minneapolis oppose the ordinance because they would prefer to enforce unfair blanket bans against tenants who have pasts connected with law enforcement, for example. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and other civil rights organizations filed an amicus brief on April 8 supporting the fairness ordinance and overarching fair housing legislation that protects civil rights.
“We support the city of Minneapolis and this ordinance that serves to protect public housing communities and tenants’ rights in Minnesota,” said Lawrence McDonough, senior Minnesota counsel with the National Anti-Eviction Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Tenant screening processes must be effective and must not impede any individual’s right to find and access fair, affordable housing in their communities.”
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued guidance in 2016 regarding the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the use of criminal history in tenant screening, finding that criminal history-based restrictions violate the FHA because they inordinately impact and impede fair housing access in Brown and Black communities. Persistent low vacancy rates, increased rent payments and stagnant wages make it more difficult for renters to access safe, affordable housing in Minneapolis and across the country.
Preventing and correcting the damaging effects of evictions and housing barriers must be part of a comprehensive plan to increase housing access, equity and security. Pandemic health restrictions and heightened barriers to access have made it more difficult for tens of thousands of Minnesota families to afford and stay in their housing during the last year.
In June 2020, the national Lawyers’ Committee established the National Anti-Eviction Project in response to Congress’ failure to extend the federal eviction moratorium and to address the eviction crisis. Working together with local organizing and housing groups, the project aims to recruit and train pro–bono lawyers and law students to provide direct legal representation to tenants facing eviction. The first areas to be served are the Twin Cities- Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.
Contact: Natasha Mundkur, [email protected], (202) 780-4506