Local municipalities put on notice regarding the adverse effects of Crime-Free Housing policies and urged to comply with federal and state fair housing laws
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced statewide guidance to address Crime-Free Housing policies that disproportionally discriminate against people of color, survivors of domestic violence, people with disabilities, and justice-involved individuals. Crime-Free Housing policies can compound the impact of racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system by replicating those inequalities in the housing system. The California Department of Justice will provide the guidance issued today to all cities and counties throughout California to urge local municipalities to review and potentially reconsider aspects of their Crime-Free Housing policies to ensure compliance with civil rights laws and fair housing regulations.
“In California, we’re taking action to end housing discrimination and foster diverse communities,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The statewide guidance issued today presents clear legal standards and procedures to proactively prevent discriminatory housing practices within localities. Tenants have rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and other California laws that protect against many forms of housing discrimination, and this guide aims to ensure we are eliminating barriers to housing and promoting equal opportunities.”
Hundreds of cities and counties within California have adopted Crime-Free Housing ordinances or programs in the past few decades. These policies may induce property owners to use tenant screening tactics that are prohibited by California law. In particular, landlords may evict tenants based on their calls seeking law enforcement assistance—for example, in response to domestic violence—or based on mere allegations of criminal activity, rather than convictions.
Discriminatory housing restrictions have historically been used to perpetuate racial segregation in communities. The state guidance on Crime-Free Housing policies highlights local jurisdictions’ obligations under federal and state law to ensure equal access to housing. Local jurisdictions should be particularly mindful of the following ways in which Crime-Free Housing policies may run afoul of the state Fair Employment and Housing Act and/or the federal Fair Housing Act:
The Attorney General’s office has the authority to investigate local jurisdictions if they are found to be violating any California or federal housing laws.
A copy of the statewide guidance can be found here.