How Bullying by Government is Harmful to ALL of Us [an example]

The Minneapolis City Council passed a housing ordinance that is quite surprising on one hand, but considering the politics of the Twin Cities being knee-deep in “anti-rich”/”anti-entrepreneur” politics, not really. The ordinance does three things:

1. Limits security deposits to one month’s rent
2. Bans checking credit scores
3. Restricts landlord ability to reject clients due to criminal history and prior evictions.

I’m very concerned about this. This is definitely a case of good intentions paving the road to hell. I believe one contributing factor to the housing crisis in Minnesota that has made landlords act cautiously is the deck stacked against them by the law.

It’s really REALLY hard to evict a person in Minnesota. Having done some conflict mediation in housing court and having been involved in housing for the youth/economic advocacy I do, I’ve seen first hand it can take 8 months to evict people for GOOD REASON.

For example, if someone commits a serious crime while in housing like stealing a car or raping a neighbor. Imagine them being in the property for an additional 8 months. I got into conflict mediation as an alternate to the court and prison system, because I don’t believe in government at all. I also believe government should stay out of evictions- instead of putting people in prison yet demanding landlords have NO autonomy, I say EVERYONE- landlords and renters and beyond, has full right to their autonomy.

With the new ordinance it’s even harder to prevent someone with a risk of being violent moving in, so a landlord is losing either way. Landlords would be more willing to take risks if they had their autonomy to mediate conflict or evict a person. It’s wrong for any outsider to demand control over another’s choice.

Second, with security deposits. Rent prices are already skyrocketing and not stopping any time soon. I would not be surprised if there are other fees added or even rent price increased even more drastically to get around the limit. Heavy application fees and use of credit scores has become very popular in response to the housing crisis. Again, landlords are nearly suffocated by government regulation making it hard to verify the quality of an applicant.

I believe there are much better ways to confirm an applicant’s reliability and responsibility than credit scores. There are ways to get around these evil regulations. But sadly many landlords are conventional and don’t think of creative ideas. Further restrictions will only reinforce their fears and sense of disempowerment. It creates a destructive relationship with the renter, because a landlord can feel as if they have no power over the relationship voluntarily. Would you want a landlord who hates your guts but accepted you so he doesn’t go to prison?

This is very bad news even though I hate the use of credit checks in housing too. I would much rather expand conflict mediation efforts that have been profoundly helpful in housing as a way of supporting the economic empowerment of landlords and renters. Then we can change the culture and economy and empower everyone, instead of pitting people’s needs and human rights against each other.

We’re creating a society that will scare away landlords and is destroying the rental market entirely. I’m saddened by the consistent authoritarian bullying the government uses against citizens. The city of Minneapolis already has a $7,000 fine for vacant properties. An article in 2014 shows home owners were already struggling, but raised fees from $400 to the $7K STILL- showing their astounding ignorance for their own cruelty committed on citizens.

Now the potential investors in the last area of the cities where affordable housing was being renovated- North Minneapolis- have come to a halt. The properties sit vacant because the fines make it impossible to afford the renovating investment. They won’t sell.

We have condemned housing all over the cities because of the crisis- first there are bad renters who destroy the property and don’t pay rent yet don’t get evicted for even a year+. Then the landlords get disempowered further by the expenses and their fear of being hurt again. More landlords go out of business, choose to leave the industry or simply can’t afford the regulatory risk. And then investors with the actual money to make housing happen say it’s not profitable, and clearly it’s not!

There’s a big reason luxury housing is the primary real estate being built despite being EMPTY throughout the cities (look at Uptown!, more like Ghost Town!). It’s because luxury housing is the only type with even a 5% profit margin that companies or landlords can actually afford, and more people are going into poverty because it’s the only housing available. Would you want the government to force you into a luxurious prison?

The most valuable lesson of this economic catastrophe is to understand even the people you personally don’t like need to be able to meet their needs, and that includes finances. Landlords and business owners are often treated as evil, even “the rich” are treated as evil by people who are still in the 1% of the richest in history and the world- fellow Americans or people from other developed countries.

More people need to be aware of self-determination. We all need autonomy, yet each other. And we need the wisdom to realize that MY liberation is YOUR liberation. Continuing to abuse and attack each other, to weaponize the government as a bully, is destructive to your own neighbors and community members. My motto in conflict mediation is this:

if you hate your neighbor’s guts, you should wish the absolute best for him, or you’ll be the first to deal with his failure and corruption!

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