By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media
Since the early 1990s, homeowners and managers across the country have partnered with law enforcement to implement “crime free housing” policies. These policies are intended to reduce criminal activities such as drug use and gang activity.
In California, crime-free housing has become increasingly controversial. Advocates and some state officials have criticized these policies as discriminatory.
On April 21, California Attorney General (AG) Rob Bonta announced new guidance for crime-free housing policies statewide, noting that the previous rules disproportionately impacted “people of color, survivors of violence household, people with disabilities and people involved in justice”. ”, according to the press release from the Attorney General’s office.
“In California, we are taking action to end housing discrimination and foster diverse communities,” Bonta said.
“The state guidance issued today presents clear legal standards and procedures to proactively prevent discriminatory housing practices within localities,” Bonta continued. “Tenants have rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and other California laws that protect against many forms of housing discrimination, and this guide is intended to ensure that we are removing barriers to housing and promoting equal opportunity. ”.
In California, 147 cities and counties have adopted revised policies aimed at eliminating discrimination, including some of the state’s most populous cities such as Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento.
The California Department of Justice is encouraging all municipalities in the state to reevaluate their crime-free housing policies, invoking civil rights laws and fair housing standards.
“I recognize that leaders at the local level are on the front lines of ensuring the public safety of their residents and, separately, that California law provides discretion to local jurisdictions to enact and enforce non-discriminatory nuisance laws. and are otherwise consistent with California law. law,” Bonta stated in a letter to California cities and counties.
“Regardless of when these policies were adopted, local jurisdictions have a responsibility to ensure that they comply with state and federal laws, and not to implement or enforce them in a discriminatory manner,” he continued.
While there are various types of these programs throughout the state, most are designed to provide landlords a way to deny or evict tenants who have had any interaction with the criminal justice system.
In some cases, owners do not need a conviction or arrest to activate these policies.
According to the Murrieta Police Department website, a city of about 100,000 in Riverside County, crime-free housing helps law enforcement control criminal activity.
“The police cannot solve crime problems alone,” the website reads. “Neither can management or residents of rental properties. However, by working together, the end result has been the most successful approach to crime in rental communities.”
AG Bonta is not the only state official concerned about the alleged discriminatory nature of crime-free housing policies.
Assembly Bill (AB) 1418, introduced by Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood), would prohibit crime-free housing policies statewide.
“All Californians want to live in a safe neighborhood, but for too many years, ‘crime-free’ housing policies have not reduced crime, increased housing availability, or increased housing affordability,” McKinnor stated in a statement. Press release. “AB 1418 will end these harmful policies that have made it difficult for Californians to find a safe place to call home and eliminate laws that have resulted in increased housing segregation across the state.”
This bill was first introduced in February and is currently in committee.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that even if a policy appears neutral, it may still violate the law if it has “discriminatory effects” without reasonable legal justification.
According to the Attorney General’s office, these regulations should apply to California state law.
Last December, the US Department of Justice obtained its first agreement banning crime-free housing in San Bernardino and Hesperia counties.
This settlement requires the County of San Bernardino and the City of Hesperia to spend about $1 million, primarily to compensate residents and renters adversely affected by the crime-free policies.