Sometimes the affordable housing crisis seems so big and overwhelming, people shrink from solutions. The tenant-landlord relationship has always been balanced in favor of the landlord and many tenants feel powerless to change it. The need for affordable housing far outstrips public resources despite efforts of the City, State, and County to increase financing programs.
Over the past couple of years, Alliance has stepped into the policy arena with other housing advocates, developers, and tenants. In September, after months of study and public comment, the City Council adopted two tenant protection measures. The first limits how far back landlords can look into a prospective tenant’s background. In the past, many tenants have been screened out of other landlord’s housing because of past criminal background. Alliance Housing has learned, and studies support this finding, that after a few years, screening out these tenants does not make sense. They are no more likely to re-offend, or be a poor tenant, than people without a criminal background. The second protection measure is to limit the dollar amount landlords can charge for security deposits. Alliance and others were active in organizing support for these ordinances.
Also during 2019, Make Homes Happen MPLS (MHH) successfully influenced the Mayor to continue resources for affordable housing in the 2020 budget. The Mayor has proposed a plan to provide $50M of local funds to the Housing Trust Fund over an eight-year period. This is the first step in establishing an ongoing, dedicated affordable housing resource for the City. Alliance is a member of MHH, and its tenants have talked with the Mayor and City Councilmembers, and plan to be at the public hearings on the budget.
Policy and communication efforts are essential to increase the supply of housing & effect change on issues important to the well-being of tenants.