Our city officials claim to be concerned about the poor, their actions say differently!
Rock of Ages Missionary Baptist Church and 12 Low-Income Housing Providers File HUD Fair Housing Discrimination Complaint Against St. Paul and Minneapolis
On November 6, 2012, Rock of Ages Missionary Baptist Church, Reverend Sylvester Davis, St. Paul community leader Johnny Howard and nine other low-income housing providers in St. Paul and five low-income housing providers in Minneapolis filed a joint Housing Discrimination Complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development against St. Paul and Minneapolis challenging municipal housing laws, policies and practices related to privately-owned, low-income, "protected class"
The joint Housing Discrimination Complaint against St. Paul and Minneapolis states that the Cities have failed to comply with their civil rights certifications and contractual, statutory and regulatory obligations associated with the Cities' receipt of millions of dollars in federal aid, have failed to "affirmatively further fair housing," and have violated the Fair Housing Act, the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
St. Paul and Minneapolis housing laws, policies and practices are in violation of the Cities' federal funding certifications and their affirmative duty to further fair housing. These illegal housing policies have: (1) denied housing and otherwise made affordable housing unavailable to "protected class" members; (2) negatively impacted low-income tenants and "disparately impacted" protected class members; (3) displaced these same individuals and families and those with disabilities from their homes without cause or justification; (4) negatively impacted owners of privately owned, low-income rental housing; (5) acted as a disincentive to private owners of affordable housing to continue offering such housing in the City or to expand such housing, including Section 8 federally subsidized rental units; (6) damaged low-income housing providers and their
tenants; and (7) negatively impacted members of minority churches who are disproportionately impacted by the Cities' affordable housing crisis and municipal overregulation of the low-income housing market.
Minneapolis Housing Policies Challenged Minneapolis has implemented and applied numerous housing policies that are negatively impacting the privately owned, low-income housing market including a rental
licensing revocation ordinance that is being used in a punitive manner against lowincome housing providers resulting in displacement of innocent "protected class" tenants and their families from "safe, decent and sanitary" housing. Minneapolis requires rental housing providers to acquire and maintain a separate license for each rental home. If a housing provider loses just two licenses, the City revokes all remaining licenses and thereby forces the displacement of innocent tenants and families from "safe, decent and sanitary" housing. Recently, the City revoked 16 rental housing licenses held by Ron and Julie Folger thereby forcing all families from their homes without any evidence of habitability concerns or other valid justification for evicting such families.
Minneapolis, in cooperation with a private energy company, is continuing a practice of condemning low-income rental homes for simple, quickly correctable items. In each case, the City immediately levies its oppressively high vacant building fees on the housing provider and refuses to lift the condemnation orders even though licensed contractors quickly remedy any legitimate code issues. These and other similar punitive
City actions take affordable rental homes off-line for extended periods of time and result in unavailable housing even though such housing is "safe, decent and sanitary" under state law and federal law.
Minneapolis applies City code standards and requirements to rental properties already compliant with federal minimum housing standards under the Section 8 Housing Quality Standards (HQS). Correction orders, fines and assessments are levied by the City for failure to meet the City's higher minimum standards.
Additional Minneapolis housing policies are in violation of state and federal law including, but not limited to, the City's condemnation and demolition of "safe, decent and sanitary" housing stock without a legal basis under the Minnesota State Building Code or under the federal minimum Section 8 housing standards.
Minneapolis selectively targets low-income privately owned rental properties and their owners for heavy code enforcement including oppressive fees, fines and assessments. Neighboring properties with similar physical conditions and claimed code violations are not targeted by City inspectors.
St. Paul Housing Policies Challenged In St. Paul, the City continues its heavy municipal regulation of the private housing market. City housing policies continue to negatively impact private owners and investors who, but for the City's excessive regulatory burdens mandated to cover low income housing stock, would have turned the thousands of "vacant" homes since 2002 into reoccupied, affordable homes without the delays that the City's over-regulation has created.
St. Paul's policy and practice illegally designates occupied homes and homes that are in a normal tenant turnover and cleanup, as "vacant buildings" that can no longer be occupied except by complying with expensive and in other ways onerous administrative requirements. In many cases, these selectively targeted homes either meet the federal minimum housing standards ("HQS"), or would meet such HQS standards with minimum actions by owners, if allowed by St. Paul officials. St. Paul's "Code Compliance
Certification Process" illegally removes grandfathering protections under the State Building Code for existing structures and creates undue delays in returning affordable housing to protected class members. St. Paul admits that it costs owners on average $30,000 in forced renovations in order to reoccupy a home under the City'S renovation policy. St. Paul's policies forcibly convert claimed "vacant," formerly affordable rental
homes to "homeowner occupied only" homes through redevelopment contracts and deed restrictions. This practice is another example of City housing policies that have the direct effect of "thinning out" the low-income rental housing stock occupied by "protected class" members, thereby negatively affecting their housing choice and locational choice for affordable and available housing in the City.
