July report, part 3: U of MN Off-Campus Housing Office.

Housing issues in the 2nd Precinct  

University of Minnesota, Off-Campus Living – Kendre Turonie, turon001@umn.edu, 612-625-8939

Off-Campus Living was created on the Twin Cities campus in fall 2003.  It was a partial response to the notorious “Hockey Riots” that erupted that year.** 

The primary function of the Off-Campus Living office is to create community with the students who are living off campus, so they’ll have a successful University experience while living off campus, whether they rent in the neighborhoods near the University or they commute from home.    OCL tends to focus on Marcy-Holmes, SE Como and Prospect Park because that’s where the majority of undergraduate University students live.   About 85% of all University students do not live in residence halls.  

Off-Campus Living has a collaborative relationship with the City of Minneapolis. Kendre has been a member of the Southeast Strategic Compliance Team since it started.   The purpose statement of this team:   Coordinate resources and efforts between Regulatory Services, Police Department, and Community Partners to effectively address Noisy and Unruly properties located in SE Minneapolis locations and strengthen confidence in these communities.
This group met monthly from 2010-2020 until Covid interrupted the schedule. [EQ: I have a copy of the original Mpls press release issued when this group was announced.   Contact me for a copy of this public announcement if you’re interested.]

What happens when OCL receives a complaint about a problem property that houses students?

OCL does outreach and follow up where possible when livability concerns are raised about  student-related renter problems.   Before the pandemic, most outreach was done in person — door-knocking by Kendre or student staff. Since pandemic and lockdowns, Kendre tends to use other means, especially phone and email contact.  If a problem property report includes  information about guns in the site, she follows directives from the MPD to make sure it’s safe to make contact at this address.  [EQ: this is the same protocol that social workers and other responders follow when safety is a concern: non-MPD personnel do not go in until the officers know it’s safe for them to do so. Rashid spoke further about this later in the meeting.]

When a party house or other problem property house is identified, Ms Turonie first goes to neighbors around the property to see if they’ve been impacted as well as the reporter.   Generally she gets affirmation from the neighbors.  At that point, she contacts the residents of the house in question to find out what their perspective is.  When she shares neighbors’ perspective of a situation, she takes care to not reveal which neighbors were complaining or reporting.  

Her goal is to educate students about the choices they’ve made and what the consequences of those choices can be.  If they’ve been caught, they’ve been sent a citation.   If they have a citation, they’re likely in violation of the Student Conduct Code.  They have to understand that if they’re hosting parties and  getting  citations for that, those citations have consequences.   [EQ: The Student Conduct Code was last revised June, 2022.   Full revised text is here:  https://regents.umn.edu/sites/regents.umn.edu/files/2022-07/policy_student_conduct_code.pdf     U of MN response to violations ranges from Warning to Revocation of Admission or Degree.]

Ms Turonie has done  a lot of work with Restorative Justice through her office. [EQ: Tina Sigel of Restorative Justice Community Action will present at the August, ’22 meeting.  Restorative Justice has been working with the MPD Second Precinct since 2003.]  

Complaints have changed in the 19 years that OCL has been in existence.   Back then, she was doing direct follow-up on 7-10 party complaints a week.   Now, a complaint she just got is the first one in 18 months.    It will be interesting to see if it stays that way post-Covid.   Facing facts, many SE long-term residents [chiefly older homeowners] have moved away.  Students who have moved in and replaced them may not be as likely to make a complaint.  [EQ: for many reasons, including knowledge of how, where, why to do so.  When those long term residents moved away, they took a lot of generational knowledge with them, making it harder for new, short-term residents to learn helpful information]

Tools and resources to assist student renters  Go to OCL Website: ocl.umn.edu

Look at the tabs at the top of the page to find a lot of information about OCL:  Resource Directory, About us, Renting Near Campus, Live at Home, Volunteer locally, Voter resources, Safety.

The Renting Near Campus tab is where you will find all of our renter resources and information. It has many sub pages: Find A Roommate, Where to Live,  Do Your Research, Legal Questions, Being A Good Neighbor, Things To Consider, Organics Recycling, Renter Education.

