The New Housing Segregation: The Jim Crow Effects of Crime-free Housing Ordinances

The New Housing Segregation: The Jim Crow Effects of Crime-free Housing Ordinances

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Susie Wulf started this petition to u.s. department of housing and urban development and

Housing discrimination is often perceived as solved long ago with the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and decades of its enforcement by the government and private citizens. Yet, racial segregation continues to be a problem not simply of history, but of current design with the Jim Crow effects of 'crime-free housing.' Although the nature of racism in housing continues to change, government policies continue to sustain racial segregation, often working to re-segregate communities that had managed to achieve some level of integration.

The adoption of crime-free housing ordinances and programs ("crime-free ordinances") is becoming a national trend. According to one estimate, approximately 2,000 municipalities across 48 states have adopted crime-free housing ordinances.

The impact of crime-free ordinances on racial segregation should be a matter of great public concern. At a time when America's population has become more racially diverse, extreme residential segregation based on race nonetheless persists. The United States has a long and complicated history of racial segregation in housing, enforced through public policies, individual acts of discrimination, and mob violence.

Residential segregation affects an individual's access to:

  • Quality education
  • Employment opportunities
  • Government services &
  • Social capital

Residents of racially segregated communities also experience increased contact with the criminal legal system--one of the critical drivers of unequal opportunity in America. Poor, isolated, over-policed, and under-resourced communities of color are a legacy of housing discrimination.

Supporters say the program works, making residents safer. While critics acknowledge the need to keep communities safe—especially low-income communities, in which residents sometimes feel neglected by police—they worry that crime-free-housing programs facilitate police interference in what should be a private sphere, including by using landlords to inflict punishment outside of the criminal-justice system for crimes tenants may not have even committed. They also raised concerns that the programs could import biases from the criminal-justice system into housing decisions, making it harder for low-income people, people with disabilities and drug addictions, and people of color to find and keep affordable homes. At a time when leaders of all political leanings are working to reform America’s sprawling criminal-justice system, crime-free-housing programs are quietly expanding the system’s reach.

Displacing such people is a function usually left to the criminal legal system. But sometimes, housing cases can accomplish what criminal cases—with their slow timelines, presumptions of innocence, and exacting standards—cannot.

Do a quick search on crime free housing in your area. Learn about the ways your city leaders are perpetuating the new housing segregation with crime free housing in your city. Below are some examples of crime free housing and how it affects blacks and people of color:

◦In 2019 in Belleville, Illinois there were 70 e-mails sent to landlords by the police, led by Master Sgt. Shane Brown, instructing the landlord to evict. 50% of renter households are black even though the City as a whole is 25% black

◦In 2019 in Granite City, Illinois, 2 families partnered with the Institute for Justice and filed parallel civil-rights lawsuits against the city for trying to evict them under the crime free housing ordinance. Their main claims were simple: Under the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause, Granite City cannot punish entire families because of a houseguest’s misdeeds. And under the Equal Protection Clause, the city certainly cannot single out renters alone for that sort of collective punishment.

Black & brown people have been particularly harmed by housing instability, discriminatory rental policies, and homelessness. Once housing is lost, low-income renters face significant barriers to accessing replacement housing.

The goal of this petition is to bring awareness to what crime-free housing is and to:

  • Limit evictions without just cause
  • Create rent stabilization laws
  • Guarantee a right to counsel in housing cases to lower homelessness
  • Prevent eviction based on foreclosure
  • Prohibit discrimination based on a prospective renter’s source of income
  • Prohibit housing displacement due to nuisance ordinances
  • Prohibit discrimination against renters with eviction histories and criminal records
  • Prohibit discrimination against homeless people in rental housing
  • Preserve existing affordable housing

We acknowledge the need to keep communities safe. All communities should be safe from crime. Are you willing to join us in ending these discriminatory ordinances? Please help us by signing and sharing on your social platforms. Thank you!

We are working with Tex Pasley at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law,,to end the racial exclusion of 'Crime Free Housing.'


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