A group of Minneapolis Public Housing residents gathered Thursday evening to protest the agency’s preliminary plans to upgrade its 6,000-unit portfolio, which they say will privatize public housing and displace thousands of tenants.

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) says the group, Defend Glendale, is spreading misinformation and misleading other residents.

“Organizers have repeatedly said that MPHA intends to ‘walk away from public housing’ and let private developers ‘take over,’ leaving residents to lose their homes and fend for themselves,” the MPHA said in a statement. “This is not true, and nothing MPHA has said or done would reasonably give this impression”

Defend Glendale grew out of resident concerns about what will happen to the Glendale Townhomes, the oldest complex in the MPHA portfolio, if private financing is used to pay for much-needed renovations there. Residents have said they’re afraid they’ll lose their homes if the complex is torn down and rebuilt.

“We’re trying to save public housing,” Ladan Yusuf, a Defend Glendale organizer, said at the rally that drew a few dozen people.

In May, the MPHA board approved a set of “guiding principles” for redevelopment, with broad goals for preserving and expanding affordable housing across the city. The board also approved $1 million to fund the planning process, and a pending grant from the McKnight Foundation could provide an additional $1 million.

In e-mails, Defend Glendale organizers have said the guiding principles aim “to sell, lease and demolish all public housing properties so private developers can take over.”

MPHA Executive Director Greg Russ said that is not the case. The guiding principles are an early step to figure out how to preserve public housing units, he said, and they ensure any residents who are temporarily displaced during renovations will be able to return to their homes.

“This is not going to be a behind-the-scenes thing,” Russ said. “We view the residents as our partners in helping to do this.”