I could be evicted by the end of the summer. I don’t want to leave, but my landlord, the city, and local service providers aren’t coming up with any real solutions.
I moved into my current house in Minneapolis with my wife in January 2017. I was in a bad situation and I needed a place to live, and because it was available I moved in. Luckily, the place turned out to be nice: it’s in a good location, I have more freedom because it’s a single-family home, and my grandchildren and great grandchildren can come over and play outside. The people in my neighborhood are a community. My great grandchild goes to day care in my neighborhood, and whenever there is a block party or community event I am sure to go. It’s quiet, it’s safe, and it feels like a home should feel.
If it were properly maintained it would be a really great space.
My home is owned by Mahmood Khan, a well-known slumlord who neglects his North Minneapolis properties and refuses to maintain our homes. My house isn’t weatherproofed for the winter, which is unbearably cold in Minneapolis. Last year, I lived through the entire winter without heat because my landlord refuses to fix the house and the heating system. We we complained, our landlord ignored us. He didn’t care about us or our home. All he cared about was making money off of us—$1,100 a month.
I got involved with Tenants United For Justice [Inquilinxs Undixs Por Justicia] when one of my fellow renters knocked on my door and invited me to join. I already wanted to sue the landlord because of the terrible conditions we were living in, and I would always tell my wife that one day we would own our own home where we would not be bullied by landlords. I learned that hundreds of other tenants were facing the same issues with the same landlord. When I met others in my same situation, it became clear that we were powerful together, and we could in fact make a change around landlord abuse and city neglect.
Since we started organizing in March 2017, we’ve won a lot. People have resisted evictions and been able to stay in their homes. Some of us have won some repairs. Some of us have gotten some rent money back or been able to not pay rent—a small but important reparation for the abuse we have experienced. We got the city to revoke our landlord’s rental license and take control of his 43 properties. Most importantly we’ve built a community and given a voice to some who were previously voiceless. That is the biggest victory of all.
The city did its part by revoking the licenses, but now it doesn’t have any long-term solutions either. The city is evicting us because it says without rental licenses we can’t live there. [In May, a city-appointed administrator also found that Khan’s buildings were in such disrepair that it would take millions to make them habitable. Tenants must now move out of their homes by the end of August.] Can you imagine how it feels to have your landlord neglect you and then be told you have to leave because of his mistakes?
Can you imagine how it feels to have your landlord neglect you and then be told you have to leave because of his mistakes?
Fighting alongside my neighbors, I’ve realized that we should all have control of our homes. My community and my neighbors have been going through trauma and abuse from the landlord for years. My community and I deserve to stay in our homes. We also deserve to have a say in what happens with our homes. If we had the resources, not only would we would fix our homes up nicely so that we would have a dignified place to live, but we would also be able to reach the solutions that no landlord or anyone else has ever been able to give us. Our ultimate goal is to have tenant-run and owned cooperatives.
It’s no coincidence that me and my fellow renters in the group are Black. The city of Minneapolis has been discriminating against us and disenfranchising us for centuries. Now, as it attempts to kick us out from our neighborhoods, we are identifying this as part of a racist trend. We’ve met with Mayor Jacob Frey and other city officials many times, and every time they have promised us that things would get better and that we wouldn’t be evicted. But they’ve all been empty promises. It’s time for the city to make a real change, and live up to its promises.
We are calling on the City of Minneapolis to turn over all of the landlord’s former apartments to us, the community, so that we can own and control our homes cooperatively.
We’ve already fought other evictions together, so we will fight this one too. We’ve seen that when we stand together we are powerful. I know that if we keep fighting, we will all be able to have a say over our own homes, and win a safe, affordable, and dignified living for everyone in my community.
This article appears in the Summer 2018 edition of Shelterforce magazine. Subscribe here.