Linda Taylor purchased a two-bedroom house a few blocks away from the George Floyd Square in Minneapolis in 2004, but she had to sell it back to the previous owner after falling behind on payments. Taylor believed she was tricked into purchasing the house. However, the owner allowed her to stay as a tenant.
It turned out that Taylor’s first landlord was involved in a mortgage scheme, so, in 2006, her current landlord, Greg Berendt, purchased the house Taylor has made her home for the last 18 years.
Taylor, 71, bought all of the appliances to suit her needs. She has spent many days nurturing the garden, restocking her free library on the front lawn and socializing with others in the community that drew closer during the 2020 protests. Taylor was known for volunteering to help others in the neighborhood.
“They call me the mayor,” Taylor joked.
In January, Taylor felt “her life had been pulled from under her.” She had received a letter from Berendt advising her that she had two months to move. Berendt wanted to sell the home.
Berendt gave her three options. Taylor could purchase the home for $299,000, leave, or get evicted. But the older woman had lost her nonprofit job during the pandemic and was relying on rental assistance programs, her savings and family support to cover her monthly payments. Berendt had also raised her rent twice over the last two years.
“My house means everything to me,” Taylor said. “I could not sleep, I could not eat. I felt really defeated.”
Taylor had tried different ways to purchase the home in Powderhorn Park, but she always “ran into a ton of different walls.” Her five children were not in the financial position to help her, and she felt like she had run out of options.
A conversation with a neighbor turned things around.
The great-grandmother of three confided in Andrew Fahlstrom, a professional housing rights organizer who lived across the street. He quickly pulled support from others in the community.
“People listened to what Miss Linda was saying and wanted to do something,” Fahlstrom said. “It was just such a clear and compelling story that everyone rallied for her.”
Taylor’s new support group of 400 neighbors sent a letter to Berendt asking him to delay the eviction and compromise with Taylor. A neighbor also wrote a column in a local paper pointing out that Taylor had paid $200,000 in rent and maintained the property, and she should not be forced to move.
Berendt gave in, extended the move-out deadline to June 30 and dropped the sale price to $250,000.
“The neighborhood’s being proactive in what they’re trying to achieve here, and I give them kudos for that,” Berendt said. “We’re not trying to cause any issues… We’re willing to work with her in any way we can for her to purchase the home. I’d like to see the home go to her.”
The neighbors threw a block party, hosted an art show and launched a social media campaign to raise the money. A local church donated $200,000. The group secured $20,000 from other donors online.
“When that came through, my faith grew bigger than a mountain,” Taylor said.
They raised enough for Taylor to close on her home by May 31, do repairs and put down on utilities.
“I’m not going anywhere now,” Taylor said. “It’s saying a lot about my neighbors and a lot about my community. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
The neighborhood will celebrate Taylor’s victory at a block party on June 25.