Lawmakers want to close a loophole in state law that they said allowed a suburban city to shut down state-licensed group homes, effectively evicting individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses and other disabilities.
The City of New Hope revoked the rental licenses of two group homes last year for “disorderly behavior” violations even though the care facilities were regulated by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Lawmakers, mental health advocates and experts on housing and disability laws decried the tactic.
The city defended its enforcement of the rental ordinance, which recently survived a legal challenge.
But Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) said the city exploited a “loophole” that could create a slippery slope for people with disabilities.
Hoffman will hold a hearing on a bill this summer that he said would require cities to follow clear guidelines before taking any action against a state-licensed care facility.
Under the legislation, a city would first need to notify state agencies that license and regulate the facility. The bill specifies that the city must also alert “interested parties” who are responsible for the care of the individuals who would be affected by the closure.
“What we’re trying to do here is protecting the rights of an individual with a disability to live and be in the community,” Hoffman said in a recent interview with KSTP-TV.
City leaders argued they needed to revoke the rental licenses from the two care facilities to protect the safety of the residents and the surrounding community. They pointed to neighbor complaints and the number of times police were called to those locations.
The group home provider filed a discrimination lawsuit against the city of New Hope earlier this year. But a Hennepin County District Court judge dismissed the case, which is sparking the ush for a change in statue.