There are many stakeholders in the Defund movement, some more readily apparent than others. Landlords and property owners manage housing for over fifty percent of Minneapolis’ 420,000 residents, or 89,000 households. The current system of screening tenants has been criticised for excluding those with past interactions with the police and in turn the justice system from access to neighborhoods with higher quality of life. This has had a disproportionate effect on specific communities.
In an effort to make housing more equitable, the city council recently passed a Renter Protection ordinance which became effective June 1st. It is a complicated beast spelling out which offenses can or can’t be used against an applicant over a variety of time frames. For example, murder and arson can not be used as a reason to deny an applicant if the conviction is more than ten years old. This applies to every landlord, even the senior who is renting the other side of their duplex for retirement income.
As with any new set of rules, there will be outcomes that help and hurt the system. The goal of providing better access to housing to those who have unjustly acquired a criminal record might be achieved, but certainly at a lesser chance than housing them directly. The large apartment complexes owners, with in-house attorneys, will manage to adapt to a new system of screening. But I wonder about the middle market of small investors and their capacity to absorb the new criteria and be successful in its implementation.
The proposed ordinance was criticized for giving incentives to felons to move into the city from surrounding areas. The net effect would be to increase a criminal presence in the city. It was also suggested that it could destabilize a rental community as renters would move out anticipating an increase in criminal activity in their environment.
No matter the degree to any or all of these outcomes, property owners will be affected. The defund movement is asking for a better allocation of resources in their neighborhoods to stop young teens from encountering police in their schools, and to keep them away from the pipeline to prison that so many have experienced. This seems to have greater merit than building out an ordinance which inevitably will have unfavorable outcomes for many groups.