Minneapolis committee passes Section 8 anti-discrimination ordinance

The Minneapolis City Council is considering an anti-discrimination ordinance that would require landlords to at least consider Section 8 tenants. Minneapolis landlords are fighting back, but so far they're losing the battle.

Following a public hearing Wednesday morning, a city council committee voted to pass the ordinance, sending it to a full council vote on Friday.

“I do not support this mandate, and let me be clear, this is a mandate,” landlord Bernadette Hornig said at the hearing. “ I also want to go on record that I strongly oppose the characterization that property owners and managers as somehow unethical and discriminatory.”

A city representative at Wednesday’s hearing said this ordinance is not a mandate, but rather a request to put housing choice voucher recipients on “equal footing” with those who do not have subsidized housing.

There are about 17,000 Minneapolis residents who participate in Section 8. t's perfectly legal for landlords to say no to those who are part of the Section 8 housing program, a government funded program that helps low-income residents pay rent. But some say that finding housing that takes Section 8 has become so difficult that it's time for that to change.

Landlords say they empathize, but that it's not the people, but rather the program. The Section 8 rental candidates would still go through background checks and credit checks. But according to many landlords and the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, the program is a mess. The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority agrees changes need to be made.

“We have the ability and the capacity to reform where we need to reform and listen to folks and make changes,” MPHA executive director Greg Russ said.

But a unanimous vote by the committee put the ordinance one step closer to a done deal.

“It's not about discrimination,” said landlord Linda Miceli. “It's about my being able to maintain my property the way I want to.”

MPHA statement

Today two Minneapolis City Council Committees, following a joint public hearing, voted unanimously to amend the Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance to prohibit discrimination against Housing Choice Vouchers as a form of income for tenants seeking housing in the city. The full City Council will vote on the ordinance change on Friday (March 24, 2017). If the City Council approves it, the change would take effect May 1, 2018.

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) welcomes the committee recommendation to prohibit discrimination against families with Housing Choice Vouchers. While we do not believe this change is a cure-all for the challenges voucher families face in finding affordable housing, it will be a helpful step in addressing this issue. If passed by the full Council it will require that voucher families receive the same consideration given to other prospective tenants, and eliminate the “No Section 8” warning that is unfortunately all too common in rental listings. We are hopeful that the change will encourage some families to consider neighborhoods of greater opportunity, which they might previously have felt were off-limits.

In the year until the amendment takes effect, MPHA is committed to making changes that we believe will improve the experience for property owners and create opportunities for families. These changes will include enhancements to our inspections protocol, changes to payment processes, an extension of housing-search-time, improved communication and feedback opportunities for owners, and deeper collaboration with the City of Minneapolis and other regional public housing authorities. Our initial proposed changes are online (mphaonline.org/HousingChoiceDocuments) and we look forward to providing ongoing updates as we make these improvements.