Minnesota DFL leaders in U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s district are calling on her to stop the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority from moving forward with its plans for single-family homes.
Members of the local DFL Party Fifth Congressional District Central Committee went public this week with a letter they sent the Minneapolis Democrat in October requesting that she push to halt MPHA’s plans to repair 640 “scattered site” houses in the city until there are more assurances that no residents would be displaced.
Brandon Schorsch, chairman of the committee, said in an interview Tuesday that he was prompted by committee members to send the letter after they heard from groups including Defend Glendale and Public Housing Coalition. He said that it’s important to give residents who live in these homes more clarity about what’s going to happen.
MPHA officials have previously said none of the 3,430 residents living in the houses will be displaced and that the repairs could happen while they’re living there, or would only require displacement of three weeks or less.
“The continuing thread has been people rather shocked from the boilerplate language that HUD [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] uses in their letters. … Not everyone is necessarily able to attend listening sessions so statements in writing or more public are helpful,” Schorsch said.
MPHA is estimating it will receive an additional $3 million per year toward repairing roofs, bathrooms, kitchens, heating systems and plumbing for the homes. Housing authority officials have touted the program as a means to curb anxiety over available funding from Congress. The HUD Section 18 program allows local housing authorities to dispose of or demolish public housing.
The announced letter signed by Schorsch comes during the same week that Omar announced legislation that would invest $1 trillion in affordable housing projects over a decade. Omar could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Rep. Ilhan Omar has been ignoring the public housing crisis in her own constituency for years. Her bill is a good effort nationally, but it has no impact in Minneapolis now,” according to an e-mail sent to local public officials from Defend Glendale and Public Housing Coalition.
Jeff Horwich, director of policy and external affairs for the MPHA, said the agency has recently fielded calls from residents worried they’re going to be evicted after receiving a flier from Defend Glendale, Keep Public Housing Public Minneapolis Coalition and Northside Neighborhoods Council.
A copy of the flier the Star Tribune obtained informed residents that their home “will no longer be public,” that MPHA “will mortgage your home to private investors” and that the program “creates an opportunity for rents to increase and residents to be displaced.”
“It’s not true,” Horwich said. “And anybody who spreads information designed to create fear among public housing residents, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our community, should really think about the people that they are targeting with that message.”