Tenant Opportunity to Purchase
How does TOPA help solve our housing crisis?
TOPA helps us preserve existing affordable housing, prevents displacement of residents, diversifies ownership structures in our housing ecosystem, protects renters and neighborhoods from exploitation, and advances ownership in communities that have been historically discriminated against. No housing policy will solve everything, but we can’t solve our housing disparities and crisis without TOPA as a tool to change the ownership game.
» TOPA keeps housing affordable.
New owners have been buying and flipping old apartment buildings, egregiously increasing rents and displacing long-time neighbors with as little improvement as a new coat of paint. A TOPA policy can ensure that renters who want to cooperatively own their building can stay in place and take ownership of their housing stability. When renters are able to own their homes, they set rent at a reasonable rate to cover operating costs but stay affordable — not to maximize profit.
» TOPA diversifies ownership structures.
Our city is full of housing that can be community-owned and controlled, from triplexes to large apartment buildings. TOPA ensures a healthy, competitive diversity of owners and ownership models in our community. It provides a wealth-building opportunity for tenants, especially BIPOC tenants historically excluded from asset-building, and creates a pathway to homeownership for tenants living in single-family rentals.
» TOPA protects our communities from exploitation.
We shouldn’t allow Wall Street firms to take ownership of our homes. We have the power to retain community wealth and keep our homes in the hands of who pays the mortgage: Minneapolis renters. Local community members have more of an incentive to be responsive, committed participants in the community, rather than outside speculators motivated to extract the largest profit from their buildings. TOPA keeps rent or other housing expenditures in the community, which is good for our local economy, rather than redirecting profit to a national corporation.
How does TOPA close racial disparities in ownership?
Minnesota has one of the worst racial homeownership gaps in the country. According to Minnesota Housing Partnership research, 55% of white households in Minneapolis own their home, compared to 20% of Native households, 25% of Latino households, 20% of Black households, and 34% of Asian households. When households don’t own, they rent — and TOPA creates a straightforward pathway for renters to own the home they currently live in. Increasing ownership opportunities for renters starts with creating the legal pathway, which passing an ordinance will do. TOPA not only helps us address racial homeownership gaps, it also helps us address the racial wealth gap. According to the Brookings Institute, the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family. Much of that worth is reflected in homeownership, compounded over generations. Increasing BIPOC ownership helps us take steps towards closing the racial wealth gap.
I'm a homeowner. What does TOPA mean for me?
If you own your home as a primary residence, this policy won’t affect you in the event you choose to sell your house. It only impacts property owners who have a rental license with the City of Minneapolis. TOPA will help your neighbors who rent and advance their housing stability so that they can own their home, just like you.
I'm a landlord. What does TOPA mean for me?
TOPA won’t change anything about the way you operate your rental housing. When or if you decide to sell the building, you will get a fair price for your building because TOPA doesn’t change how much you sell your building for, it only expands who can put an offer in. For example, if you decide to sell your building, you may get more offers than you expect because your current renters may want to create a cooperative to purchase and stay in the building. The sale of your building might be slowed down if your renters want to purchase, but the sale price will be fair market.
Why must an effective TOPA include small landlords?
All renters should have the right to buy their home when the landlord chooses to sell. Whether landlords own one rental property or one hundred rental properties, ALL property owners should follow shared, reasonable rules that ensure renters have a chance to stay in their homes.
In Minneapolis, small landlords own 82% of the 1-4 unit rental properties. That means including small landlords in the policy will help create a pathway for tenants to move into homeownership or even small rental ownership. We know that Minneapolis and Minnesota have some of the worst racial inequities in the nation. Extreme inequity demands bold action. Luckily, TOPA is a bold solution that will empower tenants and strengthen our city.
Additionally, TOPA does not affect the sale price of a building. Landlords have the right to ask for a sale price at the assessed market value. Tenants will need to meet that price just like any other buyer.
What is the timeline for sales under the policy?
The length of a sale will depend on a number of factors, including the size of the building and the various decisions that a tenant and property seller make along the way. Median sale times vary greatly based on the market, but have sped up dramatically in recent years. In order for first-time homebuyers or other tenants to have a chance at ownership, slowing down the rapidfire speed of property transactions is essential. This would also have the needed effect of curbing predatory speculation by cash-rich investor landlords who can waive inspections and out-bid local buyers. Transparent and clear communication from the City about the policy will allow tenants and landlords to plan effectively around the new timeline, allowing them to make smart and informed decisions about when they want to sell their property or when it makes sense to buy.
Is TOPA available to everyone, regardless of income?
Everyone should have the right to purchase their building. Broad-based rights are important and necessary. The questions of who should have the right and who should receive support are different. While everyone should have the right to purchase their home, city resources should be invested into households that are currently living in housing of the deepest affordability. Doing so allows the city to prioritize resources and focus on preserving affordable housing, which a disproportionate amount of low-wealth and BIPOC renters call home.
OUR VISION for STRONG TOPA
It’s crucial that this right be extended to all renters, regardless of building size. The market of single family home rentals has boomed since 2008, especially on the Northside. These families deserve the right to buy their home as much as any other renter. Because renters are the biggest investor in their own homes and deserve a return on investment for any sale of their building, renters also must have the ability to sell the right of first purchase.
Just like we came together this election to vote yes for rent stabilization, we must unite to urge our City Councilmembers to pass a strong TOPA ordinance that will give more power to renters, create new avenues for homeownership and stop displacement caused by corporate profiteering.
WHERE has it been successful?
In Minnesota, all residents of manufactured home parks have the right of first refusal when the owner intends to sell for redevelopment and permanently close the park. In Washington D.C., TOPA has been used to preserve more than 4,300 rental homes.
WHEN will it happen?
Thanks to a push from the community, the City of Minneapolis has been engaged in a process to research and craft a TOPA policy for nearly two years. In November 2021, the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development finalized a draft ordinance for public input. Now is a crucial time to make our voices heard for a strong TOPA policy without exemptions during public input to city staff in December and city council in early 2022.