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Princeton researchers rate Minnesota high on COVID-19 housing policy scorecard

North Dakota and South Dakota ranked among the states with the worst crisis housing plans.

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ST. PAUL — Researchers at Princeton University highlighted Minnesota's efforts to keep residents from losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic in a new scorecard report.

With an historic number of Americans now out of work because of business restrictions put in place to curb the pandemic, housing experts have said policies that protect those unable to pay their rent and mortgage are needed as never before. Advocates across the region and nation have called for payment and eviction freezes, among other measures, to prevent widespread displacement.

Gov. Tim Walz in late March issued an executive order that prohibits Minnesota landlords from filing for evictions, and bars banks from foreclosing on their borrowers, in all but the most extreme circumstances for the duration of the pandemic. He called on lenders to waive late fees on mortgage payments as well, but stopped short of ordering them to do so.

Those steps saw the state rank fifth in the nation for its handling of housing during the crisis, according to the Princeton Eviction Lab. Delaware ranked first, followed by Connecticut, Washington state and Nevada. Wisconsin was ninth on the list.

Researchers graded states for their emergency policies on eviction enforcement and court proceedings,among other things. They counted the lack of official moratoriums on utility shutoffs and various late fees against Minnesota, although many power companies in the state have pledged to not disconnect their customers for nonpayment.

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Fewer protections have been ordered in North Dakota, which ranked 42nd on the Eviction Lab scorecard, though the state Supreme Court there did suspend eviction hearings. That move does not, however, prohibit landlords from filing eviction cases the way that Walz's order does in Minnesota.

North Dakota has also not put a halt to foreclosures.

Fewer protections still have been ordered in South Dakota, which ranked 49th on the list. The lack of statewide orders against evictions and foreclosures there could result in displacement "surge" during and after the pandemic, according to the report.

Only Wyoming ranked below South Dakota, according to the scorecard.

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