Real Estate

Minnesota city denies ACLU’s allegations of racial housing policies

Faribault responds to ACLU claims of discriminatory renter policies

Yesterday, the ACLU took the city of Faribault, Minnesota to court over allegedly racist rental regulation policies.

The city responded in a letter to the ACLU from its attorney Robert Alsop of Kennedy & Graven. The city’s response is, in short, a full retort to the ACLU’s allegations denying any wrongdoing or illegality.

The ACLU challenged Faribault’s Crime Free Housing Program–which grants police the ability to evict all members of a household if any guest or resident is suspected of criminal activity–and asked for an immediate repeal of the policy.

Faribault refused, stating that it believes the ACLU’s analysis of the situation and its conclusions are deficient.

From the city's response:

The deficiencies in your analysis and conclusions are significant. The express purpose of the Ordinance is "to assure that rental housing in the City of Faribault is decent, safe and sanitary and is operated and maintained so as not to become a nuisance to the neighborhood or to become an influence that fosters blight and deterioration or creates a disincentive for reinvestment in the community." (Section 7-36) Contrary to your contention, the Ordinance was not adopted to limit loitering in the downtown area by black or Somali residents or to curb a perceived increase in criminal activity resulting from their presence downtown. Instead, it was adopted as a legitimate police power of the City to regulate and control housing standards in rental units as well as improve the safety of tenants by promoting strict enforcement of the crime free/drug free lease addendum required under the Ordinance. Since its enactment in 2014, the City has used the provisions of the Ordinance as a means of improving living conditions in scores of residential rental units throughout the City as well as significantly lowering incidents of crime throughout the City, both of which are directly correlated to the express purpose of the Ordinance. -City of Faribault

The letter goes on to detail how the ordinance does not impose an absolute ban on renting to tenants with criminal records, nor does it disparately affect the Somali community in Faribault. The city also expressed disappointment in the ACLU for demanding immediate repeal instead of seeking a peaceful resolution.

Faribault holds that the use of the ordinance to control the number of tenants allowed per unit is lawful, necessary and without prejudice against the Somali community, counter to the ACLU’s claim that the ordinance targets Somali families that tend to be much larger than the average American family.

Again, from the city's response:

The ACLU's Constitutional claim of a disproportionate disparate impact on Somali families resulting from the enforcement of the City's occupancy standards is also unfounded. The occupancy standards are intended to be enforced in all rental units within the City regardless of the nationality or race of the tenant violating the Ordinance. Your letter provides no statistical information or data substantiating your assertion that the Somali community is disproportionately impacted by the occupancy standards. Ironically, in the four years since the Ordinance's adoption in 2014, the City has not issued a single citation nor taken any adverse action against any landlord for a violation of the City's occupancy standards under Section 7-42.2 Without any evidence that Somali families are disproportionately impacted by the City's occupancy standards, the City has no intention of repealing the Ordinance on this basis. -City of Faribault

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