REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK | Forced to move

Print

The email to the editor started with a tale of woe: “A woman came to my front door this morning and asked me if I could rent her the second story of my duplex.  I recognized her as a friend from an apartment on Pillsbury Avenue, just across the alley from my backyard.   I asked her why she is moving.   She answered, ‘We are all being kicked out by Mint Properties.’  She was the fifth person to tell me this story.”

The writer was eloquent in his advocacy for his neighbors:

“For years, 2731,2738, 2741, and 2750 Pillsbury have been home to hard-working immigrant families, and many have called this home for decades.  Through the summer, I approach the back door of 2750 and am met with the happy calls of 20 – 30 children and parents ready to walk to Whittier Park for summer enrichment activities.   On long summer evenings, the courtyard between 2738 and 2750 becomes a magical space, streamers strung from trees, cumbia music playing, the smell of tacos al pastor wafting into the air.  Dozens of kids run around in active play, and families enjoy the long sunset in conversation and fellowship.   In winter, dozens of kids amble down the street wrapped in tight winter clothes to attend Minneapolis Public Schools.  Parents work hard, mostly at low paying jobs.   They help one another with childcare and maintenance.  Their children love this place.  It is home – the only home they know and they don’t want to leave.  It is nothing less than a model urban apartment community.”

Since then, I’ve been trying to track down the whole story. Mint Properties bought the buildings in November. Two of the families I talked to have received letters saying they need to leave by August 1st. The letter gives no explanation as to why they have to leave.

One woman, Catalina, who lives in her one bedroom apartment with her husband and three children, says she was told she can move to another Mint Property building across the street, but that she would have to get a two-bedroom apartment, because of some code.

Listings for renovated apartments from Mint Properties website. 


Another man I talked to said he wasn’t told anything about getting a two bedroom, but even getting a one bedroom across the street would jump their rent up from $590 they are currently paying (It was $575 under the previous owner) to $750 for a one bedroom, and $825-1,000 for a two bedroom.

In any case, they are all very upset because their families are in Mexico, so their building neighbors have become a kind of family for them. They don’t want to switch schools, and one family is worried about what the change will mean for their autistic son, who feels comfortable where he is now.

According to the original email, Mint Properties is fixing up the apartments, and the manager is proud to be making the apartments better and sad that families will have to leave. According to the original email, the manager “told me that nearly all of the families in 2750 and 2738 will not qualify to remain there.  And so I grieve the loss of the kids in my summer program, my neighbors and friends.  More importantly, they suffer the uncertainty of finding a new home with the same high quality of life.  Children suffer having to change schools because they’ve been uprooted from their home.  New school, new teacher, readjustment = wider achievement gap.”

Mint Properties owner Jim Rubino said in a telephone interview that when his company first purchased the building, in November, “it had been pretty neglected for a long time.” They did a walk-through of the apartments to find the ones that seemed to be in the toughest shape, either with the condition of the units themselves or other issues such as overcrowding, or that they were hazardous. They ultimately asked about a dozen people to leave, giving them two months notice.

Some of the people they asked to vacate their apartments have found other apartments either owned by Mint or through some of their contacts. In one case, they allowed people to stay a little longer than two months to find a place. Rubino said, “We’re pretty much done,” asking people to vacate. “We may have already given everybody notice.” 

“The nice thing is that there’s lots of apartments in Whittier,” Rubino said.

I’m still working on the story, and looking for more tenants or neighbors to talk to. If you have anything to add, please email me: sheilaregan@tcdailyplanet.net

 

RELATED ARTICLES (and comments!)

 A room of one’s own: The plight of tenants in a landlords’ market 

• Gentrification: Am I the problem?

• Renting, from rats to riches

• For low income renters, few affordable housing options in Minneapolis, St. Paul