A new investigation by the Los Angeles Times found crime-free housing programs disproportionately affect Black and Latino residents in California.
Such programs make it more difficult for tenants to rent apartments, leaving them more vulnerable to eviction. The Los Angeles Times report explained that as Black people and Latinos moved to the suburbs, crime-free housing policies followed and now span at least 147 cities and counties. What’s more, tenants of color were found to have been more likely to be evicted under crime-free housing than white tenants.
These programs are reminiscent of redlining, a now illegal discriminatory practice of a mortgage lender denying loans (or issuing abusive loan terms) to certain areas of a community, typically because of racial characteristics of the applicant’s neighborhood. The term itself references the red ink used to outline on maps high-risk neighborhoods, which were predominantly Black and Latino. These neighborhoods were severely affected during the interstate building boom. Eventually, routing roads through Black communities became so common that critics explained it as “White roads through Black bedrooms.”
The impact lasts to this day; redlining has been attributed to the gap in wealth between Black and white Americans. In addition, a 2018 investigation by the Center for Responsible Lending found that Black, Latino and Asian applicants were turned away for loans at a higher rate than white people in many U.S. cities.
In November 2019, Deborah N. Archer, the director of the New York University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, wrote a brief on racial exclusion through crime-free housing ordinances. She explained the problem:
Despite a growing consensus about the problem of mass incarceration… mass criminalization has seeped into virtually every aspect of society. In a growing number of communities around the country, the increased contact with the criminal legal system combines with mass criminalization to further lock people of color out of housing in predominantly white communities, further producing and sustaining racial segregation.
Crime-free housing programs don’t explicitly mention race— ignoring in policy but not in practice the fact that people of color are imprisoned far more than white people.
“Communities must grapple with the underlying motivations that feed the desire to exclude, Archer said. “They will need to confront their fears and prejudices in order to replace exclusion with inclusion.”
Read the full investigation here.