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Local officials call for canceling rent payments in Minnesota

South Mpls apts
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
The rent cancellation would follow on the current moratorium on evictions that Walz signed March 23.
Majorities of the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Richfield city councils have signed a letter to Gov. Tim Walz calling for an executive order suspending rent payments and mortgage payments for the duration of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.

Led locally by Minneapolis City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison and part of a national effort by city councilmembers from larger cities across the U.S., the rent cancellation would follow on the current moratorium on evictions that Walz signed March 23.

That executive order runs for the duration of the peacetime emergency, which Walz has now extended until May 13. The order also requests — but does not order — banks and other mortgage holders to suspend foreclosures and late payment penalties. The Walz Administration has been warning tenants, however, that rent will not be forgiven and will need to be repaid. To head off a wave of evictions after the order ends, Walz is supporting the move in the Legislature for a state fund to cover rent and mortgage payments for low-income Minnesotans.

That bill has some bipartisan support and has been endorsed by both tenant rights groups and the state association of apartment owners, but it won’t be considered when the Legislature convenes Tuesday.

The proposal supported by the local government officials does not seek government money to pay rents. Instead, it asks that rents not be paid and that landlords and mortgage holders cover the lost payments. “This global pandemic has put a strain on every aspect of life in the U.S., and around the world, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before it deeply strains our ability to keep people housed,” Ellison wrote. “I urge you to support the suspension of rent and mortgage payments, as well as enact a moratorium on commercial evictions, to mitigate the financial devastation families, residents, and local businesses, are facing across the state.”

Ellison said the eviction moratorium and expanded unemployment benefits are helpful, but won’t be enough to keep many residents from losing their homes.

Council Member Jeremiah Ellison
MinnPost file photo by Jessica Lee
Council Member Jeremiah Ellison
“We know that without housing, families will be fundamentally destabilized — directly affecting their health and safety, producing an even greater need for assistance, and creating a recipe that will amplify crimes of necessity,” the letter stated. “Therefore, it is crucial that we continue to be proactive through supporting the suspension of rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Attorney General Keith Ellison, Council Member Ellison’s father, is charged with enforcing Walz’s no eviction order and has already brought two actions against landlords in Minnesota.

Signing the letter are eight of the 13 Minneapolis council members, including Council President Lisa Bender, and five of the seven St. Paul council members, including Council President Amy Brendmoen. Three of the five Richfield council members along with Mayor Maria Regan Gonzalez, have also signed, as have elected officials from Hennepin County, Brooklyn Center, Duluth, Minnetonka and New London.

Rep. Mike Howard, a DFLer from Richfield, is the lead in the House on the push to create a rental assistance fund for low-income Minnesotans. The current approach for that bill to use an existing Family Homelessness Prevention and Assistance Program to take applications and make rent payments directly to landlords. He said that while talks are ongoing, the bill was not yet ready for the Tuesday session of the Legislature.

It would be my hope we pick up negotiations again after Tuesday,” Howard said. “In discussions with landlords, they saw a drop in April on renters ability to pay and they are anticipating a much larger drop for May 1.” 

One point of debate is how large the appropriation should be. Tenant advocates requested $100 million but there have also been suggestions of lower amounts, in the $10 million to $30 million range.

But Howard said the rent suspension proposed by the local government officials is not the approach being taken by the House. “I don’t believe rent suspension is a viable solution at the state level,” he said. “ Theoretically, the federal government could take that kind of action, but it would need to include a substantial influx of resources to cover rents and mortgages. 

“I believe we need solutions that work for both homeowners, renters and landlords, which is the virtue of the housing assistance we are proposing at the state level,” Howard said.

The Minnesota Multi Housing Association, a trade group of apartment owners and managers, has supported the rental assistance plan. The group surveyed its members on the level of non-payments on or around April 1, compared to March 1. 

State Rep. Mike Howard
State Rep. Mike Howard
“All property classes saw an increase in nonpayment rates, but the most notable increases were found in Class B and Class C rental properties,” wrote the association’s president Cecil Smith. Class B and Class C properties are those that are older and less expensive. The data representing around 28,000 housing units was collected as of the 6th of April.

For Class B properties, non-payment and late-payments of rent between March 2020 and April 2020 increased from 7% to 15%, Smith wrote.  For Class C properties, nonpayment and late payments between March 2020 to and April 2020 increased from 9% to 15%.

This is just a snapshot, but we hope it provides insight into the challenges for renters and property owners on immediate economic impact in the housing market,” Smith wrote.

Market rate rental housing in Minnesota collects roughly $640 million in monthly rent for roughly 490,000 units. A typical month would see about $48 million in normal late payments, he wrote.