St. Paul's policy of hair-trigger condemnations, "nuisance" designations and demolitions of low-income rental properties continues even though such properties are affordable, safe, decent and sanitary and occupied predominately by "protected class" members. Where owners have made substantial investment in capital improvements and repairs to older buildings, St. Paul takes accelerated action to penalize owners and
remove affordable housing stock provided by the private market. Where the owner could, without City interference, quickly make repairs required to the property by the State Building Code, federal HQS, or the City'S legitimate code provisions, St. Paul is quick to order demolition and assess fines and penalties and thereby make such housing unavailable to protected class members.
These and other housing policies and actions of st. Paul and Minneapolis continue during an affordable, low-income rental housing crisis with thousands of "protected class" members on waiting lists in these cities.
Rock of Ages Missionary Baptist Church, an African-American church community in st. Paul, has been negatively impacted by St. Paul's affordable housing crisis, with church members and attendees continuing to experience great difficulty in locating available housing in the City and in the inner-city Metro area. The lack of affordable housing in Frogtown and in the immediately surrounding areas has caused and continues to cause great difficulty for Rock of Ages Church in sustaining its membership and support services to the Community.
Additional participants in the HUD housing discrimination complaint are St. Paul housing providers, investors and business owners Gregory Ryan, David Roering, Joseph Egan, Robert Egan, Leslie Lucht, Ronald Staeheli, James Swartwood, Kenneth Johnson and CK Properties, LLC and Minneapolis housing providers, investors and business owners Ronald Folger, Julie Folger, RBE Properties, LLC, Steven Meldahl, SJM
Properties, Inc., Mahmood Khan and James Swartwood.
St. Paul and Minneapolis HUD Complainants own approximately 230 lowincome rental properties located in the inner-city areas of St. Paul and Minneapolis where most of the affordable housing stock consists of older homes and a high number of vacant homes exist. Complainants' rental properties are mostly older, single family and duplex homes that provide affordable housing to low-income persons and families with children.
Most of the tenants are minorities and disabled individuals and families. St. Paul and Minneapolis continue an ongoing pattern and practice of housing discrimination St. Paul and Minneapolis continue an ongoing pattern and practice of housing discrimination through a system of over-regulation, punitive and otherwise illegal
housing policies and practices, deliberate failures to follow federal and state law and continued violation of federal funding certifications and related obligations. St. Paul and Minneapolis have failed to consider, adopt and implement less discriminatory alternatives in their housing practices.
HUD's Investigative Role
HUD has the statutory authority to enforce compliance with the Fair Housing Act and related statutes and regulations. HUD has authority from Congress to provide funding grants to municipalities as grantees only if said grantees provide the required submissions and civil rights certifications. HUD is prohibited from providing federal funds to a grantee that has failed to either make the required certifications or issued a
false certification. Federal grants such as Community Development Block Grants that St.Paul and Minneapolis receive on an annual basis, are specifically conditioned upon legitimate and valid certifications by st. Paul and Minneapolis as grantees.
St. Paul and Minneapolis have violated their federal funding certifications by failing to "affirmatively further fair housing" in their jurisdictions and by failing to conduct legitimate, mandatory "Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing" ("AI") as defined under federal law, including analysis of all City housing laws, policies and practices, including building codes, applied to low-income housing in the cities. The
most recent "AI" by 8t. Paul and Minneapolis was conducted in 2009. The 2009 AI failed to address the housing policies and building code issues of these cities as required by federal law. Neither City has updated the 2009 AI.
Complainants seek a determination by HUD following an investigation that St. Paul and Minneapolis are in violation of their statutory and contractual duties and certifications. Complainants are requesting that HUD deem the certifications by St. Paul and Minneapolis insufficient to support their receipt of CDBG funds, HOME Investment
Partnership funds, Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds and all other federal funding applicable to all civil rights certifications. Complainants are asking that HUD withhold all HUD funding until St. Paul and Minneapolis meet all of their statutory and contractual obligations, take appropriate actions to remedy all adverse impacts of such policies and provide full restitution to all victims of said illegal policies.
Representing St. Paul and Minneapolis Complainants:
John R. Shoemaker (Attorney at Law)
SHOEMAKER & amp; SHOEMAKER, P.L.L.C
7900 International Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, MN 55425
Phone: (952) 224-4610
Fax: (952) 224-4601