The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) is working to streamline its administration of the federal Section 8 voucher program — a bureaucratic process that’s come under fire as the City Council considers an ordinance that would bar landlords from ruling out tenants who use the vouchers.
A public hearing on the ordinance, proposed by Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and Abdi Warsame, is scheduled Wednesday morning at City Hall. City officials may also create a fund to entice landlords to participate in the Section 8 program, which is voluntary.
“I am not here to promise that this eradicates discrimination,” Glidden said. “What I’m saying is that if you don’t put a prohibition on the books, you have no chance of eradicating discrimination.”
The housing authority has faced criticism in recent weeks from the Minnesota Multi Housing Association as its members have come out publicly against the proposed ordinance. Critics have said the Section 8 program, as administered by the MPHA, is too cumbersome and, if passed, the ordinance would cause landlords to raise rents so they don’t have to participate.
The MPHA is already in the process of updating how it administers its voucher program, after a Feb. 10 report requested by the Family Housing Fund suggested ways it could run more efficiently.
The agency’s changes include giving voucher recipients more time to find a unit, hiring a community engagement specialist to work with property owners, and boosting collaboration with other metro-area public housing authorities. Some changes are already in place, and most are expected to be in place within the year, said MPHA spokesman Jeff Horwich.
The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights is also preparing to enforce the ordinance through an existing process that would offer conciliation to tenants who file complaints.
“What the ordinance is really trying to do, and what it does, is it puts people who are housing choice voucher recipients on equal footing with those who are not,” said Danielle Shelton Walczak, director of the Complaint Investigations Division for the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.
If approved, the ordinance will go into effect May 1, 2018, Glidden said.