The Potluck

Evictions continue upward trend as moratorium nears end

By: - October 12, 2021 1:38 pm
family evicted nevada

Photo by Michael Lyle/Nevada Current.

Weekly eviction filings in Minnesota are up about fivefold since June, when the state began rolling back a moratorium on evictions put in place by Gov. Tim Walz in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the high mark — 206 filings in the last week of September— is still far lower than the 344 evictions filed every week on average in 2019.

Evictions are likely to begin ticking up even more this week as the state lifted the last of its eviction protections on Tuesday, except for renters who are behind on rent and have pending applications through RentHelpMN, the state’s $518 million temporary rental assistance program funded by the federal government.

A total of $673 million in federal aid came to the state for rental assistance and was divided between Minnesota Housing, large counties and Native tribes.

The state has moved slowly to distribute aid to renters, thousands of whom have been waiting for months for help with rent and utility bills. Minnesota Housing paid out $128.6 million in some 26,440 payments, most of which were made in just the past two months.

“​​Our job is to continue to speed up the pace of what we’re doing … That said, we’re not where we need to be,” Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho said during a recent news conference.

Getting aid out to renters has challenged local governments across the country, who’ve had to launch about 500 different rental assistance programs from scratch. The amount of money Minnesota Housing is tasked with distributing is roughly 10 times its annual budget. Each application must be verified to prevent fraud with numerous documents like proof of income.

But the pace at which the money has been released varies greatly, and Minnesota ranks 12th, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Minnesota landlords will not be allowed to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent if they are waiting for assistance until June 1.

The slow pace of payments has left thousands of tenants and landlords waiting for months as missed payments stretch into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for some landlords.

The delay in rental payments has also trapped some renters and landlords in a difficult holding pattern because renters are only eligible for assistance where they currently live.

That means landlords risk forfeiting back rent if their tenants move out before Minnesota Housing cuts them a check. Landlords would then have to sue their tenants to recoup lost income.

An estimated 50,000 Minnesota households owe a combined $115 million in back rent, the vast majority of whom are low income, according to data tracking by PolicyLink.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.