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Homing in on new housing policies

By James Li and Gilina Voon Feb. 14, 2024

In an effort to reduce crime rates, cities nationwide have participated in crime-free housing programs since 1995. These programs required landlords to evict tenants associated with criminal activity or law enforcement involvement, including incidents requiring a 911 call. Landlords were also encouraged to conduct background checks on applicants before accepting them as tenants.

Previously, crime-free housing had been a common occurrence in California, with one-third of local governments employing crime-free housing legislation. It is also present in 48 states across the United States, with 37 of the 40 largest cities in the U.S. utilizing some form of “nuisance property ordinance,” according to LawAtlas, a site tasked with identifying variations in law across the U.S. over time.

However, these programs had unintentional consequences. The Los Angeles Times asserts that these programs pushed individuals to homelessness, contributing to increased property crime. It also caused landlords to evict tenants for minor inconveniences, such as complaints over barbecuing or children playing basketball.

Thus, on Jan. 1, Governor Gavin Newsom enacted legislation to abolish all crime-free housing laws in California. Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor introduced this law, in hopes of preventing local governments from charging landlords penalties or compelling landlords to evict tenants based on suspected criminal records or law enforcement associations. The legislation also prohibits local governments from mandating background checks on tenants and from evicting entire families due to a single resident’s felony.

“This act is beneficial as it helps prevent discrimination against people who are most impacted by law enforcement. It helps expand tenant rights, suppress inconsistent local ordinances and increase lease protections for families. An entire family should not have to pay the price for one member’s illicit activities,” Senior Rhea Naik said.

McKinnor highlighted that the legislation is designed to safeguard minorities, such as African and Mexican Americans, who have a higher rate of encounters with law enforcement. It serves to prevent the eviction of minorities and discourages the use of crime-free housing rules as a gentrification tool.

Saachi Basavaraju Art

Along with the discriminatory enforcement of crime-free housing, it has been found that such laws are hardly effective in reducing crime rates. By preventing individuals from gaining residence, people are driven out onto the streets and towards crime in order to sustain themselves. Many crime-free housing policies also consider 911 calls indicators of criminal activity; thus residents are wary of calling the authorities, lest they risk endangering their residency. This posed challenges for those dealing with domestic violence or mental health crises who required help from law enforcement, as previously, many individuals were hesitant to contact law enforcement due to fear of eviction. In this way, the legislation intends to encourage renters to seek assistance from law enforcement.

“While crime free housing could have been established as a force for crime prevention, it is evident that it has been turned into a vessel of discrimination, and should be abolished,” Senior Alicia Kang said.

California also plans to implement additional tenant protections. As of now, landlords can evict tenants and withdraw the property from the rental market under the “No Fault, Just Cause” policy. However, starting April 1, landlords or their families must move into the rental within 90 days and reside there for at least a year to justify evicting tenants for personal use. Another new law in the California Civil Code Section involves reducing the upfront payment tenants need to make for rentals. Previously, tenants were required to pay a security deposit and up to three months of rent charges in advance. The new change aims to ease the financial burden on tenants by adjusting this upfront amount to only one month of the security deposit.

The removal of “crime-free” housing policies allows for the state of California to move past the dated and divisive policies of its past like the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. Instead, it moves toward legislation that encourages more inclusive and protected communities.


About the contributors

James Li

staff writer

James Li is a senior at Leland High School and is a Staff Writer for the Charger Account. When not working, he enjoys bowling, running, and playing video games.

Gilina Voon

staff writer

Gilina Voon is a senior at Leland High School and is a writer and photographer for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys traveling, hanging out with friends, and running.

Saachi Basavaraju


Saachi Basavaraju is a freshman at Leland High School and works as an artist for The Charger Account. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting, reading, listening to crime and horror podcasts, and rewatching clips from her favorite movies and shows.

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