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.
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%.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.