What criminal activities bar individuals from public housing?

November 16, 2015
Criminal justice reform has been a hot topic in the news cycle recently. On November 2, President Obama announced new steps to promote rehabilitation and integration for ex-offenders (see FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated). Also this month, the Justice Department released 6,000 non-violent drug offenders – the largest one-time release of federal prisoners ever (see Justice Department set to free 6,000 prisoners, largest one-time release).
     Research has shown that preventing re-offending and keeping ex-offenders in the community requires policies that address a wide array of factors. Those factors include: mental health and addiction treatment (see Enhanced Discharge Planning Key in Reducing Corrections System Recidivism For Consumers with Mental Illness and Ohio Drug Court Participants Have Lower Recidivism Rates); education and employment (see Prison Education Reduces Three-Year Reincarceration Rate By 30%, and NYC Transitional Job Program For Ex-Offenders Cut Three-Year Recidivism Rates); and housing.
     The challenge with providing housing for ex-offenders is that they are often barred from public housing simply because they are ex-offenders. It’s the proverbial “Catch 22” – ex-offenders often aren’t eligible for housing, making them more likely to re-offend, and remain ineligible for future housing (see NRRC Facts & Trends). So, we wanted to answer the question – what types of criminal activities bar individuals from living in or receiving public housing assistance? The answer is (as always) it depends.

HOA accused of excessive accommodations for senior home

November 16, 2015
Frustrated Highlands Ranch residents say their homeowners association is bending the rules too far to accommodate a senior citizen home.
     The new owner of the house on Forrest Drive, near Cougar Run Elementary School, is converting it from a three-bedroom house to a group home for eight senior citizens with Alzheimer's or other mental disorders.
     Neighbors say the owner is violating Highlands Ranch Community Association covenants - by building bedrooms in the garage, adding unapproved windows, and putting a flashing commercial fire alarm outside. They are also concerned about how much traffic and garbage the home will produce.

Everett apartment owner slapped for housing discrimination

November 05, 2015
The owners of an Everett apartment building have entered into an agreement with the state Attorney General’s Office to settle racial discrimination claims.
     The agreement, called an “assurance of discontinuance,” states Renton-based DSB Investments LLC admitted to engaging in unfair real estate practices and employed discriminatory terms and conditions in connection with its management of the Glacier View Apartments in Everett.
     As part of the agreement between the state and the company, the company’s admission of wrongdoing “shall not be considered as an admission of violation for any purpose,” and that no further penalties would be assessed if the company keeps its end of the bargain.

Arrest record not enough to ban public housing rental, HUD says

November 04, 2015
Public housing agencies may not deny housing to people based solely on their arrest records, according to new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Nov. 2 directive is designed to reduce recidivism.
     An estimated 100 million in the United States have some type of arrest record. Each year, more than 600,000 people are released from state and federal prisons, according to HUD, which said that the less chance they have of securing a home, the greater the chance they will return to crime.
     The guidelines come at the same time that the Housing Authority of New Orleans is holding meetings with residents and landlords to hammer out its own criminal background check policy. HANO announced in 2013, when it was still under federal control, that it would no longer automatically bar people from housing or employment based on their criminal histories. But after more than two years it has yet to implement that policy fully, frustrating local housing advocates.

Debate ensues over residential group homes in Highlands Ranch

November 03, 2015
For Highlands Ranch resident Cathy Mumper, the decision to move her father, who was beginning to experience symptoms of dementia, to a group home four years ago has been a good one.
     The small size and familial environment provide comfortable, secure and personal care, she said. “It keeps him in a place where his anxiety doesn’t come up because he feels safe.”
     But some Highlands Ranch residents are unhappy with the location of two group homes for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s in their neighborhoods and the proposed building of a third. They worry about the patients’ mental health, increase of traffic, lack of parking and safety of neighbors.
     “These people aren’t well,” Cathy Ward told the Highlands Ranch Community Association board at its Oct. 20 meeting, referring to the group home under construction at Venneford Ranch Road and Forrest Drive near Cougar Run Elementary School. “We decided as a neighborhood that we were going to protect our children and our property.”

