Conversation between former Richfield resident, Lin Soderstrom, who was displaced in the conversion of the low-income apartment complex of Crossroads at Penn to the luxury apartments, The Concierge; and Richfield City Councilmember, Maria Regan Gonzalez. Lin and Maria have been working hand-in-hand with other tenants and housing advocates to pass administrative and policy changes to provide safe, affordable and quality housing for Richfield families.
Maria: Lin, can you share your personal story of displacement when your former home, Crossroads at Penn was converted to the Concierge in 2015? I want to thank you for your strength, leadership and resilience in sharing your story and continuing to fight for fair and equitable housing for all. I look to you and your leadership in this new chapter in our community’s journey to affordable and dignified housing for all.
Lin: Thank you Maria. I’ve been thinking a lot about Desmond’s year-long residency in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in its deeply impoverished communities who stream through Housing Court daily
Desmond presents this: Eviction is not a Result of poverty. Eviction is a CAUSE of poverty. I found this to be true most definitely. Every time I can manage to save anything towards future needs…. It ALL goes to relocating at the behest of landlords without conscience.
In 2015, a thirty day ‘drop dead’ notice befell upon 2300+ residents in 698 one-bedroom rental units in my home of Crossroads at Penn. When my home was converted to The Concierge with 30+ spa-like amenities by its new owner, rents increased over 70 percent. In addition to huge rent hikes, the immigration status, income, credit scores and familial status of existing tenants virtually left The Concierge inaccessible to us. People of color, folks with disabilities and young couples were left without a home. Section 8 was no longer accepted. You might say the “undesirables” were bulldozed. The emotional, physical and mental impact on our lives and families was and continues to be deeply traumatic for us.
Maria: What our families and community lost in the conversion of Crossroads to Concierge will never be regained. 145 Richfield school district students were directly impacted and thereare still an estimated 30 children homeless today as a direct impact.
Lin: While our story at Crossroads is a dark chapter in our community’s history, I’m excited to be working alongside you, other tenants, and advocates to put long-term strategies in place to help ensure stable, quality and affordable housing for all Richfield residents.
Can you please share the story of the near displacement of residents living in Season’s Park and what strategies the City of Richfield is working on putting in place to ensure quality and stable housing for all?
Maria: In March of this year, a mere 18 months after the conversion of Crossroads at Penn, another Richfield apartment complex was in danger of experiencing the same fate. With 422 units, 800 residents, including an estimated 450 children, living in the Seasons Park apartments were on the verge of displacement with a near sale and conversion to luxury units, very much like the Concierge. Thanks to the quick work and collaboration that included the Richfield School District, residents from Crossroads and Seasons Park, the City of Richfield, housing advocates, Aeon, and even the Governor of Minnesota, we were able to celebrate the signing of a purchase agreement between the owner of Seasons Park and Aeon a mere 10 days after we learned the apartments were at risk of a sale and conversion.
To ensure another close call does not happen, we are working at the City level to codify practices and put policies in place that will protect our renters and address the challenges faced with our housing stock of naturally occurring affordable housing across the city and region. We are collaborating closely with our school district, residents and other cities to underscore the importance of such policies and practices, not just in our city, but across the region. We are simultaneously focused on creating strong policies at the City level and working with our peer cities to encourage them to do the same and pool resources and tools for a strong regional approach to Minnesota’s affordable housing crisis.
We can no longer turn our eyes away from the traumatic displacements that our friends, families and neighbors are facing. As Desmond says in his book, “All this suffering is shameful and unnecessary. Because it is unnecessary, there is hope. These problems are neither intractable nor internal. A different kind of society is possible, and powerful solutions are within our collective reach.” (p 299)