“As of our survey, we estimate an additional $33 million non-payment based on average outstanding balances. This is a noticeable increase but not dire as we believe much of that rent will still arrive.” Smith wrote in the memo. May and June collections, however, “could end up being very challenging for renters and the multi-family industry.”

Correction: This story has been corrected to show that the moratorium on evictions has been extended to May 13 and will last as long as Minnesota is under a peacetime emergency. 

Comments (61)

  1. Submitted by Terry Small on 04/14/2020 - 11:18 am.

    Why aren’t they taking the preemptive step to suspend property taxes for city/county/schools if they are concerned with the housing burden as that is part of rent/owner’s payment? Is it because that is how they get their money? It’s easy to advocate for free money until it impacts you

  2. Submitted by Betsy Larey on 04/14/2020 - 11:27 am.

    Well this is different than what is happening on the national level. Not all apartment complexes are owned by large real estate investment trusts. There are many people who own a few property’s as their sole support of income. Some rent out a part of there house to make ends meet. Why should they have to take the financial hit? That doesn’t make sense to me.
    The government is bailing everyone out. The far left Democrats on the city councils expect the private sector to do it here at home. Very disappointing but not surprising.

    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/14/2020 - 01:35 pm.

      If we understand the nature of the tenant/landlord relationship accurately, the landlord is already getting money for free from her tenants. For-profit landlordism of the kind we’re all familiar with is close to a pure form of extraction: You receive rents or income without having to earn it in any way.

      Any upkeep done on a rental property or payments to banks is typically subsidized not with the landlord’s finances, but with those of the renters.

      You write, “There are many people who own a few property’s as their sole support of income. Some rent out a part of there house to make ends meet.”

      The most fair course of action in this crisis would be to encourage landlords to make more responsible decisions. Perhaps they need to dip into their savings, cut back on needless expenses, or seek extra employment to help them make ends meet.

      • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 04/14/2020 - 03:10 pm.

        You’re assuming that all for-profit landlords are gaining massive amounts of money. That is not reality. There are some people who may only have 1 or 2 buildings – or as to who you are responding to – a small part of their own home, they have invested in and rent out to making very little. They took all the risk to do it and they’re going to get hit big time if their tenants don’t need to pay. That hardly seems fair.

        • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/14/2020 - 05:25 pm.

          Of course we can make moral distinctions between say a Wall Street firm buying up 1000s of homes from the economic crisis they helped cause and exploiting people with high rents and various scams, and an elderly couple just trying to get by renting out a property or two.

          However, the essential structure of the renter/landlord relationship remains: The landlord functions as an unearned wealth extraction mechanism that holds over the renter the coercive penalty of housing insecurity or homelessness for non-payment. This is odious in light of the fact that housing alternatives exist. The fact that we treat rental housing the way we do using a holdover from an economic history comfortable with all kinds of human oppression–slavery, debt servitude, violence against labor, proletarianization, etc.– speaks volumes about the broader humanity and ethical seriousness of our society.

          • Submitted by Rebecca Barnes on 05/01/2020 - 10:39 am.

            Oppression by asking someone to pay for a place to live ? Seriously? I guess you think everyone should live somewhere for free. Communist thinking.

      • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 04/14/2020 - 03:18 pm.

        As John McEnroe once screamed, “You cannot be serious?” Most small landlords I know worked to save up the down payment on the rental property. They continue to put sweat equity into the property and need to cover missed rent payments out of their own pockets. Sometimes a delinquent tenant can remain in the property for months without paying.I’m not sure whether your comment is based in ignorance or callousness?

        • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/14/2020 - 05:57 pm.

          Your comment about “sweat equity” actually supports my point. And this “sweat equity” often takes the form, not of labor by the landlord, but labor by paid contractors – paid for, once again, by the renter.

          In the case of the landlord who could only make a downpayment, their “equity” is by definition insufficient to cover the cost of the property. The landlord thus demands that other people make up their shortfall for them, that other people take on extra work to do so. Effectively renters often buy a property, or a majority share of it, for the landlord. It’s THEIR “sweat equity” that secures ownership of the property for the landlord. The landlord then pays them back by demanding money ad infinitum as a form of unearned income.

          Sure, some tenants miss payments, requiring (in some cases) a landlord to make up the amount. But, so what? Renters lose income for many reasons. Many people have to decide between food and rent, healthcare and rent, saving for retirement and rent. The idea that we value the profit of the landlord over the right to housing, or other rights, of people is obnoxious. This is the only form of callousness here. The moral callousness is built right into the for-profit landlord system.

        • Submitted by Kathy Neib on 05/07/2020 - 02:20 am.

