One bad month away

Alex Bailey, Guest Reporter

Many people call the Hamline-Midway Saint Paul area home.With half a dozen colleges and universities and a wide range of community-owned businesses, it is a vibrant and connected community. However, with recent economic turmoil and increased gentrification–among other factors–businesses and homeowners alike are finding themselves wondering if they will still have a place to live and work.

The Midway Investment Cooperative is an organization that works to pool community resources, providing long term stability for people who live and work in the Hamline-Midway area–particularly Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) folks.

Heather Worthington, one of the board members of the cooperative, passionately shared why fighting for renters’ rights is so important.

“[Our community has] the right to safe and stable housing and many families, individuals and businesses are just one bad month away from being evicted. And once you have an eviction on your record, it becomes much harder to obtain housing in the future,” Worthington said. “There are children moving homes once a year, which makes personal development very difficult.”

The Hamline Midway Coalition, another nonprofit organization in the Hamline- Midway area, spends a lot of their time focusing on a variety of issues in the community – renters’ rights included.

The Hamline Midway Coalition is one of 17 District Councils in Saint Paul (District 11). “We work with the City of Saint Paul to engage our neighborhood on city-wide issues and act as a conduit between our neighbors and city government,” said Alec Armon, the Community Project Organizer for the Hamline Midway Coalition. “We are also a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that–separate from our role in local government–carries out resident-led initiatives in areas like environmental sustainability, transportation, public art, etc.

The Coalition shares information with the community about city policy and initiatives while also passing along questions.

“In my own experience as a renter, I understand the power imbalance that exists between tenants and landlords. The knowledge and practice of tenants’ rights are one of the ways we can try to make up for that imbalance. I also believe housing is a human right and, as an organization concerned with improving quality of life in the Hamline Midway neighborhood, it is crucial that we treat housing stability as the foundation of all our other initiatives,” said Armon, when asked why he personally believes that renters’ rights are important.

Both Armon and Worthington have found their place within the community fighting for the right to fair and affordable housing. But what about students or others in the community who want to get involved?

“It is important to be both informed and connected. Resources like HOMELine (a nonprofit Minnesota tenant advocacy organization) and Housing Justice Center (a nonprofit organization focused on public interest advocacy) can help you better understand your rights as a renter, while connecting with other renters in your building or neighborhood can lead to collective action regarding housing issues you may have in common,” Armon said.

And if these resources are not of use at this point in time, there are alternatives to how you can advocate for renters’ rights. “Gain clarity about what the priorities of policy changes are, and vote. Council elections are coming this fall, and it is important to get involved on the local and state level,” Worthington said .

We all deserve to feel safe and secure in our communities and cities. Housing rights are human rights. For more information on how you can get involved, visit the Hamline Midway Coalition website.