Minneapolis Landlording for Dividing while Turfing

While scrolling and then mentioned through Facebook the other day I found a sponsored post that piqued my interest titled “Make YOUR Voice heard, Minneapolis!” regarding safe and affordable housing in Minneapolis. The initial concept sounds great, but their whole campaign and turfing is selectively worded so obviously behind their own thinly-veiled manipulation attempts for landlords to continue dividing the public and exploiting renters.

Their new campaign is called Safe and Affordable Neighborhoods Minneapolis, sponsored and paid for by the Minnesota Multi Housing Association (MHA) and based in Bloomington.

Luckily, it didn’t take long to learn from a tweet that I’m not the only one thinking about their obvious pro-landlord bias. Thanks Twitter folks for noting their turfing! If you think you had an influence in this read, you’re probably right.

This image in their tweet right above this reminds me of phone book industry litter, but I digress.

Pro Landlord Signs

Pro-Landlord Signs

This is my favorite Twitter reply so far by Tom Basgen:

Twitter Reply

Netflix movie turned into an agenda

MHA has done enough work to prove that they’re in this at least further than their initial seagull droppings and turfing campaign. They registered their domain on May 24th for 2 years.

Domain Creation

2-year domain registration

They did register it by proxy which is popular for those who want their identity hidden, but I doubt this is the case. They don’t hide that MHA is behind their efforts and maybe GoDaddy uses domain by proxy by default. 

They also have Google Tag Manager in their code. This at least gives them the ability to use a ton of third-party tags to study users beyond analytics.

For seagull dropping and turfing, they’ve hit the main social media channels pretty hard so far. They also have an op-ed from their “news” section on MinnPost and I’m sure there will be more to come. The piece itself talks about Seattle and their extreme rental policy experiments.

I used to live in the Seattle area. Shady landlords ARE the rental regulations problem there. See the new Congratulations for tenant protections across WA State piece for POC renters who have been disproportionately evicted from their homes. The Minneapolis Safe and Affordable Neighborhoods self-lobbyists aren’t too excited about this, and in their PC words:

The latest example of this phenomenon is the “Seattlification” of rental housing regulations. Two City Council members have proposed new ordinances that would substantially disrupt the rental market by limiting property managers’ ability to continue to provide safe and affordable housing.

(AKA) Let landlords continue to provide opportunities to divide.

I really thank Minneapolis champions Lisa Bender and Jeremiah Ellison in their continued efforts to help limit landlords and their screening processes. It helps reduce division, NIMBYism, and even redlining.

Maybe this is all proof that anyone can start a non-profit, using carefully selected words in their campaigns to try to influence smart and sexy users to buy into their own thinly-veiled ideals like landlording.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments!

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24 Responses to Minneapolis Landlording for Dividing while Turfing

  1. Adam June 13, 2019 at 11:30 am #

    I don’t know about this one…

    As a duplex owner, I would want to know what kind of crimes the person I am going to share my home with has committed.

    You are acting like this should be an obvious urbanist win.

    I think I disagree.

    • Paul June 13, 2019 at 11:50 am #

      As a landlord you want the best qualified tenant of all applicants to sign the lease.

      The city wants to ensure the person with the least chance of winning that competition gets the lease instead, assuming the other people will find something somewhere else or end up finding a more expensive unit.

      That’s how it appears.

    • Dan June 13, 2019 at 2:07 pm #

      Here’s the list of screening criteria that would be prohibited:

      arrests without conviction
      juvenile records
      convictions that have been vacated or expunged
      convictions for things that are no longer crimes
      participation or completion of diversion or deferred judgment programs
      misdemeanors older than 2 years
      certain felonies older than 5 years (exceptions: arson, racketeering, and “offenses that mandate denial of tenancy in federally assisted housing,” including registered sex offenders.)
      credit score minimum of 500 or more
      insufficient credit or rental history
      eviction actions that were dismissed or the judgment was in favor of applicant
      eviction actions with no judgment or writ of recovery that are 1 year or older
      eviction actions resulting in judgment against the applicant that are 3 years or older

      Most of these (such as dismissed eviction actions) seem like situations where the applicant may not have done any wrong (such as a landlord attempting to evict them without their violating the terms of the lease)…but a potential future landlord can nonetheless currently screen their application out on these grounds.