          I am a small landlord in my retirement years. My husband has advanced parkinsons and heart disease and I am his caregiver. We depend on our rental income for our expenses. The landlords are the only ones being asked to continue to provide a service but not be paid for it. As soon as possible, we intend to liquidate our properties. We will be giving our tennants first opportunity to purchase.

      • Submitted by David Therkelsen on 04/15/2020 - 02:49 pm.

        Sadly, you DON’T understand the nature of the tenant/landlord relationship. Receiving rents or income without having to earn it in any way??? The true nature of the relationship is that for the housing to exist in the first place, someone had to make an investment, incur all the risk that entails, doing so in expectation of a return on that investment. Just the same as any other business. Given the woeful decline in public education in recent decades, it is not surprising that a lot of individuals don’t understand the basics of economics, let alone the Constitution. But for a majority of elected officials in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Richfield t lack this understanding is more than frightening.

        • Submitted by Nat Case on 04/16/2020 - 12:41 pm.

          Just so. I think Eric’s objection might be that housing should not be a business. And for a lot of homeowners, it doesn’t feel that way. What kind of parents make their toddlers earn their right to a roof? And yet, the very root of the word “economy” is the Greek word for “household.” Homes are the most basic unit of the economy, and we use “businesses” as a unit within how we legally structure our economy.

          There are problems with how we make all the basics of life a for-profit business. We have bare-minimum systems to keep people from starving and dying of exposure, or dying of easily preventable illnesses, because they can’t afford the money to pay for them. But these are bare minimums. At the same time, does this mean we should abolish markets, real estate ownership, paying doctors, and so on? That sounds like essentially erasing the whole way we think of the world and starting from ground zero. Ground zero sounds to me like not a happy place to live. A lot of people in our society live close to ground zero, and THAT is a huge problem. But a lot of us just live in fear of a ground zero that erases all of our life’s work.

          But blaming greedy landlords for the problems, and lumping in people whose small business, retirement plan, or family income supplement is renting small amounts of property? That’s, well it’s bullshit. It’s like blaming Cub Foods for people going hungry. We’re all playing on a playing field, and doing the best we can. Blame the league, not the players.

      • Submitted by Korey Brierton on 05/03/2020 - 12:31 am.

        That is far from reality. I made a living by working in the industry for 22 years, finally got enough capital to purchase 4 properties, not all at once, but over time. I own, manage, do maintenance, accounting, everything on my own. For April, only 1/3 of my tenants paid rent. That takes from me being able to support my own family as this is all I do, work all the time and always on call 24/7. Beyond mortgages, I have insurance, utilities, maintenance (which is real high as my buildings are older and know it’s my responsibility to provide quality housing to my residents as I actually care) and cover the costs of vendors and people I hire to fix things I can’t. For the government to just step in and say people won’t have to pay for all the work I do is just crazy. I’m not a huge company than can eat the costs, wish I was. If I could afford and help people I would love to do so. The fact is, it’s just not the reality, it goes much further than just mortgages. It’s not like landlords have no expenses and just put all their tenants money in their pockets, far from it. Landlords aren’t always the bad guys as a lot of people want to make it seem. It’s like any other business, there is income and expenses. Cancellation of rent would ruin what I’ve worked for so long and hard. It’s not feasible at all. They need a better solution. Most my rents are below what the single stimulus check was for by $300+, yet people don’t have to pay rent, so they didn’t. Now it’s going to back up on them. I don’t want to kick anyone out, but I have bills too and could lose my life’s investment if I don’t pay, yet I’m the bad guy and should just forgive everyone’s rent. I would if I could, but not in the cards for me.

  3. Submitted by Cotty Lowry on 04/14/2020 - 11:53 am.

    I’m a small landlord. My apartment mortgages are with companies in other states, so Minnesota cannot relieve me of that cost. Even so, mortgages are a small % of my total costs/month — can you get State Farm, Excel Energy, Center Point gas, Waste Management garbage, Greenery Enterprises – the snow removal company, etc, etc, etc to not require me to pay them in the coming months? Then I would agree. Also what about the big enchilada coming May 15 — property taxes — 22% of my gross income. Is Hennepin County willing to forgo payment for the the rest of the year? This won’t work.

    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/14/2020 - 01:57 pm.

      You’ve taken on the risk of being a landlord. Why shouldn’t you bear the cost of it? Where is your rainy day savings? Have you considered finding another job to make ends meet?

      • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 04/14/2020 - 03:23 pm.

        Tenants bear the risk of renting. Why don’t they save enough to purchase a home? Maybe they should get another job as well? At least I wrote my coomets as satire.

        • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/15/2020 - 09:52 am.

