On Monday of this past week, working-class Minneapolitans, specifically those who receive public housing assistance through Section 8 voucher programs, gained some breathing room after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled to uphold a contested Minneapolis city ordinance related to protecting tenants who use Section 8 vouchers. As a result, the city of Minneapolis can now enforce its ordinance, which effectively bans landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants solely due on the fact that they use Section 8 vouchers.
Susan Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, said she is “pleased but not surprised” by the ruling.
"The purpose of the ordinance is very simple. It's to increase opportunities for housing for people who... are participants in this Section 8 housing choice voucher program so that they have more opportunities to live in different parts of the city than they do currently," Segal said.
To date, Minneapolis is the one and only city in the state with such source-of-income discrimination protection for Section 8 voucher recipients. However, beyond Minnesota, there are many states, counties and cities across the nation that don't have these protections.
"There's always a number of people who hold these vouchers that can't find a place to rent and so that's an issue that's very important to the city. It's a big issue across the state and across the country now," Segal continued.
The ordinance was originally contested by a district court judge back in 2018, who sided with the landlords in the lawsuit, stating "Over three-quarters of Minneapolis landlords do not now accept Section 8 vouchers. A conclusive presumption automatically tarring all of them with the brush of discrimination violates their due process rights."
Regarding the ruling, Tom Fletcher, primary plaintiff in the suit and president of Fletcher Properties Inc., said, "We are disappointed with the appeals court ruling overturning the district court's decision in our favor. We will likely be appealing the Appeals Court ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court."
While this ruling is a positive development and a gain for working-class renters in Minneapolis, as I have discussed previously on this platform, it must be stressed that this measure is but one of many small and ultimately useless “Band-Aid” solutions that can never hope to truly heal on the deep, vast wound that is housing development and policy driven by the logic of capital accumulation and profit instead of social need. These problems cannot be addressed solely through struggle for electoral reforms, because bourgeois democracies like the united states ultimately represent the interests of the bourgeois class, despite any attempts at mystifying the class nature of the state via a controlled and largely pre-determined charade of “democratic participation” every few years, and the bourgeois class ultimately cannot structurally abide that which would be required to materially achieve true housing justice for all working and oppressed peoples: a revolutionary solution is needed. As we can see by the persistence of landlord parasites like Tom Fletcher and others, the landlord class is willing and able to fight tooth and nail in order to defend their interests against those of marginalized Minneapolitans and they must be opposed at every turn by the masses of Minneapolis through mobilization of their own class power against that of the landlords. They complain about violation of their “right” to house only those who would be most profitable to house, while at the same time actively working to hinder access by working-class and nationally-oppressed Minneapolitans, those who are most vulnerable to housing insecurity yet who produce or enable the production of the vast majority of Minneapolis’ material wealth, to their true right to genuinely safe and accessible housing.
Minneapolis Public Housing Authority administers about 5,000 Section 8 housing choice vouchers. Segal said she isn't sure when the ordinance will go into effect, but said it'll happen in the "not-too-distant future."
Red Mill City will have updated reports on this struggle as it develops and potentially escalates to the Minnesota Supreme Court.