      • Scott Walters June 13, 2019 at 3:02 pm #

        I was a landlord for a time, and to me, these seem like fairly reasonable criteria to exclude.

      • Matt Steele
        Matt June 14, 2019 at 8:28 am #

        I understand the need for reform here but I’m not sure I agree with some of these. Who would want to lease to someone who has a credit score in the 500s or 600s when they could instead lease to someone with a credit score in the 700s or 800s?

    • S June 13, 2019 at 3:06 pm #

      Also a duplex owner-occupant. I’m concerned about this as well. I’m also concerned about the part (not mentioned here) that says that landlords can’t reject anyone based on credit score if their score is over 500.

      I’m very open to the idea of the city setting some limits on what landlords can and can’t use as screening criteria, particularly when it comes to things like relatively minor crimes committed many years in the past, but the way this ordinance is shaping up is making me nervous. It goes far enough that I feel like I will be assuming greater than my fair share of risk once it goes into effect. The onus of giving someone a first chance to prove themselves post-incarceration, for example, should not land squarely on the shoulders of private individuals. Also, I still have to pay my mortgage, utility bills, and upkeep costs whether or not someone pays their rent, which makes me nervous about renting to someone with a recent spotty credit record. I can technically afford my mortgage without a renter, but it’s a LOT more than I’m comfortable with.

      I’m also concerned that this will drive landlords to figure out ways to raise prices (such as renovating older buildings) to price out the riskiest tenants. I can see this being a bad move for affordability overall.

      • A June 17, 2019 at 10:13 am #

        I am also concerned about the tenant’s credit/ability to pay rent as a duplex owner. However, I recall seeing that landlords can require the tenant’s pay stubs and employer reference to make sure they make enough money for rent.

    • Paul Jahn
      Paul Jahn June 13, 2019 at 9:18 pm #

      It’s certainly fine to disagree and thanks for your comment, Adam.

  2. Elizabeth Larey June 13, 2019 at 2:23 pm #

    Landlords have an investment to protect. If the city thinks they can force them to take people who have a high probability of causing damage, or a high probability of not paying rent, they have “another think coming”. This would probably end up in the courts, and the city would lose.

  3. Sam June 13, 2019 at 8:10 pm #

    Who on earth titled this article?

  4. Andrew Evans June 14, 2019 at 10:01 am #

    What’s going to end up happening is the middle of the rental market is going to start to go away. Landlords are either going to invest in their properties to charge a premium, or they are going to get out of the game. We’re going to be left with luxury units, or non-profit ran housing. That or landlords aren’t going to make investments to their properties and charge as much or more than they are now, since they will be assuming more risk with their investment.

    My partner and I have somewhat dabbled in the thought of buying another property for a rental. Any new rules like these make that investment in the community less and less likely and our previous choices of using the money for vacations sound all that much better.

    A neighbor has a few rental properties, and he is considering selling them if these rules or more rules like them come into play.

    • Monte Castleman June 14, 2019 at 11:09 am #

      A person that works next to me owns six houses. He doesn’t make any money off them, because as soon as theirs a cushion of rent collected above mortgage payments,, one of them needs a new roof and another needs a new furnace. It a form of investing for his retirement. If new rules come up that threaten his investment, he’s going to sell them them either to a slumlord that lets the properties go to seed with balky furnaces and leaky roofs, or someone that will renovate them and rent them for top dollar.

