To prevent “mass displacement” of struggling families and business closures, a coalition of local elected officials have asked Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to suspend rent and mortgage payments and halt commercial property evictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Twenty-three elected officials — including a majority of the City Council members in Minneapolis and St. Paul — signed off on the request, which was sent to the governor earlier this month.
“Debt is piling up for renters and mortgage-holders, despite many not having a steady income for the foreseeable future,” the group wrote to the governor. “Mass displacement, home foreclosures, and the shuttering of businesses are imminent unless aggressive measures are taken immediately.”
They wrote that they feared the pandemic would exacerbate the housing crisis and be “felt most acutely by immigrant, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.”
“The recent temporary moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and the expansion of unemployment insurance, are vital first steps in heading-off this looming financial devastation,” they wrote. “However, we are still far from making families whole, and preventing evictions and foreclosures down the line when families cannot repay the debt they are accruing.”
Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann said earlier this month that the governor has asked the Legislature for an increase to the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program to help people cover rent and mortgage payments. But there’s no deal yet.
“Although the moratorium did not change tenants’ obligation to pay rent, this is a difficult time with potential financial implications for tenants, homeowners, and landlords,” Tschann said.
Both Minneapolis and St. Paul are setting aside money for rental assistance but acknowledge the demand is likely to outpace the supply.
Minneapolis City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who helped organize the letter-writing effort, said he supports the rental assistance efforts but fears it won’t be enough.
“I think the real question is at what point are state and local governments not going to have the money,” Ellison said in an interview earlier this month.
He added later: “Some folks have no money coming in. It’s not really a question of should the rent get paid or should the mortgage get paid. At some point, it’s not going to get paid.”
Staff writer Marissa Evans contributed to this story.