Minneapolis leaders scaled back a proposed ordinance limiting screening criteria used by landlords for prospective tenants, though the changes continue to be criticized by an organization representing property owners.
Surrounded by renters and tenant advocates, Council President Lisa Bender and Council Member Jeremiah Ellison on Thursday formally proposed the ordinance, which would limit the ability of landlords to reject applicants on the basis of criminal and eviction records, credit scores, income and more.
Current criteria, they said, prevent many low-income residents or those with convictions from finding safe and affordable places to live.
“The intention of the ordinances is to reduce unnecessary financial and screening barriers that block people that are ready to enter the housing market from doing so,” Ellison said. “We know both from data and from the experiences of tenants and landlords that certain barriers simply do not predict the tenant’s success in housing.”
The version of the ordinance released Thursday is different from drafts shared earlier this summer.
Lookback periods for criminal convictions have been extended. Under the proposed rules, landlords can’t deny an applicant on the basis of a misdemeanor if the case is more than 3 years old; for felonies more than 7 years old; and certain cases of arson, assault or robbery more than 10 years old.
In some respects, the new proposal gives more rights to applicants. They could no longer be screened merely on their credit scores, though landlords can review specific events in someone’s credit history.
The proposed ordinance would also cap the amount landlords can charge for a security deposit at a month’s rent.
“Having to pay a double deposit and first month’s rent can be an enormous barrier into housing,” Ellison said.
Limits on pet deposits have been removed, Ellison said.
Bender said the ordinance “provides the necessary protection for residents by ensuring that they are not exploited with excessive moving costs, [and] that they have a chance to fairly access housing in our city.”
The proposed ordinance was denounced by the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, which represents landlords and property owners across the state. The organization has spent tens of thousands of dollars on an advertising campaign against the ordinance.
On Thursday, the campaign, called Safe and Affordable Neighborhoods, released a statement that said the city is fast-tracking the ordinance and called for the City Council to hold public listening sessions about the proposed changes.
“These ordinances will directly impact half of Minneapolis’ population,” Nichol Beckstrand, president of the Multi Housing Association, said in the statement. “The fact that the city is holding the hearing the last week of summer, when families are getting ready for back-to-school, the State Fair is in full swing suggests they are trying to avoid a public discussion on the ordinances.”
Eric Hauge, executive director of tenant advocacy organization Home Line, said the proposed changes “are long overdue, practical and meaningful approaches that promote fair housing ... and work to reverse historic patterns of housing discrimination.”
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held on Aug. 28 at 1:30 p.m. A vote could come as soon as September.