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High rise apartment buildings in Minneapolis

Minneapolis officials are considering an ordinance that would bar landlords from denying renting to tenants with poor credit and older misdemeanor and felony convictions, with a few exceptions.

The proposal would ban discriminating against the following:

• Individuals with misdemeanor convictions older than two years from the date of sentencing.

• Individuals with felony convictions older than five years from sentencing, except for lifetime sex offender registrants, and those convicted of arson, methamphatamine production or federal RICO charges.

• Individuals with an eviction older than three years.

• Individuals with credit scores over 500.

• Individuals with incomplete credit or rental history.

Thousands of Minnesota residents fall under one of these criteria, preventing them from finding an affordable apartment in a tight housing market, advocates say.

Landlords say the new ordinance would prevent them from determining the quality of renters and will result in higher rent, impair tenant safety, and discourage future building.

Blois Olson, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Multi-Housing Association, which represents landlords, said these proposals will ultimately hurt tenants.

“Our insurance providers are telling us that removing the ability to screen for criminals in a background check puts the multi-housing category in a higher insurance risk and we can expect on average our insurance cost to go up 40 percent,” Olson told The Center Square. “A portion of this, if not all of this, will be passed on to renters.”

Olson said the proposed changes haven’t been tested before and will “shock the market.”

For example, security deposits would be limited to one month's rent. That won’t encourage future investment from landlords because builders have to figure out the new cost of the ordinance, Olson said.

“That is true [that businesses are still building], the life cycle of building is long. These cranes you see in the air right now are projects that were approved in early to mid-2018,” Olson said. “You’ll see more cranes launch for projects approved up until December 2018, when inclusionary zoning took hold as well.”

Olson said he thinks everyone involved can collaborate to help renters in financial trouble.

“They are not to be solved by passing an ordinance because you feel like the systems and the processes that exist to evaluate people for credit or criminal [backgrounds] are treating people disproportionately,” Olson said. “You need to fix that system, or at least figure out how to work with that system differently. This also requires a thorough understanding of the scope of the issue.”

Luke Grundman, Housing Unity managing attorney at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, said current laws leave few apartments for tenants with records.

“Right now, the restrictions exclude a large segment of society, which is disproportionately people of color," Grundman told The Center Square. "Often, the marks on their record have nothing to do with how good of a tenant they are.”

Grundman said the only housing available for people with bad credit or criminal records are in unsafe neighborhoods with bad schools that exacerbate inequality.

The city council is expected to hold a hearing on the proposal later this summer.

Staff Writer

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on and Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.