      • Andrew Evans June 21, 2019 at 12:41 pm #

        Monte,

        My friends family owns over 100 properties, or something like that. From what I gather they are mostly single family homes or duplexes, nothing high density or brownstones or anything that way. What gets me is them making social media posts a few times a month about being in housing court, or otherwise dealing with less than good renters. At those number of properties it can turn into a business, more so than the investment your coworker has or what my partner and I would do. But still, the amount of new red tape and bs that’s being added, in the name of renters rights, will have an impact on some landlords or rental groups who are already up to their ears in stuff and are looking for an exit.

        I’ve said it before, but a city sponsored nonprofit owned the house south of me and left it abandoned for around 5 years. Slumlords work both ways, they don’t have to be a private individual. So I’m not too keen on nonprofit groups getting too big to fail either.

        The city should really make it easier for landlords, and open up more tools for them, as well as focusing on renters rights. There needs to be a balance, and there needs to be space for local residents small investors, or family businesses, along with corporations and nonprofits. The more diversity we can have in rental ownership the better.

        FWIW at least in my corner of North (in Hawthorne off Lyn/Lowry), I’d be willing to bet any single family properties landlords would sell would be taken private. I’d also maybe willing to bet that some of the duplexes would be private as well with the owner living in one of the units. Any talk of making it harder for landlords may eventually limit the market for renting duplexes and houses.

  5. Andrew Evans June 14, 2019 at 10:14 am #

    I’m not sure why buying a domain name has anything to do with how serious they are. It’s not like they are all that expensive, other than .mn are something like $50 or more, so those are out, and .org are a little more than others.

    Getting the privacy protection isn’t a terrible idea either, although that can get a little more expensive, since at least with GoDaddy, iirc, it’s by the domain and not by the account. Still though I think it’s only an extra $20 a year or something along those lines, it’s not unaffordable.

    Not sure why 3rd party google stats are that big of deal either. Google analytics or whatever its’ called now is, or at least has been, a decent means to monitor web traffic and SEO. It could also be that their host doesn’t have those tools, or has inferior ones.

    • Paul Jahn
      Paul Jahn June 17, 2019 at 1:21 pm #

      Thanks Andrew, I’m guessing their marketing/PR firm set everything up for them. I agree that it’s not a lot of money. Whether they use 3rd party or even Google Analytics itself I would have no idea. They just have the ability to.

  6. Prazz June 14, 2019 at 12:35 pm #

    As a landlord, I support the goals of this proposal, but I’m skeptical that it will work. While it may benefit the ‘unrentable’ class of tenants, it will do so at the expense of low-income tenants whose rent must be increased to offset increased risk and costs. I doubt the magnitude of the benefit will be sufficient to offset the magnitude of the detriment. Also, look for an increase in application fees to offset the extra work and risk associated with tenant screening.

    Everyone needs housing and we depend almost entirely on the private sector to provide it. Therefore, revenue must always exceed costs, otherwise, landlords will exit the market. Increased costs (risk is a cost), must be accompanied by increased revenue. Ultimately, tenants bear all costs of rental housing; so, if a new regulation increases costs, it is paid entirely by tenants. Rather than an unenforceable ‘no-peeking’ rule to coerce landlord behavior, the city should focus on ways to ‘de-risk’ tenants with unfavorable histories.

    As a business person, I’m indifferent to poor housing regulation. I shrug, raise rents to cover the new costs, then move on. As a human; I’m saddened bad policy heaps costs on those who are least equipped to bear them.

    • S June 14, 2019 at 1:14 pm #

      One assumption this comment makes (and I fully agree with it) is that the market will bear increased costs that come from landlords raising rents in response to this ordinance.

      This might not work at the luxury apartment level, but I think that nearly all older housing stock in Minneapolis probably rents for a bit below what it could manage to get if its owners tried. (My evidence for this, apart from anecdotal experience, is mainly the city’s extremely low vacancy rate – that’s a market imbalance.) I don’t really have a good explanation for why this would be the case. But that fact alone, if true, makes this an extremely poor move for overall affordability and bad for renters on average.

  7. Andrew June 17, 2019 at 11:33 am #

    This article was very hard to follow. What is “turfing” and “seagull dropping”?