If you are a renter, and only have a few minutes available, we suggest you read through the Do Your Research  section. It walks you through specific steps  OCL wants you to take for any and each property before you sign that lease:

  • Step 1 – Check for Valid Rental License. Check if the occupancy  on the lease is valid per the zoning for address.  Verify the actual owner name and rental property contact.
  • Step 2 – In Minneapolis Call 311 and ask if there are any open orders for the property in question or a record of past complaints.  In St. Paul, call 651-226-8989
  • Step 3  – Google the name of the owner and manager (or company) and see what might be revealed
  • step 4  – Check the PUBLIC LISTING for any landlords who are in non-compliance with the University of Minnesota Off Campus Housing Program Policy.
  • Step 5 – Talk to the current tenants of the property you are considering.  Ask if they would rent again or would refer a friend to this property.   See if your prospective rental property has been reviewed on the Student Senate Off-Campus Housing Survey and read through the reviews. 
  • Step 6 – Discuss any concerns you have with the landlord.

The next entry in this list is to look at the Non-Compliance List of the Off-Campus Housing Program Policy. This list is the properties who have 3 or more substantiated or unresolved student initiated complaints with our Student Legal Services. The full policy is printed on this tab. 

The procedure for handling this list changed in fall 2017.   Previously, if a property manager had three or more unresolved complaints filed with Student Legal Services, they were not allowed to recruit tenants on campus and could not participate in “Housing Fairs” and other events, but the list was not advertised.  The Undergraduate Student Government decided students should have full access to the list of problem properties and Off-Campus Living was identified as the site to host the information. 

This policy is owned by three student services:  Off-Campus Student Living, Student Legal Services, Housing and Residential Life.
[It’s now a public document and  worth reading — EQ]  OCL updates the list on the site based on information provided by Student Legal Services.

VERY IMPORTANT:  Most of the problems that OCL, Student Legal Services and HRL hear about  involve security deposit disagreements when it’s time for the manager to return the deposit.  If you choose to rent from one of the properties, take the time to document the condition of the property at move-in and again at move-out.  Do this on paper and document your claims with photographs.   Security deposit disagreements are one of the most common concerns with these properties.

Since property managers started learning about this list, they have been working to get their properties removed.  

More Renter Education

OCL offers renter education in multiple ways.

  • We host online and in person workshops throughout the year, most often in November, February and May.
  • We also have a new online class hosted on Canvas (the student academic platform) – the Renter Education Modules. We have 10 modules that students can take in any order from the comfort of their home to get the information they need to help them have a successful renter experience off-campus.  You need a UMN email address to enroll in the course. If you’re not a current UMN student/account holder, you can request a guest account at my-account.umn.edu/create-guest-acct
Ms Turonie announced  several information sessions coming up:Housing 2023: 
Parent/Family Renter ForumTwo sessions will be live streamed and recorded on Oct. 28 and 30 during Parent/Family Weekend 2022 for 2023 housing search info.   [Contact OCL for details]
Renter Education Workshops are currently offered online throughout fall and spring semesters.
—————————-
** Here’s a recap of the hockey riot events and how the University policing had changed 9 years later: https://mndaily.com/219664/uncategorized/university-police-prepare-potential-hockey-riots/

CPS Rashid Ali, popped in to explain about door-knocking today.   MPD-CPS team has not done door-knocking since the pandemic shut things down.   The reason is two-fold:  Covid, but also because Crime Prevention Specialists  are civilians and do not carry guns.   Door-knocking now must follow the same procedures as other civilian responders, like the mental Health Co-Responders and OCL staff.   They may not enter until an MPD officer has determined the site is safe.   With staffing so far down from full force, there are not enough officers to accompany people from OCL or Crime Prevention Specialists.

QUESTIONS FROM ATTENDERS
QQ — So many new buildings are going up, as along 15th Ave, leading to Dinkytown.   Are there enough students coming in to fill these buildings?
AA — [Kendre] Students fill up what is closest to campus.  As they move there, buildings further away attract people who may not be students, which will have an impact.  At the same time, the current Freshman class has gone up.  Previously the U accepted 5,000 to 5,200 new students but last year’s class was 6,500.   The entire campus population didn’t grow though because that extra 1500 students replaced upperclass students and out of state students who decided to go elsewhere.   The U must keep the population up to keep tuition revenue stable.

QQ — She’s met students  in SE who actually attend Augsburg and knows there are other students from other colleges.   Perhaps this housing information could be shared with those schools also.
AA — [Kendre] Yes! Other schools also have similar positions that do outreach to off-campus students and Kendre tries to connect with them as well.

QQ — Are there ways to get a more accurate number of UMN students living in UD neighborhoods?
AA — [Kendre] We have a senior level work group on campus that is examining the possibility of requiring students to update their local address each time they register, but it has not been approved yet for implementation. It is a challenge. When students move,  updating their local address isn’t a priority for them.

Emilie Quast,

2-PAC Board member

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