U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Director Shaun Donovan sent a letter last week to executive directors of public housing authorities (PHAs) clarifying HUD’s position regarding people with criminal record’s eligibility for public housing. Donovan encourages PHA executive directors “to allow ex-offenders to rejoin their families in the Public Housing or Housing Choice Voucher programs, when appropriate.”
It is a long held myth that all formerly incarcerated, or all those with drug offenses, are banned from public housing and Section 8. The fact is that those local directors have wide latitude to allow people to live there, and it just so happens that those people have chosen to promote oppressive policies that destroy families.
The only circumstances under which a PHA is required by law to ban a person from federally assisted housing is if he or she was convicted of methamphetamine production on the premises or is subject to a lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Like his predecessors, President Obama’s administration continues the overall trend of the incarceration nation, and neither this letter nor reducing crack/cocaine federal sentencing disparity, has reduced the amount of money the federal government gives to states to police and incarcerate low income communities. Attorney General Eric Holder’s letter a few weeks ago, attempting to intimidate state moves towards Medical Marijuana and Decriminalization of marijuana, is a classic scenario.
“As President Obama recently made clear, this is an Administration that believes in the importance of second chances – that people who have paid their debt to society deserve the opportunity to become productive citizens and caring parents, to set the past aside and embrace the future,” Secretary Donovan and Assistant Secretary Heriquez wrote. “Part of that support means helping ex-offenders gain access to one of the most fundamental building blocks of a stable life – a place to live.”
It is important for Activists and advocates in Housing and Social Justice to push their local PHA Directors to stop their discrimination.