Today, City Council unanimously passed a MOU, or Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Public Housing Authority(MPHA). During a listening session about the MOU hosted by Council Members Abdi Warsame and Cam Gordon on April 17, 2019, resident leaders and allies asked why a MOU that is unenforceable is being named as the city’s chief protection measures for residents. In response CM Cam Gordon said, “We are dancing with the devil.” Here is a brief breakdown of the deeply flawed MOU that all of city council signed off on.
The MOU mostly re-states federal RAD guidelines, which HUD is not already not reliably enforcing and uses language from MPHA’s Guiding Principles for Capital Redevelopment which was rejected by residents.
There is not language on how the City will enforce any of these agreements if MPHA were to violate them after the City has already given MPHA funding.
The MOU is weak and contradicts itself in numerous places. For example, it says that MPHA will remain responsible for the management and maintenance of converted (i.e. privatized) properties. But a few sentences later it says that could change (which we already know from Greg Russ’s testimony to the Board of Commissioners last summer), and the MOU only requires that residents be notified of that change.
The MOU does not require meaningful resident participation, and continues MPHA’s practice of considering resident organizations – which are controlled and manipulated by MPHA and do not represent the majority of residents – as the only residents who deserve to be involved in the planning or approval process.
The MOU does not guarantee that residents will continue to pay 30% of their income once their properties are privatized. Instead it talks about maintaining “affordability” based on metrics derived from Area Median Income (AMI), which DG&PHC has already written critically about.
The MOU does not require continued public ownership of public housing properties. It says that public ownership can be substituted for “public control,” by which they mean a non-profit created by MPHA will maintain a controlling interest in the converted property. This not only contradicts MPHA’s own documents showing that their non-profit will only have 0.01% interest in the properties (with the other 99.99% belonging to a private investor), but it also treats the non-profit as equivalent to a public entity. The non-profit will not be a public entity, and therefore would not constitute public ownership or “public control” even if it were to control 100% of the property after RAD conversion.
The MOU does not resolve concerns raised by the National Low Income Housing Coalition or the Government Accountability Office’s report on RAD commissioned by Maxine Waters having to do with the risk that foreclosure would have on any RAD contracts or agreements.
Ultimately, this MOU is weak, unenforceable, and these problems are understood by the city council that has passed it anyways, as confirmed by CM Abdi Warsame and Cam Gordon this past Wednesday. If City council cared about the preservation of public housing and protecting residents, they would not regurgitate and support the policies of Ben Carson’s HUD. It has become all too clear that the City of Minneapolis is invested in the destruction of marginalized communities and the displacement of poor people. If they weren’t they wouldn’t have signed this MOU unanimously. Call your council members and voice your disappointment.