St. Louis Park City Council repeals controversial ‘crime-free, drug-free’ ordinance

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The St. Louis Park City Council has voted unanimously to repeal a controversial housing ordinance that was the focus of a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation.

In 2018, 5 INVESTIGATES revealed police in the Minneapolis suburb were ordering landlords to evict tenants over suspected criminal activity, under the city’s crime-free, drug-free provision of the rental housing ordinance.

City officials argued the policy was one way to keep the community safe. However, many tenants who were never convicted or even charged with a crime lost their housing, according to police records reviewed by 5 INVESTIGATES.

Housing advocates believe St. Louis Park is the first city in Minnesota to remove the crime-free, drug-free language from its policy.

During the council’s Aug. 3 meeting, the majority of members spoke out in favor of the changes, saying they felt getting rid of the police involvement would create a better environment for renters.

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"I think we are ever closer to where we should be in terms of really separating out policing and housing," said Council Member Anne Mavity. "Criminalizing behavior in a non-transparent way was really having long-term harm on individuals."

In December 2018, a month after the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation, the council voted to put a moratorium on enforcement of the policy in order to study the ordinance and its impacts.

A city-appointed workgroup spent nearly a year coming up with recommendations that were presented to council members this spring.

"I think that we have landed in the right spot in terms of scaling back the police involvement and not having them drive this process," said Mayor Jake Spano during the Aug. 3 meeting.

In a statement, a city spokesperson said staff is preparing a notification that will go out to all rental property owners when the revised ordinance takes effect in September.

"The city is appreciative of the months of dedicated attention to this issue by the workgroup and by the city council," the statement said in part.