NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Activists Challenge Zero Tolerance Policies in Public Housing

July 11, 2001

Over the last decade, authorities running subsidized housing projects throughout the country have adopted zero tolerance policies. First it was for drugs, then such policies were applied to violence in California, Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Oregon.

Now such policies are under attack by civil rights and women's rights groups.

  • In Oregon, the activists are challenging -- as a form of sex discrimination -- a zero tolerance policy allowing the eviction of an entire household after a domestic assault.
  • The plaintiff in Oregon claims she was evicted from her apartment after her husband assaulted her and she obtained a temporary restraining order against him -- which she gave to the resident manager.
  • The housing complex involved is subsidized by the Department of Agriculture's rural development program.
  • In administrative proceedings on the complaint, the Department of Housing and Urban Development ruled she had reasonable cause to sue.

The supervising property manager in Oregon explained that the policy of evicting an entire household when anyone in the household had been a batterer was designed to protect tenants from witnessing recurring domestic fights if the restraining order is defied.

The HUD findings said there was reasonable cause to believe that the zero-tolerance policy violates the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against women.

In a study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, most of the cities surveyed said domestic violence is a primary cause of homelessness.

Source: Tamar Lewin, "Zero-Tolerance Policy is Challenged," New York Times, July 11, 2001.


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