At 700 units, the Crossroads Apartments in Richfield was the largest source of unsubsidized but deeply affordable rental housing in the Twin Cities. Crossroads has been home to many low income households of color, persons with disabilities, and tenants dependent on rent subsidy programs. A new company has bought the complex, and these residents are now being displaced, as the new owner pursues what they call an “extreme makeover” of the complex.
Since taking over in October 2015, the new owners are boosting rents by as much as 30%, requiring all current tenants to reapply under much tougher standards, and refusing to participate further in public rent subsidy programs. The owners are also renovating the complex, adding amenities such as granite countertops, a pet spa, and a golf simulator — all designed to appeal to a young urban professional tenant population. The complex has now been renamed the Concierge.
But the tenants are striking back. Thirty six current and former Crossroads residents, a resident organization and HOME Line have filed a class action lawsuit challenging the owners’ actions. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the residents by HJC, alleges that the owners and managers have violated the federal Fair Housing Act, by attempting to remake the tenant population from one largely composed of persons protected under the Fair Housing Act (minorities, persons with disabilities) to a tenant base largely composed of young urban professionals. The residents allege that the defendants have engaged both in disparate treatment (intentional discrimination) and actions causing a disparate impact, by making housing unavailable for these protected class members.
Why can’t a private party simply buy an apartment building and do whatever they want with it? The short answer is, they can, as long as they do not run afoul of the Fair Housing Act. Under the FHA, when a defendant’s actions are causing a disparate impact, the Court will look at whether the defendant’s objectives could be accomplished through a less discriminatory alternative. HJC and the plaintiffs believe that the defendants’ business goals could indeed be accomplished through an alternative business model which did not depend on displacing the existing tenant population.
For further information, read a copy of the Complaint.