- Created: Thursday, 26 March 2020 15:56
- Written by Andy Birkey
Failure to include rental assistance will have dire consequences for low-income Minnesotans
The lack of rental assistance in the Minnesota Legislature’s COVID-19 relief bill will have immediate negative consequences for Minnesota’s lowest income households. Advocates pressed for $100 million for rental assistance through the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program. The amount allocated by legislators? $0.
Tens of thousands of Minnesotans have housing needs right now that relief from the federal government will not cover. Though Minnesota’s eviction moratorium means renters won't lose their homes right now; rent will continue to come due. Yet most have lost their jobs and do not have an ability to pay those rents. Without rental assistance, a cascade of evictions is likely when renters are hit with months of back rent.
Affordable housing providers -- such as nonprofits and mom-and-pop landlords -- will not have rental income to keep their housing maintained, pay their debts and funding obligations, and will be at risk of foreclosure or selling to low bidders. An analysis by Greater Minnesota Housing Fund and HousingLink found that these affordable housing providers would have to absorb between $86 million and $173 million in lost rent this year. Nearly 40,000 units of low-income housing could be lost, and an estimated 85,000 people displaced.
“These are the scenarios we are facing if Minnesota lawmakers don’t pass rental assistance,” said Anne Mavity, Executive Director of Minnesota Housing Partnership. “We failed to support low income families during the last economic crisis, and we lost massive amounts of affordable housing, and many Minnesotans lost their homes. We have a chance to prevent that this time around.”
Leaders from across the state and throughout the affordable housing sector urged lawmakers to do something for renters.
“We need to guarantee that our communities will not be displaced and subsequently destabilized because of non-payment of rent,” said Nelima Sitate Munene, Executive Director of African Career Education and Resource, Inc. “Most renters in the Twin Cities were already housing cost burdened and housing insecure before this pandemic. They are also the ones who have been most impacted by reduced hours and are the ones who provide the necessary services we will be depending on for our lives to recover to normal. Rental assistance today is an investment in the Minnesotan economy!”
"Families must still keep up with rent and mortgages, or risk homelessness,” said Warren Hanson, President and CEO of Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. “The emergency homeless prevention rent assistance is essential to keeping us all safe."
“As a provider who administers housing assistance to households in crisis in Southeast Minnesota, it is devastating to know that there may not be additional assistance available through FHPAP,” said Jenny Larson, Executive Director of Three Rivers Community Action. “Families are losing income and calling us for help. We need resources to help our neighbors who are struggling, so we can keep people in safe and stable housing.”
“Rental assistance is crucial in this time of crisis where many low-income and immigrant community members are not even able to provide food for their families,” said Asad Aliweyd, Executive director of the New American Development Center. “I am hearing that people who have been working low-wage and temporary jobs are staying home, unable to pay for rent and food. It is time to act quickly on rental assistance.”
“Without rental assistance, we know people will lose their housing,” Paul Williams, President and CEO of Project for Pride in Living (PPL). “PPL manages over 1,500 units of affordable housing across the Twin Cities, and we anticipate 60% of our renters will see their wages impacted by COVID-19 job losses or changes. Many of these individuals are working in critical service sector jobs, like hospitality, trades, and financial services. Losing stable housing in this crisis will only compound what is already an uphill climb. Our community will reach a breaking point if we don’t act.”
"Affordable housing residents are more likely to lose jobs and income under current conditions," Deidre Schmidt, President & CEO of CommonBond Communities. "Failure of some residents to pay rent (for these very good reasons), can threaten the quality and stability of housing of their neighbors. Their rent revenues pay for water and sewer, heat and electric taxes and mortgage payments."