The working poor deserve a place to call home

Anthony Crider/MGN Rent relief protester in Jan. 2021

Rent stabilization is a first step in that direction

At one time, having a decent job allowed you to afford a place to live, a car to drive, money for bills, and even some extra money to spare. Today, it’s not even close. Too many people have to work two jobs to even afford a place to live. 

The paycheck from the first job goes to rent, and then part of the paycheck from the second job might go to rent too. The trick is that rent keeps going up, but the paychecks don’t.

This is no way to live, but it is reality for too many of us in Minneapolis. We have a chance to change that by voting to give our city the authority to enact rent stabilization measures in the election happening on November 2. 

We are only at step one of a process with a lot of steps. But we won’t get anywhere on making housing affordable if we don’t take the first step.

The majority of households in Minneapolis are renters. On top of that, 45% of renters pay more than 30% of their income on housing. It’s not a shock that most of these renters are renters of color. 

I’m one of them, but I wouldn’t call where I live a “home.” I work full-time as a custodian for $15 an hour—with few benefits. I am considered an essential worker and clean a Big Box store that makes billions per year in profits. 

But the only housing I can actually afford is a room at Catholic Charities. A single room. That’s not a home. 

I was born and raised in Minneapolis and have lived here my entire life. This is where I want to be, but 30% of my income is $775 a month. How many apartments rent for $775 a month in Minneapolis? None that are worth living in. 

I don’t want tile falling off the walls. I don’t want cockroaches. I don’t want plumbing that doesn’t work. I don’t want an unsafe place, and I shouldn’t have to live in an unsafe place. 

I want a place that I can take pride in. I want a place that makes me want to get up and go to work in the morning because I have a place I feel good about coming back to at night. I want a home. Everyone deserves that.

But without some type of rent stabilization, that will never be an option for me and so many others, especially People of Color. While 45% of renters are “cost-burdened” by paying more than 30% of their income in rent, that number jumps to 57% for Black renters, 54% for Latino renters, and almost 60% for Indigenous renters. 

So, the majority of People of Color are already over the edge of what they can “afford” to pay. Then factor in that currently landlords can raise rent as much as they want. 

While most small landlords care about their tenants and make reasonable adjustments to their rental rates, corporate landlords who put their bottom line over the livelihood of people leverage limitless rent increases to boost their profits. 

And these rent increases are actually steepest for low-income renters and renters of color, those who can least afford them. These increases then cause people to have to move. I have moved a lot in my life, sometimes by choice and sometimes not. Moving is hard—on single people, on parents, and especially on kids.

I believe wholeheartedly that proper housing leads to greater self-esteem, motivation and drive. Shouldn’t we want that for everyone? Voting “yes” on question 3 to move forward with rent stabilization is how we demonstrate these values? It is how we show that every resident of Minneapolis, no matter their income or skin color, deserves a home of which they can be proud. 

Troy Bowman is a Minneapolis resident and member of SEIU Local 26.

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