The story about the renters of 21 properties in Columbia Heights who face eviction because of their landlord's unwillingness to make mandated repairs is a prime example of what happens to renters when out-of-state corporations are permitted to buy multiple single-family homes solely for the purpose of profit ("Renters told they must go," Jan. 25). These corporate entities, often owned by investment groups, have no stake in the communities in which the homes they own are located, nor in the families who occupy these homes.

What if cities, perhaps with state and federal assistance, had programs to purchase single-family homes (and even apartment buildings) whose owners have proved unable to meet city standards for housing quality, and work with the tenants to help them buy their homes? Cities could also provide assistance in bringing the homes up to code and support residents who don't want to be homeowners to relocate, and then sell the homes to other families? When large numbers of single-family homes are bought on the cheap by investors, as happened in many communities following the foreclosure crisis, the available housing stock for those wishing to buy homes and maintain their connections to family and community is sorely diminished. If cities allow their housing stock to be bought up by outside investors, neighborhood cohesion and quality of life is negatively impacted, crime rates go up and families with the means move elsewhere to purchase homes and generate the emotional and financial security homeownership can provide.

Rachel Fang, Falcon Heights

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If I fail to clear my sidewalk, the city sends me a letter saying, essentially, "Clear it or we will." If I don't clear it, they do and charge me.

Why can't something like that be worked out for nonresponsive landlords?

Stephen A. Mayer, Minneapolis

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The law needs to change: If a rental license is revoked, the renter should be able to stay (unless the building is completely unsafe). The renter would pay rent to an escrow account, but the landlord would never get it. Finally, the landlord could not terminate or decide not to renew the lease. There should be serious costs to irresponsible landlords.

Possibly the escrowed rent could be used for enhanced inspections.

Bob Gordon, Minneapolis

UKRAINE

Offer membership, then pull back

I would like to see the NATO countries start negotiating with Ukraine over its becoming a member right now ("Bolstering NATO is the prudent move," editorial, Jan. 26). Then we could say to Russian President Vladimir Putin, "Remove your forces from the Ukrainian border, and we'll stop the membership talks." Putin says he wants Ukraine to remain out of NATO, and he could get what he wants. However, I have learned that when dealing with bullies, you have to take the initiative by challenging them on the issue. Let him earn what he wants instead of us meekly asking for what we want.

David Rosene, Brooklyn Park

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In 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, war was avoided when the U.S.S.R. removed missiles from the island. At the time we had nuclear missiles in Turkey aimed at Soviet cities. Those U.S. missiles were in Turkey before 1962 and were close to Soviet territory. So why didn't the Soviets threaten nuclear war? Maybe they were just trying to level the playing field. (Personally, I think they backed down in Cuba because the U.S. demonstrated in World War II that we are willing to use first-strike nuclear weapons, and the Soviets weren't.)

This is the situation now in Ukraine. When the Soviet Union collapsed the U.S. promised Russia that NATO would not expand to the east. [Opinion editor's note: U.S. officials say this promise was never made.] The U.S. reneged on that promise and former Soviet-bloc nations have joined NATO.

In 2014 the Viktor Yanukovych regime was ousted. He was friendly to Russia and indifferent toward the West. And so began Ukraine's march toward NATO membership. And now Putin is surrounded by a bellicose power and has scores of missiles pointed at him at point-blank range with the real prospect of missiles right on his border, not to mention NATO military exercises a stone's throw from Russian territory.

What would you do? I think he's drawing a line in the sand exactly like the U.S. did in 1962 except he's not threatening the world with nuclear holocaust. You might think after being defeated in Vietnam and embarrassed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war hawks in this country would be a bit subdued. But they aren't, blaming the whole thing on Putin, calling him names like a bunch of petulant school boys.

Why doesn't Biden, ignoring the rabid hawks, just guarantee Ukraine won't be invited into NATO for 20 years, at which time everything can be revisited? Give Putin some breathing room; that's all he's asking.

Steven Boyer, St. Paul

ST. CLOUD MASK MANDATE

Existing evidence should suffice

St. Cloud City Council Member Paul Brandmire voted against a three-week mask mandate for public buildings because he has "yet to see a reliable study which proves that masks have any impact whatsoever" ("St. Cloud rejects 3-week mask rule," Jan. 26). I don't what he means by "reliable," "proves," or "any impact," but I don't think he does either. Anyone can go to Google Scholar and review many studies that show masks reduce airborne transmission of viral infections, which is how the majority of COVID cases are contracted. Studies specific to COVID show that masking reduces transmission by about 60-70%.

I don't think he will find a controlled study where scientists expose people to viral particles with half of the subjects masked, and the other half unmasked, as that would generally be considered unethical. But if that is the only study he would consider reliable, I suspect he does not want to know the answer.

David Brockway, Hopkins

The writer is a retired physician.

TWIN METALS' LEASES

Good riddance

As a resident of the Iron Range, I support the Biden administration's decision to cancel Twin Metals' mineral leases on federal lands within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watershed ("Twin Metals' leases axed," front page, Jan. 27). There are rules that govern how these leases are to be handled, and the fact that those rules were found to have been ignored alone justifies the revocation. When you add that the foreign owners of Twin Metals rented a mansion to Ivanka Trump in D.C. as soon as her father took office, well, it doesn't take much imagination to see how these leases were magically granted in the first place. This, of course, is all before one gets to the fact that the BWCA is a protected wilderness and the desire of a foreign company for wealth does not alter the law shielding this special place from pollution of any kind.

It is not surprising that U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, the man who refused to stand up for the rule of law with regard to the attack on the Capitol, decries following the law in this case. Having repeatedly voted against the interests of children in the Eighth District, such as his vote against the March 2021 COVID relief package, I seriously doubt he cares one bit about child labor in foreign lands (whom he mentions in his news release about the decision). Rather than help a foreign company with its own questionable environmental and labor record, he should look at abandoning his opposition to legislation that would help children living in his district.

Kelly Dahl, Linden Grove Township, Minn.

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