          I think it’s unfortunate that you have decided that a source of your income should be for-profit landlordism. In everyday life you might be personally upstanding, a decent person and a good friend. But you’ve chosen to make money via a route that to me is disreputable. That for-profit landlordism is an historical commonplace doesn’t evade the criticism that it’s a form of unearned labor as well as a lever of social oppression. If economically this form of landlordism were somehow the only practicable means by which this form of housing could be provided, then we’d just have to admit of yet another non-ideal and morally complex reality in human life. But, given the alternatives that exist to for-profit landlordism, this creates an ethical complication for for-profit landlordism.

          • Submitted by Larry Moran on 04/15/2020 - 10:35 am.

            Could you expand on what you mean by “the alternatives that exist to for-profit landlordism?”

            • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/15/2020 - 04:34 pm.

              There is a great deal of information online about alternatives to the current system. Perhaps a good starting point might be:

              • Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/16/2020 - 12:47 pm.

                That’s 10 minutes I will never get back. 40 pages of utter cluelessness and economic illiteracy.

              • Submitted by David Therkelsen on 04/16/2020 - 01:27 pm.

                This document makes the case for all housing to be in the public sector. Although I don’t agree with this, it is an argument that society can have. It is analogous, though imperfectly, to the single-payer argument in health care. But it adds nothing to the conversation at hand. Perhaps all housing should be in the public sector. But today, as society needs to respond to CV-19 it is not in the public sector. Housing is, in the main, provided by investors in the housing portion of the real estate market – evil landlords, as Mr. Snyder but almost no one else would have it. There is no more reason to confiscate their property in the present emergency than any other sector of the private economy.

          • Submitted by David Therkelsen on 04/15/2020 - 09:14 pm.

            If landlords did not invest in housing to rent to others, where do you think rental housing would come from? It would just magically be built, and someone would hand you the keys to the door?

      • Submitted by Michael Hess on 04/14/2020 - 09:33 pm.

        This comment is shockingly ignorant and ill-informed. You seem to forget in your anti-landlord screed that landlords have no recourse – if they can’t get rent from their residents, with no relief form their expenses, and they cannot evict the renters to find other tenants all the pressure of the recession is being artificially directed just at them.

        All your accusatories could be leveled against those who are on the front lines of this crisis – where is their rainy day fund? Why don’t they have other employment opportunities? Why can’t they find somewhere of their own to live? All these questions are absurd, as are your dismissive comments.

        Singling out landlords for this special disdain also makes no sense. Landlords make their living providing housing to people. Grocery stores make their living selling food – both are essential – should their owners be responsible to give the food away for free to people without jobs, and dip into their rainy day funds or get an extra job themselves to pay for it?

        The reflexive policy jerk to give relief to one link in the chain without acknowledging the obvious downstream impacts is irresponsible.

        • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/15/2020 - 09:14 am.

          Let’s take your points in order:

          1. “Landlords have no recourse.” There are two underlying economic principles here. One concerns the question of whom the economy is for. Should social and policy priorities favor individuals or businesses? Obviously there are tradeoffs here and economic context is key. The second question concerns how we prioritize and value various kinds of economic activity. Setting aside a much longer discussion, I would submit that the answer to the first question in the context of the renter/landlord is the renter. People need housing and housing stability more than landlords need profit or even income. With regard to the second question as to how various forms of economic activity are valued, it seems to me that are many types of labor that have more value than that of landlordism. Nursing, trash collection, grocery checkout, yoga instructors accountants, etc., all have more social value in the economy and contribute more to human well-being than does landlordism. What’s the point of all this? If we have to prioritize relief in an economy, it seems to me that landlords should be pretty much at the bottom of the pile. For-profit landlordism functions as little more than a drain on socially valuable economic activity and a diminution of the rights and economic opportunity of renters.

          2. Renters vs. landlords. People need housing. Housing is also a primary human rights issue. Nothing the landlord does even comes close to these social priorities. There is no right to be a landlord. And if there were, the right to housing would still supersede it. If one person were homeless it would be an urgent public problem. If all for-profits landlords went out of business, this is ultimately of no concern given the alternatives for how to do rental housing.

          3. “Landlords make their living providing housing to people.” Technically they do not. Housing stock exists whether for-profit landlords exist or not. This then begs the question as to what role these landlords play.

          Your analogy with grocery stores doesn’t work since in the case of grocery stores an entire value chain of labor is required to bring food to market. Farmers grow it, truckers transport it, stockers stock it on the shelves, etc. By contrast for-profit landlords add no value. The only value added is provided by renters and only dependently through the medium of the landlord, who passes on the money of renters to, say, subcontractors for repairs.

          • Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/15/2020 - 11:30 am.

