One-Strike 2.0: How Local Governments Are Distorting a Flawed Federal Eviction Law

Abstract

In recent years, local governments across the country have passed crime-free housing ordinances (CHOs) for private-market rental properties. These ordinances increase the risk of eviction for many tenants by requiring or encouraging private-market landlords to evict tenants for low-level criminal activity, sometimes even a single arrest. CHOs are based on a federal law known as the one-strike policy, which has been applied to public housing tenants since 1988 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002. Unlike the one-strike policy, which applies only to federal public housing tenants, CHOs put an unprecedented number of private-market tenants across the country at significant risk of eviction and its attendant consequences, including homelessness, neighborhood instability, and higher incidences of poverty. This Article examines CHOs as an outgrowth of the federal one-strike policy, and it argues that they are significantly more harmful to tenants than the one-strike policy has been. The Article identifies serious legal issues raised by CHOs and suggests that, before adopting or enforcing CHOs, municipalities should consider these legal problems in conjunction with the crime problem that CHOs purport to address and the other problems that CHOs can create. This more complete calculus weakens the case for crime-free housing ordinances in rental housing.

65.5.3-Ramsey

About the Author

Visiting Associate Professor of Clinical Law, George Washington University Law School

By uclalaw