DOJ rules on housing

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has found the city of Anoka discriminated against people with disabilities using its “crime-free” housing […]

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By KSTP TV
Published December 01, 2023

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has found the city of Anoka discriminated against people with disabilities using its “crime-free” housing ordinance. 

The findings, detailed in a letter sent in November to the city attorney, allege the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act when it denied renters with mental health disabilities access to emergency services and disclosed detailed, personal information on individuals with mental health issues. 

Anoka City Attorney Scott Baumgartner declined to comment on the findings but indicated that he was scheduling a meeting for the City Council to review the letter. 

The federal investigation found that the city “discouraged and prevented” renters with mental health disabilities from calling for help, and that tenants refrained from calling for emergency and medical services out of fear they would lose their housing. 

The department received multiple complaints from individuals with mental health disabilities who experienced this treatment, along with landlords who told investigators they felt pressured to evict renters. 

Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI-MN, called the findings “appalling.” 

“It doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” she said of the city’s policy. 

Under Anoka’s rental licensing and crime-free housing ordinance, tenants who have three “nuisance police calls for service” within a year risk being evicted by their landlord. The landlords also risked losing their rental license if they didn’t take action against their tenants. 

For nearly six years, the city sent weekly reports to landlords detailing those calls for service to rental properties. The DOJ found that in at least 780 of those cases, the reports revealed confidential medical information like diagnoses and medications. The reports even shared details of individuals’ suicide attempts. 

In one case, according to the findings, a woman who ran several assisted living facilities that serve people with disabilities reported that the city pressured her to “evict one her residents with schizophrenia and other mental health disabilities” because the tenant often called police when she was experiencing delusions. 

The provider refused to evict the tenant, but advised her staff to refrain from calling for emergency services. 

The city also disproportionately used the ordinance, according to the feds. Investigators found instances where the city did not penalize individuals who repeatedly called police, but who did not exhibit or disclose mental health issues. 

Scrutiny over the use of crime-free housing ordinances in Minnesota has been growing for years. 
Eric Hauge, executive director of tenant advocacy organization HOME Line, said it’s significant to have the federal government find that Anoka’s use of the crime-free ordinance is discriminatory. Hauge said they often hear from tenants who live in other cities who experience similar treatment. 

(Source: KSTP-TV)

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