            My brother owns several rental properties. He bought run-down houses, spent tens of thousands of dollars fixing them up and continues to spend money on upgrades and ongoing maintenance. So the idea that there is no added value is simply false. And even in your description, paying subcontractors for repairs is part of the “chain of labor.” I realize this is an anecdote, but I feel pretty confident most landlords have done the same.

            For what its worth, he also allowed tenants to defer their rent for April, and in the case of a tenant who lost his job, has hired him to do maintenance work in lieu of rent.

          • Submitted by Michael Hess on 04/15/2020 - 04:50 pm.

            Again, a shocking amount of ignorance around what it means to be landlord. Housing stock does just not “exist” as you claim. Someone pays to build it. Someone pays to maintain it. Someone pays the property tax on it. Someone improves it. There is, similar to grocers, an entire value chain of skilled workers, suppliers, laborers, utilities, and the capital markets that comes together to provide a housing resource that someone can pay to use.

          • Submitted by David Therkelsen on 04/16/2020 - 11:27 am.

            Housing stock just magically exists??? This is probably the most economics-illiterate statement I have ever read.

      • Submitted by Cotty Lowry on 04/14/2020 - 10:38 pm.

        I definitely have taken on risk being a landlord. What other business exists where, lacking income caused by government dictate which causes the business owner not to be able to pay taxes, the government forecloses and takes the business then resells it?.

        Maybe there are such businesses subject to these kinds of measures but I cannot think of any, can you name some?

    • Submitted by Korey Brierton on 05/03/2020 - 12:35 am.

      Exactly! You are spot on!

  4. Submitted by Keith Reitman on 04/14/2020 - 11:55 am.

    *Local landlords call for canceling wage payments to Minnesota elected civic leaders* and redirecting those funds to assist victims of the pandemic.

  5. Submitted by Barry Peterson on 04/14/2020 - 11:58 am.

    I am currently a low income renter living in a Section-8 apartment unit near University of Minnesota. While I believe that I would be able to continue paying rent, I believe it will be very important for policy-makers and landlords to very clearly state that either a) if rents are not to be paid in a given set of months that they NEVER will have to be repaid, or b) that if a moratorium on rents is mandated, that they will IN THE FUTURE have to be repaid.

    Many low income renters do not have high levels of education and have not been trained to think and read in a critical manner. Spelling out what will be expected in the future is very important to protect these renters for eventual eviction if a temporary moratorium on rents is placed, but with the expectation that the rents will, at some point, need to be repaid.

    My status as a low income renter is established by the fact that I am disabled and find it difficult to work in the public domain due to both generalized anxiety and depression. I attended Macalester College and University of Minnesota, and am the son of a retired corporate and real estate law attorney having grown up in an enriched environment with additional education in Europe and Latin America.

    I was severely beaten throughout my studies at University of Minnesota and elsewhere in the United States, and experienced fear of fighting back due to the possibility of a misunderstanding that I would be considered as a rough combatant. That period of my life has had a dramatic effect on my life, and I am seeking a way to further work from my apartment to gain a significant income.

    I will again state that my landlord, Sherman-Associates (who owns Riverside Plaza Apartment Complex where I have lived for the past twenty-seven years near University of Minnesota’s West Bank properties), gave all of its tenants here and elsewhere a 15% discount on our rents for May if we paid in full in April. This was a welcome gesture for many tenants, including myself (although I will likely pay my full May Rent as I would save only $15.00 and the services at Riverside Plaza, including maintenance and housekeeping, have remained excellent over the past several months).

    Again, it will be necessary to make it absolutely clear to low income renters, and others, that a temporary moratorium on rents may be that either rents will NEVER have to be repaid, or that at some point, in some manner, they WILL HAVE TO BE REPAID. Many people just don’t have the reading skills that I have, and I am concerned for their future life as tenants or evictees.

    • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 04/14/2020 - 12:56 pm.

      Before writing my earlier comment, I, too, was concerned for the plight of the small-time landlords due to their financial obligations to others. It occurs to me that Council Member Ellison does not have a strong understanding of business and responsibilities to others in the business world and is basing his ideal policies on the fanciful notion that businessmen can handle all hits to their income. This is irresponsible thinking on his part, if it is true. In order for his ideal policy to work, the following would have to be true:

      1. All financial institutions in the United States would have to go along with the idea of assisting large and small landlords through this financial crisis.

      2. All landlords, regardless of size, would be required to assist all tenants who cannot pay their rent, regardless of whether any given landlord would financially suffer as a result of the crisis.

