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A city in Minnesota plans to revise a law aimed at reducing crime that has been criticized for adversely affecting residents with mental illness

The Anoka City Hall (Via Justin Keller/Shutterstock)

A city in Minnesota, Anoka, near Minneapolis, has agreed not to share private medical information about renters with mental health problems and will pay $175,000 to resolve a complaint from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice reached this agreement with Anoka after accusing the city of discriminating against mentally ill residents under a law meant to prevent crime.

The DOJ alleged that Anoka pressured landlords to evict tenants with mental health issues based on repeated calls to police or emergency services. In response to these allegations, the DOJ filed a federal lawsuit against the city, although this lawsuit will be dropped if a judge approves the settlement agreement.

In November, the DOJ informed Anoka that their investigation found discriminatory practices in how the city enforced its “crime-free” housing ordinance. This ordinance allowed Anoka to penalize landlords or deny rental licenses if their properties were seen as causing problems or criminal activities.

The Anoka City Hall (Via Justin Keller/Shutterstock)

According to the DOJ, Anoka shared detailed reports about individuals’ mental health crises, including suicide attempts, with landlords in at least 780 cases from 2018 to mid-2023.

The DOJ highlighted that this case is significant as it exposes discrimination against people with mental health disabilities under similar crime-prevention laws enacted by cities across the U.S. since the early 1990s. Advocates for housing rights and civil liberties have criticized such ordinances, arguing they are often harsher in poorer neighborhoods and against people of color.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division criticized Anoka’s “crime-free” housing program, stating it could endanger lives by discouraging individuals with disabilities and their families from seeking help during critical times.

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