  8. Paul Jahn
    Paul Jahn June 17, 2019 at 1:17 pm #

    I would consider them both astroturfing, carpet bombing, etc. In this case, bombing social media and content on all channels at once with what I consider a very deceitful push-campaign.

  9. Janne June 17, 2019 at 10:44 pm #

    I’ve been an owner-occupant landlord for 22+ years, and what I care about is simple. I care about living in a city where everyone, no matter the color of their skin or the oppression they face, can find a home to rent if that’s what they’d like to do.

    I also care about paying my mortgage. This is not that much of a stretch. I have used principles about the same as these for the 22 years I’ve been screening potential tenants. As a landlord, I explore two questions.

    Will they be able to pay their rent in full and on time? If they’ve been able to do so for a couple years, and they have the same employment, their credit score is irrelevant.

    Will they treat the building and their neighbors with respect? Misdemeanors, vacated convictions, juvenile arrests, arrests without convictions, unsubstantiated evictions don’t tell me anything useful. The easiest reference is a rental reference, and I’ve worked with people to find alternative ways to demonstrate that, too.

    The truth is that I have a lot more power than the people who rent – or want to rent – from me. Does change and giving up power make me think twice? Yep, and that’s human. And, after I think twice, I’m fine with changes that mean kids get better access stable homes and success in school. I’m OK with doing my part to address the racist policing that means these rules are a legal pathway to disproportionately excluding Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color from our communities.

  10. Rosa June 23, 2019 at 12:06 pm #

    it’s been kind of fun seeing them get slagged on Facebook, though. Someone’s paying for their stuff to pop up on people’s feeds and like 90% of the comments are negative.

    • Andrew Evans June 26, 2019 at 12:14 pm #

      Although they aren’t giving them away, Facebook ads are pretty affordable from what I’m told, and they may not be spending any more than $5 to $10 to $20 a day. Yes, that is real money, but depending on how it’s setup $150 to $200 a month can go a long way.

      Maybe they are paying more than that, but I wouldn’t start with the assumption that it is expensive or that they are paying more than they are comfortable with.

      • Julie Kosbab June 27, 2019 at 9:33 am #

        Depends on the reach they’re after. $5 won’t get you much more than 100-200 ad views a day.

  11. Mara June 27, 2019 at 1:00 pm #

    Interesting to me that the same day this page carried this post, it also carried a “Chart of the Day” detailing how the Met Council study of area housing found that in order to get to a healthy and balanced ~5% vacancy rate in the area we are short about 15,000 housing units. On top of that, the study showed that small buildings of 2-3-and 4-unit rentals had in fact DECREASED since 2010.

    Any economists here? Can no one put 2 and 2 together? What do you think happens with an effective 0% vacancy rate (as we have now) and decrease in available units of the typical “private landlord” type in the market? Guess who most felons and folks with an evictions and poor credit rent from? Bueller?

    Others here have already made very good comments about the probable unintended side-effects of legislation like this. I’ve read the Wilder Research report on criminal history and housing outcomes and it looks strongly correlated with this draft legislation. As a small-time landlord myself who lives in the community where I own property, I support the goals of this legislation, but I think folks who are not familiar with the business and mechanics of rentals and applications make a lot of uninformed assumptions. Knowledgeable landlords who mentored me showed me how you avoid unconscious bias and discrimination. You take the first applicant who is qualified based on your pre-determined criteria. This will become a race to apply for an ever shrinking pool of units at an ever-rising rent.

    I think in fact the city views this as a discrimination case and that is why the lawsuit was brought up. Now the city wants to enact legislation to stop that discrimination. All good stuff! However, there will be consequences of those changes and I do agree with others here, with the legislation as written in draft, in fact it will lead to higher rents and more units being taken off the market to rent at all. It will hurt those who now find affordable housing in duplexes etc. whether with felonies and evictions in their records or not.

    Where are the proposals about positive incentives to assist felons in purchasing their own homes? Where are the expansions of land-trust programs to move low-income families into homes of their own?

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