      3. No tenant, regardless of ability to pay, would be required to pay their rents.

      Despite being the son of an attorney, like myself — whose dad also worked at the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General in his youth — and the son of a former congressman and current attorney general, it appears as though Council Member Ellison does not have the critical thinking skills of his father, despite having a big heart and the ability to write policy.

      I hope some effort can be made to assist those who are unable to pay; but the notion of having a complete moratorium on all rents in Minneapolis, with no requirement to ever pay those lost rents, is a terrible idea. So is the notion of eviction of people who just can’t pay due to loss of jobs or time at work.

      We may need, as a society, to rethink the notion of the 1950’s ethic of “independent, self sufficient,” and move back to a notion that family will assist the younger generations if they are able to do so, and regardless of the age of their offspring. As well, friends of those who are poor an disadvantaged, who have the financial ability to assist others, may find happiness in the gesture of charity to their friends, co-workers, and classmates.

      As a matter of principle, I will pay my rents as long as I have the financial ability to do so, regardless of whether a city council recklessly decides to opt for a “no rent required during the crisis” as failure to pay rents would ultimately create a crisis for others.

      I also see lawsuits against the City if such a policy is enacted.

      • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/14/2020 - 01:54 pm.

        Consider the economic reality a few steps down the road. How to kickstart a depressed, consumer driven economy is a major question.

        One partial solution to this problem is to put dollars into the hands of those who will make the best economic use of them–in this context, renters.

        A moratorium on rent with no back rent due (virtually a requirement unless you want to delay economic recovery even further) will allow many millions to build a financial foundation that will contribute to economic recovery.

        It’s easy to conceive that millions will be putting thousands of dollars into checking and savings accounts, money they otherwise wouldn’t have due to rent.

        The economic need for this money by business is enormous, and it will do more to stimulate economic recovery than continuing to allow that money to be paid as rent.

        • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 04/14/2020 - 08:40 pm.

          Eric, your logic makes sense to a point. However, landlords who do not have a solid grip on their properties, due to mortgages and other related responsibilities, may lose their properties. This is not to say that we should not expect some give, but many renters do have the ability to pay, including many people on Social Security and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). A policy which dictates that no rent should be collected is both short-sighted and reckless.

          • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 04/14/2020 - 09:58 pm.

            I was just speaking to a friend of mine who is 80-years old. He no longer works and was not an investor, business owner or real estate owner. His source of income is derived from both Social Security and a pension from his work as a MetroTransit driver many years ago. He is no longer married, and he pays his daughter for the food that she buys for him at a local co-op.

            This said, he pays his monthly mortgage on a small condominium unit that he owns near Franklin Avenue and Lyndale Avenue in South Minneapolis. He lives a humble life and goes for walks every day. In his younger years, he taught history at the junior high school level.

            Many people, who do not live in apartments or homes which are well beyond their means, can afford to pay their rent.

            My dad and step mom sold our home in Lowry Hills for $660K in 2004 and moved to a small duplex near Cedar Lake. They have always been very good/excellent at managing their money, although I only know about two rental properties they owned — an apartment complex in Fridley and a duplex in Blaine, MN.

            Many people live on credit, as I did until about two years ago. This is a hugely bad idea, and these people are certain to be having difficulty paying for their lifestyles at this time.

            All said, poor people who have saved or who live in rent-subsidized domiciles and live on Social Security, SSDI, and pensions are well able to pay their rents and mortgages for a while. The unemployment insurance and one-time stimulus packages offered through the CARES Act of 2020, as well as many other programs recently implemented to assist business owners who are going bust as a result of the necessary restrictions we are facing to save lives and keep medical bills down, will help millions of people.

            For those who do not pay attention to international news and believe that we can afford to go off of the recent rstrictions to our lifestyles, I have been following news in Singapore, which early on did what Governor Walz is having us do with restrictions. Based on optimism and a flattened death rate curve, they came out of restrictions and are facing a resurgence in deaths and illnesses in their nation.

            Some “left wing” laws are worth our time. Naive idealism and recklessness, like the city council proposals to not charge any rents are just an indication of mediocre research and populism.

    • Submitted by Rory Kramer on 04/14/2020 - 01:16 pm.

      Within the 1st 3 paragraphs it clearly says that rent collections should be SUSPENDED, not FORGIVEN, for the time being and that the rent will still need to be paid at some point.

      • Submitted by Craig Nelson on 04/14/2020 - 01:57 pm.

        As we see often, take another look at the headline, I guess by miss leading in the headline, the article receives more looks! Bad idea regardless.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 04/14/2020 - 02:48 pm.

        Sorry Rory
        “it asks that rents not be paid and that landlords and mortgage holders cover the lost payments”

  6. Submitted by James Hamilton on 04/14/2020 - 02:08 pm.

    Aside from the likelihood that such a law would be invalid, it would be wrong.

