Twin Cities Daily Planet: Renters Collectively Demand Justice Equity from Minneapolis and St. Paul
Protesters lined the sidewalk in the 3100 block of 22nd Avenue South in the Corcoran neighborhood. Tenants, community organizations and Corcoran residents were among those present demanding changes by the landlord, the City of Minneapolis and the community, while anticipating a property sale and rent increases at 8 buildings owned by the landlord. Five of these buildings (69 units) are on this b
lock of 22nd Avenue. Some of tenants’ demands are:
Buyers: keep a clean, safe environment and affordable buildings.
City: get buildings into good hands and let tenants choose new owners, take responsibility for the fact that Zorbalas can continue to generate profits (explained below), and fight for the rights of tenants.
Community: The community should recognize that this is a problem in every neighborhood in the city of Minneapolis and needs to support and walk with tenants.
Many tenants say Frenz has ignored their complaints and has done as little as possible to ensure livable housing.
In mid-July, CNO discovered by chance Frenz’s sale of eight properties. Given low vacancy rates and a hot economy, many fear that a private sector buyer could make minimal improvements and dramatically increase the rental prices, forcing current tenants out and potentially leaving Corcoran with 69 substandard homes. Sale documents suggest the buildings currently deliver generous profits for the owners despite their condition.
Dirty, unhealthy and unsafe is how Monique Carrillo described the apartment she moved into in April 2016. Carrillo invited the Channel 5 News team into her home and showed holes, mice, broken pipes, water damage under sinks and floors, and mold -- some of the living conditions typical of each building for sale.
The properties once belonged to Spiros Zorbalas, an embattled landlord who was pressured by the City to surrender his rental licenses due to poor conditions and accumulation of housing violations. The properties are now owned by the Apartment Shop and Frenz, but recent court proceedings against Frenz revealed that Zorbalas remains majority owner.
On learning these buildings were for sale, CNO recruited four affordable housing nonprofits who would commit to substantial repairs and affordable rents. While all expressed strong interest in purchase of the buildings, none were able to put together an offer in the short timeframe. Offers were due in mid-August.
The others buildings for sale are 3100 Bloomington Ave South, 3121 Pleasant Ave South, 3725 Cedar Ave S. The sale will affect more than 130 families, mostly low-income families of color, including single mothers and the elderly.
The city of Minneapolis shared the following statement with KSTP:
"The City of Minneapolis continues to closely monitor this case. Once there is a resolution and findings we can look at, we will review our options and determine the appropriate next steps. Regardless of the identity of a property owner, the City continues to be diligent and vigorous in responding to tenant concerns and complaints, issuing citations as needed, and enforcing relevant health, safety and maintenance codes to keep residents of all rental properties in our city safe and healthy.
During routine rental license inspections or when receiving complaints, Regulatory Services can require owners to comply with all standards contained within the City of Minneapolis Housing Maintenance Code. This includes, but is not limited to, pests, mold and other repairs. A reasonable period of time is given to the property owner to make those repairs. Non-compliance of lawful orders can result in monetary citations, increased tier designation (costing owners more money for their rental license and increased inspections) and direct actions against the property owner's license."
Find more information including the Star Tribune article and KSTP video at www.corcoranneighborhood.org or contact Brettina Davis [email protected] or Edain Altamirano [email protected] (in Spanish) or call 612-724-7457.