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California Bans Localities From Enforcing Crime-Free Housing

Former California inmates will have more opportunities for housing, courtesy of a new state law. that will ban local governments from enforcing crime-free-housing policies. Not only do such rules stop landlords from renting to those with prior convictions, but many also call for the eviction of tenants based on arrests or contact with law enforcement, reports the Los Angeles Times. Dozens of cities and counties in California began implementing the laws during a wave of “tough on crime” measures in the 1990s, with local elected officials, police and prosecutors contending they helped keep neighborhoods safe.

Crime-free housing policies have come under increasing criticism as unfair, unforgiving and racially discriminatory. The blanket bans have prevented spouses and children of convicted persons from accessing housing and forced evictions of domestic violence victims after police responded to their apartments. Under the new law, local governments will no longer be able to mandate landlords evict and exclude tenants for alleged or prior criminal conduct. It does not prevent landlords from initiating nuisance-related evictions and screening prospective residents based on criminal histories. More than 100 cities passed crime-free housing policies between 1995 and 2020, covering potentially 4.5 million renters, says a a new RAND report. The study found that contrary to proponents’ claims, crime-free housing did not lower crime rates. “Our overall finding is crime-free housing policies are completely ineffective,” said RAND's Max Griswold. The analysis determined that the rules increased eviction rates on average by about 20%.


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