NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Boston Testing New Public Housing Eviction Rule

February 4, 1998

A 1996 federal law allows public housing authorities to evict troublemakers. But Boston, Mass., has gone one step further and is testing whether the law extends to the families of the miscreants.

Federal officials say the new law -- also known as "one strike and you're out" -- has accelerated evictions from federally funded housing projects nationwide.

  • Last fall, the Boston Housing Authority rapidly evicted three white youths who were accused of attacking their Hispanic neighbors -- and then started proceedings to throw out the youths' families.
  • To determine the constitutional reach of the new law, the authority also cited lease agreements which stipulate family responsibility for the conduct of household members.
  • A housing court judge who heard the case said "some public housing occupants view their tenancies as tenured and the law as nothing more than an irritating, irrelevant inconvenience."
  • A lawyer for one of the mothers complained that to throw out "a whole innocent family because one person has a history of violence or allegedly commits an act of violence is unbelievable, and it might be unconstitutional."

An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer said the case "simply becomes punishment of people who had no responsibility for any of the misconduct...."

Black and Hispanic tenants have filed a class-action lawsuit claiming the agency neglected to remedy racial harassment and assaults.

Source: Pamela Ferdinand, "'One Strike' in Boston's Public Housing May Mean Troublemakers' Kin Are Out," Washington Post, February 4, 1998.


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