Tenants in buildings owned by embattled landlord Stephen Frenz and their supporters disrupted the Minneapolis City Council meeting Friday morning, demanding the council support them as some of them undergo eviction proceedings in court.
The future of the five buildings, all in the Corcoran neighborhood, have been among those in question ever since the city of Minneapolis revoked Frenz's rental licenses for about 60 apartment buildings in 2017. Frenz has served residents of the five Corcoran buildings with eviction notices and summoned tenants in one of them to court, a matter that has yet to be resolved.
After lengthy deliberation, the council allowed a couple of tenants to speak in general terms about their housing situation. During the testimony of tenant Vanessa Del Campo, supporters unfurled a giant banner behind the council members reading "Don't Evict Vanessa."
A frustrated City Council President Lisa Bender interrupted the testimony and said they needed to move in front of the council. "We can't allow people to go behind the dais," she said.
People in the chambers then stood and began chanting in support of the tenants. Some spoke for a few more minutes before the group unhurriedly walked out of the council chambers.
Del Campo, who was testifying while supporters unfurled the banners, said the group has had to act more assertively because of their potential evictions and worsening living conditions.
"The measures that we are taking may be drastic, but really, how are we living?" said Del Campo, who lives in the building that was served eviction notices, in Spanish. "To tell you the truth, it's very difficult for me that this is happening."
The tenants — about 35 families — are working to buy the properties from Frenz and have a cooperative ownership model. They have secured $4.78 million in financing from a land bank in order to do so, according to Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia (United Renters for Justice), a local tenant advocacy group.
Council Members Cam Gordon and Alondra Cano said they would be interested in meeting with the group over the weekend. Gordon also said more people could speak during a longer public hearing in an upcoming meeting of the housing policy and development committee he chairs.
Right before the public testimony, the council voted unanimously to reinstate rental licenses to 18 apartment buildings formerly owned by Frenz.