    Article I of the U.S. Constitution:

    “Clause 1. No State shall . . . pass any . . . Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts.”

    They, and especially the attorney general should (and probably do) know better. Shame on them for pandering to the ignorance of some members of our community.

    From the article:

    The proposal supported by the local government officials does not seek government money to pay rents. Instead, it asks that rents not be paid and that landlords and mortgage holders cover the lost payments. “This global pandemic has put a strain on every aspect of life in the U.S., and around the world, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before it deeply strains our ability to keep people housed,” Ellison wrote. “I urge you to support the suspension of rent and mortgage payments, as well as enact a moratorium on commercial evictions, to mitigate the financial devastation families, residents, and local businesses, are facing across the state.”

    Among the letter’s signers are majorities on the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Richfield city councils.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/15/2020 - 12:00 am.

      Exactly. There is no legal basis for this.

    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/15/2020 - 12:55 pm.

      There’s such a thing as counterproductive adherence to a doctrine.

    • Submitted by Tom West on 04/19/2020 - 10:51 am.

      You could also add this passage from the state of Minnesota’s Constitution, Article I, Bill of Rights: Sec. 11: “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or any law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed. …”
      Those City Councils who think contracts are made to be broken should brush up on their knowledge of constitutional law, both state and federal.

  7. Submitted by Mike Schumann on 04/14/2020 - 02:21 pm.

    This is ridiculous. There are a lot of people who are still working and are making just as much money now (or with overtime, possibly even more) than they were before COVID-19 hit. Why should they no longer have to pay their rent?

    I’m very sympathetic to people who lost their jobs and can’t pay. But isn’t that what Unemployment Insurance is suppose to cover? What about the extra $600 / month that everyone is going to get on top of their regular unemployment? What about the $1200 / person check that everyone is getting? What’s that for? TO PAY THE RENT!!!!

    • Submitted by Thom Roethke on 04/21/2020 - 12:39 pm.

      With the extra $600/week anybody moving to unemployment in MN who makes less than $62K ends up coming out ahead. I’m surprised everybody is acting like people are suddenly broke when there’s plenty of cash out there for those impacted.

  8. Submitted by Don Casey on 04/14/2020 - 02:39 pm.

    Wanting landlords and mortgage holders to cover unpaid rent payments?


    A demonstrated understanding of economics should be required for anyone seeking elected office.Too many don’t seem to have a clue.


    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/15/2020 - 01:18 pm.

      The empirical reality is that it’s renters who are subsidizing landlords who then pay mortgages.

      • Submitted by lisa miller on 04/15/2020 - 05:57 pm.

        In some cases yes; however that is a broad statement, there are many small landlords barely making it. You can also argue that there are renters who are doing well and why have others subsidize them? Again, unemployment is there for a reason as well as the stimulus package and housing court.

      • Submitted by Cotty Lowry on 04/16/2020 - 12:08 pm.

        The tenants are not subsidizing the landlords, they are getting something of great value. I do not think of my rentals as investments, since I have owned them for 22 to 35 years. I don’t ever plan to sell, so I don’t care what they are worth on the tax rolls. I do consider my tenants my clients. I give them the very best living situation I and the building can afford to give, and in return they pay me for that service/product.

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/16/2020 - 01:53 pm.

        First off, there is nothing empirical whatsoever about that statement.

        I own a home now, but I have have rented apartments numerous times during my life. And each of those occasions – such as moving to go to school for a year – renting was more economically advantageous for me than owning a home. I paid money and received value.

        Did the landlord profit off the rent I paid? Certainly. Do the grocery stores and restaurants where I buy food make profits? Yes. Profits are made from the clothes, books, electronics – from everything I buy. My car, the gas and insurance, my Netflix subscription. I am paying money for things of value, and the people selling those things make money. There is no reason why housing is any different.

  9. Submitted by Alan Straka on 04/14/2020 - 03:24 pm.

    We already have a housing problem. How many people are going to be willing to build more housing units if something like this passes?
    Of course it won’t happen since the government can’t confiscate property (and this is exactly that) without just compensation. Apparently those proposing this have never heard of the Constitution’s fifth amendment.

  10. Submitted by jackie liu on 04/15/2020 - 08:36 am.

    Hey landlords, you better continue to pay for the water, trash, taxes, any utilities that are covered, maintain the building and fix damages while you are not getting rent. The government gets more votes from renters than from landlords, so you better shape up. And of course, tenants working from home will feel sorry for you, but they would rather keep their money in the bank. The government told them that they could. Those tenants who are not working can keep their stimulus check and unemployment checks. They have to pay for food and booze and whatever else but not for housing.

    • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 04/15/2020 - 11:06 am.

      Jackie, I’m not certain whether your comments were feigned sarcasm to satirize the notion of how reckless the suspension of rent payments are, or if you really believe that landlords are all able to handle no rent payments for an extended period of time.

      If satire, it does not come over well for many of us, although we may agree with your sentiment.

      If not satire, and you really do have these feelings about landlords and that they better not delay paying the related costs of managing a property, please understand that many landlords are not billionaires, and even Donald Trump has been laying off thousands of his employees in Canada and the United States due to the economic downturn.

  11. Submitted by Nat Case on 04/16/2020 - 12:50 pm.

    I can absolutely see where this sentiment comes from. Landlords (or their mortgage holders if they are not free and clear) have big chunk of capital, and you can ride on capital for a while. In theory, anyway. And those big corporate landlords, they have lots of money too, right? They must. But we don’t want to punish the retiree who rents out her downstairs unit and depends on that money to help cover her bills. So here’s a simple solution: we suspend rental payments for the landlords we don’t like, and don’t suspend them for the virtuous and good ones.

    Folks, this is true of the whole economy. That jerk business owner going down? Their own damned fault and let em drown. That pillar of our community, the one who is always there and we love? We need government aid to keep them afloat.

    Government aid can’t work this way. It’ll be patronage on patronage before the month is out. Just like we can’t just offer welfare aid to the people we like. You have to help the obnoxious jerks too.

  12. Submitted by Mike Davidson on 04/17/2020 - 12:06 pm.

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the temporary ban on evictions (filing an eviction during a mandatory shelter-in-place order is unethical to say the least), simply canceling rent will cause a host of negative consequences. These costs will have to be recouped somehow – higher rents for new tenants, higher annual rent increases for existing tenants, etc.

    If you’re still working and haven’t experienced a reduction in hours/pay, there should be no reason to not pay rent.

    Obviously if you’ve lost your job or if you’ve been laid off, Unemployment is there, and even though UI is only 2/3 of what you were making, the additional $600.00 per week that the majority of UI recipients will qualify for should more than close that gap. Hennepin County also offers one-time emergency rental assistance up to a certain amount.

    Tenants should always be proactive. A temporary ban on evictions shouldn’t stop tenants from reaching out to their landlords/property managers. Call them, explain what’s going on, pay what you can and ask for an extension until your Unemployment benefits kick in. Assuming our shelter-in-place order ends on May 13th, and landlords/property management companies can resume eviction filings, there’s plenty of to get caught up.

  13. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 04/17/2020 - 12:08 pm.

    You don’t know what you don’t know” So suspend rent in order for folks to purchase cigarettes, or beer or drugs or pay off the new car, or? Not all renters are created equal nor does one size fit all. The assumption with this program appears to be; that all renters (that would get relief) are already using every penny of income as wisely as possible, and still not making the ends meet, the assumption from this perspective is; that is a very poorly thought out/investigated assumption.

  14. Submitted by Jim Marshal on 04/17/2020 - 12:52 pm.

    I think a 2 or 3 month rent and loan moratorium is a great idea in light of this economic depression we’re in. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to send stimulus checks out to people if all they’ll be doing with that money is routing it to their landlords or banks.

  15. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 04/20/2020 - 10:30 am.

    It seems one side of the argument has boiled down to either enjoy the pleasures of personal ownership of one’s residence or live in public housing.

    A great book that touches on public housing is Tom Wolfe’s “From Bauhaus to Our House”:

    “But in 1971, the court of public opinion finally ruled against modern design, or at least the public housing manifestation of it. By that time, the residents of St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe projects had become disenchanted with their 1950s era, compound housing and chanted, “Blow it… up!” And the city did.”

    And the failure of Pruitt Igoe, despite the best of intentions, is the majority story of public housing in the US. As bad as private landlords maybe, the government has shown no consistent ability to do any better.

  16. Submitted by Tracy Varnado on 05/14/2020 - 09:12 am.

    I understand every thing people are saying..think on this you get SSI OR Retirement Disability…your check is $900 a month lower if SSI …your rent is $1100 mind you they are taking out Medicare pre…we are now in a crisis and people cant supplement their income and your landloard decieds they want to raise rent during this crisis they want to raise rent …mutil millions dollar company how is that helping anyone during not saying they dont have the right everything is made for profit but during a time of crisis really raising rent when people cant afford already. I think a rental cap should be in place they should not allow landlords to charge obscene amount of rent.1200 for 1brd heat not included or light then pet fee…it has gotten ridiculously crazy out here that what i feel need to be done …put a cap on the min or max amount they charge per # of bed rooms

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