The Minneapolis Rental Dwelling License Board of Appeals voted last month to recommend revoking the rental license for two Marcy-Holmes apartment buildings at 725 and 729 Eighth Ave. SE.
These properties have been a subject of concern by the Minneapolis Police Department and Marcy-Holmes residents for more than a year. Neighbors have referred to the buildings as the “ground zero of problem properties” in the neighborhood.
In a city with approximately 17,400 rental licenses, only 15 have been recommended for revocation by the Rental Dwelling License Board of Appeals this year—and some of those involved multiple properties by the same owner (any person with an interest in two or more rental licenses that are revoked is prohibited from holding a rental license for any properties in the city for five years).
Carol Oosterhuis, a Crime Prevention Specialist with the Minneapolis Police Department, noted that revoking rental licenses is rare. “Most property owners, when they get a first letter, take action to make sure this doesn’t happen again. For some, it takes a second letter. But it’s very rare for things to get to this level [the Rental Dwelling License Appeals Board] without a response,” she said.
Testifying before the board, Oosterhuis stated that several controlled drug buys, followed by search warrants and arrests, were made earlier this year at 729 Eighth St. SE. The buys tested positive for crack cocaine. Two incidents or more of this nature are a violation of city ordinance and a property owner must address the problem. Property owners are notified by letter of illegal activities that occur on their property.
Oosterhuis said that following these incidents, she attempted to work with the property owner. Property owners in such circumstances are required to work with a SAFE officer or Crime Prevention Specialist and submit a written management plan stating how they will address problems.
Oosterhuis said there was one initial meeting with the property manager, but that subsequent certified letters sent to the property manager requesting a management plan for the properties were rejected.
In addition to the arrests, 77 police calls concerning 729 Eighth Ave. SE were made from February 2005 through May 2006. According to Oosterhuis, police calls are not cause alone for revoking a rental license, but citizens are still encouraged to call if they suspect illegal activity. “This provides police with information so that they may respond appropriately and can address problem situations that are occurring at a property,” said Oosterhuis.
Thomas Lincoln, chair of the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association’s Safety and Livability Committee, told the board that he and other neighbors have observed activities consistent with drug dealing at 729 Eighth Ave. SE. “I don’t let my kids go to the Eighth Street Market because of the effect of this property on Eighth Street,” said Lincoln. “It’s astounding what a negative impact this one property has had on the rest of the neighborhood.” Lincoln also said that the properties are deteriorating because of neglect. “There are broken windows and screens and a lot of trash. It’s hard to believe anyone would want to rent a unit in these buildings the way they look.”
Property owner Asgar Jaweed, attorney John Peterson and property manager Terry Kanis with Equity One Management Group spoke about their efforts to address the multitude of problems in the buildings.
Jaweed told the board he purchased the property last November and that they are making progress in trying to fix them up. Kanis said she has had difficulty getting information on leases, because of confidentiality issues with tenants who are assisted by the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program or the Re-Entry program, a nonprofit that assists criminal offenders trying to get back into society.
Kanis said that most of the problem tenants have now been evicted, and that they are working to clean up the buildings. A call to Kanis for this story was not returned.
The city council is expected to take up the recommendation sometime in August.