Minnesota eviction requests rose in April

Not only have eviction applications in Minnesota resumed after a moratorium was lifted in October, but the pace of filings is also increasing.

According to a Star Tribune analysis of court records, statewide eviction applications in April were nearly 60% higher than the pre-pandemic average for that month.

The number of filings in Anoka County for April was twice the pre-pandemic average for that month. Hennepin and several other counties with significant rental numbers also saw eviction requests double — or come close.

Housing advocates say they fear the surge in applications reflects more than an end to the moratorium and the drying up of aid dollars. While those measures saved renters time, some say the rising cost of housing is making it out of reach for even more Minnesotans.

“During the pandemic, we didn’t really understand how many people are a paycheck away [from eviction]Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho said. “This is happening nationwide and there is a lot of concern because it reflects a growing shortage of affordable rental housing.”

Ho said the numbers reflect the need for structural changes that would both build more affordable housing and give the most needy tenants more help. DFL Gov’s proposed additional budget. Tim Walz, which includes nearly $1 billion for housing and homelessness over three years, would, she said.

But state Senator Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, said he suspects the April spike in applications is short-lived, triggered by landlords finally freed from a two-year moratorium. Minnesota has long been among the lowest states in terms of eviction rates, he said.

“It’s probably not a trend. I’d be very shocked if this wasn’t just a low-key question,” Draheim said. “It will be interesting to see where we end up in a month or two months. Until I see more than just an eruption of the moratorium [ending] and people who are told they don’t have to pay their rent for two years, I want to wait.”

Angie French of Mid Continent Management, a company that manages about 1,900 units and 40 properties in Minnesota, also believes the spike is temporary. She expects it to disappear after June 1.

Then the eviction protection against tenants who have applied for rental assistance will lapse. There is a twist, she said, that could fuel eviction filing numbers.

When assistance, which is paid to the landlord, is provided, the eviction protection lapses. But sometimes those tenants still don’t pay rent. That may contribute to a recent wave of filings, French said.

In a 24-unit building in Minneapolis, she said, a tenant has not paid rent since December 2020. Another has not paid since February 2021. The landlord recently received social assistance benefits of $20,000 and $14,000 for the back rent. When the tenants still didn’t pay rent after that, she said, it led to two more eviction requests.

“We won’t have these situations after June 1, when we can go back to normal,” French said.

Some provinces see double

During the pandemic, there were only about 130 eviction applications statewide each month. That started growing in August and reached more than 700 in October. In March, there were more than 1,000 sign-ups, returning them to typical pre-pandemic levels. However, April’s filings were about 40% higher than the month before, with about 1,800 filings statewide.

The number of eviction requests in Anoka County in April was twice the pre-pandemic average for that month. There were six filings for every 1,000 rental units last month, up from the typical three filings per 1,000 units. Of the counties with at least 5,000 rental properties, Anoka had the highest per capita rate last month.

“What you see in your data analysis is also what we see,” said Eric Hauge, executive director of Home Line, a tenant advocacy group. “I think the wave is just starting.”

In recent weeks, he said, about 100 eviction warrants have been filed every working day, “and some even on weekends,” he said.

“Before the pandemic, we had 15,000 a year,” Hauge said. “We could see 25,000 [a year] if this pace continues.”

And the problem may be worse than the numbers show, he said. In some cases, instead of filing eviction notices, landlords often evict tenants simply by not renewing their lease, Hauge said. In the first four months of this year, his organization saw an 80% increase in the number of ‘no reason’ cancellations. There has been a 97% increase in calls from tenants being evicted, he said.

Elizabeth Glidden, deputy director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership, said the spike shows that the state has ended aid to low-income renters too early. And the reports point to even more difficult times for those families.

“Not only are they evicted, but their ability to get a home in the future is forever compromised.”

Federal aid is drying up

Tenant advocacy groups have been urging state leaders for months to stem the rise in evictions by spending more on emergency relief and reforming the eviction process. Minnesota received about $673 million from the federal government to help tenants and homeowners pay their bills during the pandemic, but the dollars dried up faster than state officials expected amid a flood of requests.

In the State House, where Democrats hold the majority, lawmakers have passed a housing bill that includes $25 million in rent assistance. Their proposal would also require landlords to provide two weeks’ notice before evicting a tenant for failing to pay rent and would make it easier to clear an eviction record. The Republican-led Senate version of the bill instead focuses on helping more Minnesotans become homeowners and blocking local rent-control measures like the St. Paul voters approved last year.

A small group of negotiators is trying to reach a compromise on housing plans before the legislative session ends on May 23.

State Representative Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield, said the moratorium and federal rent relief have well averted an eviction crisis. “But once the federal housing benefit was gone, it was like we pulled the buoy out. So it’s not surprising that we saw this big spike.”

Like Ho, he said the numbers point to a worsening housing crisis in Minnesota, where there is a gap of 100,000 truly affordable rental housing for the poorest residents.

“Statistics tell us we need to make groundbreaking investments to make housing more affordable for people. And this isn’t going to happen overnight,” Howard said. “We need bold solutions in the short term, but also bigger investments to create more affordable housing.”

Draheim said he’s not convinced. At a time when more than 200,000 job openings remain unfilled and there are still multiple government programs designed to help people obtain and maintain housing, he is unsure whether a spike in eviction applications is exacerbating unemployment. indicates a crisis.

“We need to understand the root cause [of evictions]’, he said. ‘What can we do to keep people at home? What can we do to make sure we spend this money wisely?”

Staff writer Jessie Van Berkel contributed to this report.

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