New Article: “Their Home is Not Their Castle: Subsidized Housing’s Intrusion into Family Privacy and Decisional Autonomy”

New Article: Michelle Ewert, Their Home is Not Their Castle: Subsidized Housing’s Intrusion into Family Privacy and Decisional Autonomy, 99 N.C. L. Rev. 869 (2021). Abstract below:

The anti-Black racism that has permeated public benefits programs and federal housing policy for over a century persists in subsidized rental housing. Public housing authorities (PHAs) impede the ability of tenants—who are disproportionately Black women—to change household composition as their family situations change. PHAs routinely take months or longer to approve requests to add or remove household members and often require tenants to produce inaccessible third-party verification of a former household member’s new address before removing them from official records. In failing to grant these requests promptly, PHAs infringe on tenants’ fundamental right to privacy and family autonomy, impose a financial burden on tenants who have limited resources, and put tenants at risk of eviction if former household members are arrested for criminal activity.

This Article proposes workable solutions to these problems. First, PHA failure to timely respond to a request to adjust household composition should be treated as a constructive denial, as is done in fair housing law and other areas of administrative law. This strategy would allow tenants to pursue administrative and judicial review rights that already exist in public housing and the housing choice voucher program. Second, the statutory or regulatory schemes governing subsidized housing should be amended to include subpoena powers such as exist in the Administrative Procedure Act to allow tenants to access needed third-party records. These changes would protect the substantive and due process rights of vulnerable tenants and help dismantle systemic racism that continues to plague public benefits programs.

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