Minnesota continues to offer rent relief

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State taking applications through RentHelpMN.org

“Don’t worry, we are not running out of money,” said Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho, assuring the MSR and the public that there are more enough funds available to cover those who apply for rent relief or who have fallen behind. Minnesota received two allotments of federal funds in March and December totaling $518 million. She anticipates that the funding will last through June 2022.

RentHelpMN.org is Minnesota’s effort to help renters pay back rent who have fallen behind on their payments as a result of loss of a job or income because of the coronavirus pandemic. Renters who anticipate that because of financial hardship they will not be able to pay their rent next month or for up to three months in the foreseeable future are also encouraged to apply for relief.

The Minnesota Housing Commission, which has received a steady flow of applications, says it has been hindered in paying out monies by incomplete applications. While the application process can be a bit laborious, it is clearly worth it for those who need relief.

Landlords can also apply on behalf of tenants. The overdue funds are paid directly to landlords.

The public policy nonprofit PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute, using data from the Census Household Pulse Survey and USC’s Understanding Coronavirus in America survey, developed a Rent Debt Dashboard that estimated $19 billion is owed in rent by nearly six million households. The Minnesota rent debt is approximately $155.6 million for an estimated 53,000 households who owe an average of $2,900.

Submitted photo Jennifer Ho, MN Housing Commissioner

Consistent with the fact that even in normal times many BIPOC folks are mired near the bottom of the U.S. poverty index, those communities suffered disproportionate financial loss because of the impact of COVID-19. In Minnesota, 60% of households who are behind on rent are BIPOC with about 71% reporting that they lost income during the pandemic. In the Twin Cities, most of those receiving help are reportedly renters making 80% of the local AMI.

According to Ho, people falling behind on rent did not occur in a vacuum. “It’s more urgent now… We knew before the coronavirus came. We knew there were too many people paying too much rent,” said the commissioner.

“We have a supply problem. We don’t have enough units, and without government incentive there will not be enough units that are affordable. We need more buildings. “[We’re] losing some of the old buildings to gentrification. A lot of data suggests when you have enough housing the prices don’t rise as quickly.”

She noted that “the prices don’t match to people’s real income. If you pay more than 30%, then you are what is called cost-burdened. When you are really getting ahead is when your income goes up and your rent is below 30%.

About Mel Reeves

Mel Reeves is the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He welcomes reader responses at mreeves@spokesman-recorder.com. Find his personal blog at fighthepowerjournal.com.

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One Comment on “Minnesota continues to offer rent relief”

  1. Renthelpmn helps nobody if there is nobody to call after putting in an app to find out my status. The website never gives me any info after I log in. Says the same thing it says since the day I put my app in on May 9th. 211 never gives any information other than they don’t know anything and to wait. Case managers don’t answer emails after waiting a month bec she said she sent it for approval which means she got everything she needed. I have no idea if my app is lost in the shuffle. Being told to wait and not told how long I have to wait and a case manager that ignored my emails when my utilities are going to be shut off and my landlord won’t renew my lease bec the help your program is suppose to give never comes prolongs the agony of what’s going to happen to me. If I can’t get basic questions answered, such as, “how long it takes to get the help once it’s been sent for approval?”, then the program you are in charge of is a complete failure.

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