Paul Koenig: The One-Man Housing Crisis

He's been dragging down property values for years, and neighbors want him out

Koenig guesses that the catalyst behind complaints against him is a prejudice against rental property owners. "I think there's a strong bias in the city against renter properties," he says. "Not everyone can be a homeowner."

Koenig vehemently denies that his business on Minneapolis's North Side has left any scars. In fact, he claims just the opposite.

"We ended up identifying a need in the city where there's an enormous amount of families and children that need this type of housing," says Koenig. "So it looks like there's a win-win for everybody."

1612 25th Ave N: All made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same
Ella Schreck
1612 25th Ave N: All made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same

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IN 2007, Derek Lowe cruised the Jordan neighborhood in north Minneapolis looking for a place to rent. He spotted a duplex on Hillside Avenue under construction and pulled over to chat up the contractors.

They worked for a new company called Pamiko, they told Lowe, and were looking for tenants. Soon after, Lowe moved into 1547 Hillside Ave., the problem property next door to the Haddys.

A few months later he got word that the company's owner, Paul Koenig, was looking for maintenance workers. Lowe put in an application and got the job.

At first, it seemed like a good gig, and the long-term answer to Lowe's employment problems.

"I figured, it's a brand new company. They're renovating all these houses. They're going to be around for a long time," says Lowe.

But before long, Lowe began to see ominous warning signs that his future employment might not be so secure. When he started, he was part of a whole team of maintenance workers. Then one day, it was just him.

In March 2008, Koenig lost a house to the bank. Lowe didn't think much of it until months later when Koenig started losing more houses.

In early September 2009, Lowe says, he was in the middle of a workday when he received a call from Koenig informing him that the company was losing most of its properties and no longer needed him, effective immediately.

"I was like, 'What? It's over today?'" remembers Lowe, whose girlfriend is expecting a baby. "I'm still trying to crawl out of the hole he left me in."

Things have been rough since Lowe lost his job. He's not eligible to receive unemployment, he says, because despite working 40 hours a week, Koenig employed him as an independent contractor.

In mid-January, Lowe received a letter from Drake Bank telling him that his house on Hillside will soon be up for sale at a foreclosure auction. He fears it's only a matter of a couple of months before he won't have a place to live.

Lowe's last contact with Koenig was in early January when received his W-2 tax form in the mail. The envelope was postmarked, "Orlando, Florida." 

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