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Preventing a repeat of Identity Dinkytown is a new ordinance’s top priority

Councilmember Robin Wonsley talked about her new ordinance and how it would let renters back out of leases if the apartment is not built in time.
Image by Eleanor King
Construction in the apartments across from Athletic Village.

The Minneapolis City Council is moving forward with an ordinance to allow renters to back out of lease agreements if their apartments are not ready by move-in day.

Councilmember Robin Wonsley (Ward 2) introduced the motion on Oct. 19 in response to renters of Identity Dinkytown being trapped in their leases with their move-in day being repeatedly pushed back. Wonsley said she hopes the ordinance will pass in December and be put into effect early next year, according to Wonsley.

“This is a low bar and this is just one step of many that we need to take on a policy level to hold predatory landlords and developers accountable, especially around the University area,” Wonsley said.

Identity tenants who signed a lease were forced to either commute to school, sign a lease somewhere else or live in a hotel until their apartment was ready. Despite the building not being ready to welcome students, people were still expected to pay rent, causing financial stress for many students attempting to juggle multiple leases. 

Wonsley said allowing tenants to exit leases from incomplete apartments is a starting point to protect people, especially students, from predatory landlords and developers. 

“No one should be left in a precarious position like many of the students who are and continue to be because of what happened with Identity in their development process,” Wonsley said.

Second-year University of Minnesota student Arya Lucht signed up to live in Stadium Village at the Argyle House in 2022. Unknown to her, her roommate had an emotional support cat who Lucht was highly allergic to. 

Management refused to move her to a different room or provide her with any compensation. After months of suffering through uncooperative management and severe allergies, Lucht opted to commute from her parent’s home instead.

Lucht said tenants should have the right to leave their lease if the apartment they get is not what they were promised.

Given certain circumstances, if the apartment doesn’t meet certain conditions, then [tenants] should be allowed to back out of the lease,” Lucht said.

While the University was not involved in Identity’s construction, they have provided legal help to student renters at Identity.

Regent Mary Turner discussed Identity Dinkytown and student renters with Wonsley. Turner said although the building is off-campus, no student should have to deal with the problems student renters have had to face.

“This is not the way to treat our students,” Turner said. “Maybe they’re in their first year and this is their first experience in college and then they’re left homeless right away.”

If passed, any tenant who signs up for a lease for a new apartment building will be allowed to back out of the lease if the apartment is not finished by move-in day.

Wonsley said no developers have publicly opposed the measure yet. The developers of Identity Dinkytown, CA Ventures, did not reach back for comment about the new ordinance.

Wonsley said the City Council needs to ensure what happened to renters at Identity Dinkytown does not happen again.

“(Identity) did not come into operation when it was supposed to, leaving almost a thousand renters displaced,” Wonsley said. “We just want to make sure that never happens again to any renter being in Ward 2 or in the University area or around the city.”

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