Renters plan demonstration calling on lawmakers to cancel April and May rent and mortgages

The group Renters United for Justice and other groups are planning to drive a demonstration caravan of cars from U.S. Bank Stadium to the Governor’s residence in St. Paul on Friday calling on lawmakers to cancel April and May rent and mortgage payments.

Under Gov. Walz’s peacetime emergency declaration there is a moratorium on evictions in Minnesota until May 13th. That doesn’t mean renters are off the hook for payments. Once the moratorium is lifted landlords can execute evictions to people who did not pay April and May rent or don’t have the money to pay the back payments.

Organizers with Renters United for Justice say state lawmakers should pass legislation forgiving renters and homeowners for missing payments in April and May to prevent a wave of evictions once the moratorium is lifted.

“If you cancel the mortgages the tenants won’t have to pay the rent and the landlord won’t have to pay the mortgages and everyone can just focus on keeping food on the table for their families and not rent,” organizer for Renters United for Justice, Chloe Jackson said.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are coming up with proposals to offer assistance to Minnesotans who can’t afford rent and will need help once the moratorium is lifted.

“We think the best win-win is if we can get some funding from the legislature to help folks pay their rent then landlords can get paid and the landlord can pay the utility bills or mortgage or whatever they need to do,” Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho said.

Right now state Democrats are proposing adding $100 million to a housing assistance program while state Republicans are proposing adding $30 million to the program.

“With over a half million people going on unemployment we just know that the burden is very intense on folks,” Ho said.

During a Senate committee last week some lawmakers raised concerns about rent assistance programs to Commissioner Ho saying they were concerned some people would take advantage of the program to avoid paying their rent or mortgage. Ho says she still supports using aid programs to help prevent people from getting evicted while also helping landlords collect payments and cover their own expenses.

“That’s why we think rental assistance from the legislature is the best outcome. It’s an opportunity to make sure everyone can pay their bills,” Ho said.

Jackson and other organizers of the demonstration say they fear a scenario where thousands of tenants and their families are receiving eviction notices once the moratorium is lifted forcing them to seek unsafe living conditions.

“You’re talking about displacing thousands of people at one time. The court system the housing court system is going to be over flooded,” Jackson said.