DOJ settles with housing authority of Baltimore city for failure to provide accessible housing to people with disabilities

November 02, 2015
The Justice Department announced today that a federal district court has approved a supplemental consent decree between the United States, the Maryland Disability Law Center and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC). The original consent decree contained remedies for HABC’s failure to provide accessible housing to persons with disabilities. The supplemental consent decree, which was approved today by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz of the District of Maryland, continues and amends certain terms in the original consent order in United States v. HABC, and Bailey v. HABC, entered on Dec. 20, 2004.
     “We are pleased with the significant progress made by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to implement the terms of the original decree,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “We look forward to working with the Housing Authority to create new accessible housing opportunities for persons with disabilities and enhancing their quality of life.”
     The original consent decree mandates that HABC create 756 units to comply with federal accessibility standards. As of Aug. 31, 2015, HABC had developed all but 54 of such units. Under the supplemental decree, these remaining units will be completed by Dec. 31, 2016. HABC’s plan requires two and three bedroom single family homes that are fully accessible to families with a household member who has physical disabilities.

Redlining home loan discrimination re-emerges as concern for regulators

November 02, 2015
The New York Times staffer Rachel Swarns reports on Hudson City Savings Bank, which recently agreed to pay nearly $33 million for "redlining," marking the largest settlement for such practices.
     Redlining, in which banks choke off lending to minority communities--drawing a "red line" around a map, circling the neighborhoods in which it doesn't want to lend--was standard practice once upon a time, until the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it illegal.
     Outlawed decades ago, redlining has re-emerged as a serious concern among regulators as banks have sharply retreated from providing home loans to African-Americans in the wake of the financial crisis, according to Swarns.

Comfort animals a growing need on college campuses

October 25, 2015
Across the nation, colleges receive requests from students looking for a specific type of roommate—the four-legged kind.
     Navigating college can be a stressful time for a majority of students but for some, the option of having a ‘comfort animal’ in their dorm can be an extra push towards academic success.
     Comfort animals, or emotional support animals, can serve as a therapeutic aid to individuals with a diagnosed mental health disorder like depression, anxiety and panic attacks; however, they are more commonly used to help combat the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study by Frontiers in Psychology.
     More than 14 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated for anxiety and 12 percent reported being diagnosed or treated for depression, according to a 2014 report by the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment.

Housing authority hit by several Section 8 lawsuits

October 25, 2015
The troubled Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority was hit with three federal lawsuits in the past three months over the same program — one that helps poor families pay rent.
     All of the lawsuits allege the housing authority's Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program violated federal law and individual civil rights by failing to provide notice and fair hearing to people dropped from the program.
     One of the three lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court was settled with the plaintiff's reinstatement to the Section 8 program, and the parties of another are in settlement talks. A fourth federal lawsuit filed in 2014 also was resolved this month with the plaintiff's reinstatement to the program, according to attorneys.
     Executive Director John Hill declined to comment on the spate of lawsuits. Some of the attorneys for the plaintiffs speculated that the program might be understaffed.

HUD charges Texas landlords with discrimination for imposing overly restrictive rules on families with children

October 23, 2015
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged Blackacre, L.L.C. and Alishia Ritchkey, the former owner and manager of Pebble Beach Apartments, a 61-unit complex in Universal City, Texas, with violating the Fair Housing Act by imposing overly restrictive rules on children under 16 who lived there.HUD also charged Implicity Management Company, the current management company, and Pebble Beach Apartments L.L.C, the current owner of the complex, with discriminating based on familial status.
     Read HUD’s charge. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. This includes setting rules that discriminate against families with children.
     “Instituting rules that limit the activities of daily life for families with children violates the Fair Housing Act,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The Fair Housing Act protects the rights of families to enjoy their homes free from unreasonable restrictions on their children.”
     Specifically, HUD’s charge alleges that Pebble Beach’srules discriminated against families by prohibiting children under the age of 16 from being in their home without an adult, using the laundry facilities without an adult present, using the pool without an adult present, or using their scooters or bikes on the street and parking lots without an adult. HUD’s charge further alleges that residents were told that parking lots were not to be used as playgrounds and that if children were left playing “in the street” with bikes, scooters, etc. they would be given a 24-hour notice to vacate.


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