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Housing panel reviews agreement on ending state's eviction moratorium

Ending of the COVID-19-related eviction moratorium and making substantial investments in multiple types of housing are among the highlights of a bill with bipartisan agreement.

“We are the only divided Legislature in the country, and I would write a different bill than the one you have before you,” Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) told the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee at an informational hearing Monday. “It’s not a perfect bill, but a negotiated bill between the House and the Senate.”

She sponsors SSHF4, the omnibus housing finance and policy bill, which awaits action by the full House. A companion, SSSF16, sponsored by Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake), awaits action by the Senate.

“I have a lot of disappointment when we get to this point,” Hausman said. “There have been other things I would have liked to accomplish that we didn’t, and we’ll work at it again for next year.”

Monetary numbers

The agreement calls for the issuance of $100 million in housing infrastructure bonds, which supporters say would boost efforts across a range of housing and strengthen local efforts to address housing needs.

The amount is to be reduced by any federal funds received from a federal infrastructure bill enacted before the end of 2021 for loans and grants for the same purposes bonds are issued.

Two-thirds of bond dollars would be unallocated, but $18.33 million would be to finance costs related to single-family housing and $15 million would go toward manufactured home park acquisition and infrastructure.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

Hausman said the House had a $30 million target; the Senate zero.

Ultimately, the $125.6 million bill includes $10 million in increased spending (all in fiscal year 2022):

  • $3.25 million for workforce homeownership program;
  • $2.8 million for the housing challenge program;
  • $1.75 million for manufactured home park infrastructure grants;
  • $1 million to the home ownership assistance fund;
  • $1 million to establish the local housing trust fund;
  • $200,000 to establish a shelter provider task force to “develop standards for the provision of shelter; and examine the need for, and the feasibility and cost of, establishing state oversight of shelter”; and
  • $70,000 for a capacity building grants program.

Eviction moratorium off-ramp

This bill would end the governor’s executive orders that prevent evictions and lease terminations during the COVID-19 Peacetime Emergency and provide temporary provisions for tenants to avoid eviction and lease terminations in certain situations.

“While Governor Walz’s eviction moratorium assuredly saved lives, our agreement to off-ramp the moratorium will save the livelihood of Minnesotans,” Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield) said in a statement. “Minnesotans who have fallen behind on their rent during the pandemic through no fault of their own will have strong protections in law as we prevent evictions while ensuring rental assistance flows to landlords.”

A landlord would be prohibited from terminating or failing to renew a lease within 105 days of enactment, except in cases where the tenant is endangering others, engaging in certain criminal activities, materially violating the lease, or when the tenant requests the termination of the lease. A landlord would be able to end or not renew a lease 45 days after enactment if the tenant has failed to pay rent and is not eligible for the COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program.

Further, a landlord could not file an eviction within 105 days unless the tenant is a danger to others, there is significant property damage or they engage in criminal activity. However, if a tenant materially violates the lease, an eviction would be allowed 15 days after bill enactment. But an exception would exist whereby an eviction could be filed 75 days after enactment if the tenant has failed to pay rent and is not eligible for the COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program. If a tenant doesn’t pay rent and refuses to apply for the COVID-19 rental assistance program or cooperate with completing the application, a landlord can proceed on an eviction. 

The agreement would also prohibit termination during the 105-day phase out of a residential rental agreement, delivering a default notice, or filing an eviction action on a tenant of a manufactured home park, except in cases where the tenant is endangering others, engaging in certain criminal activities.

During the 105 days, landlords would be required to send a notice to renters for rent nonpayment 15 days prior to eviction. In addition, until June 1, 2022, renters with an outstanding rental assistance claim could not be evicted until after the application has been processed and funds distributed. 

A tenant would be responsible for rent or fees due during the peacetime emergency or phase out time period.

“I wish we would have had something like this in place before we saw these egregious amounts that housing providers are having to deal with,” said Rep. Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud), citing, for example, a woman who simply refused to pay rent during the pandemic. “It’s just very disappointing that we know somebody who can pay and they just refuse to do it. Granted she’ll get evicted and it’ll go on her record.”

Other policy provisions in the bill include:

  • allowing the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to make rehabilitation loans for the replacement of manufactured homes and increase the maximum loan amount from $27,000 to $37,500;
  • adding federally recognized American Indian Tribes in Minnesota and tribal housing corporations to the list of whom grants for affordable housing may be made in a natural disaster area;
  • window fall prevention devices are not required in one- and two-family dwellings or townhomes when windows meet certain criteria;
  • amending the process for affixing a manufactured home park to real property and allowing a manufactured home park to be affixed to property when the home is in a cooperative owned park;
  • beginning Sept. 1, 2021, a tenant cannot be charged more than the prorated amount of rent for the last month of rent if the lease requires the tenant to move out before the last day of the month; and
  • clarifying service animal documentation and ensuring a landlord cannot charge additional rent or fees if a tenant needs a service animal.

— Session Daily writers Nate Gotlieb and Rob Hubbard contributed to this story


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