Category Archives: Homeless

New Article: The Prison to Homelessness Pipeline: Criminal Record Checks, Race, and Disparate Impact

New Article: Valerie Schneider, The Prison to Homelessness Pipeline: Criminal Record Checks, Race, and Disparate Impact, 93 Ind. L. J. 421 (2018).  Abstract below:

Study after study has shown that securing housing upon release from prison is critical to reducing the likelihood of recidivism, yet those with criminal records— a population that disproportionately consists of racial minorities—are routinely denied access to housing, even if their offense was minor and was shown to have no bearing on whether the applicant would be likely to be a successful renter. In April of 2016, the Office of General Counsel for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued much anticipated guidance dealing directly with the racially disparate impact of barring those with criminal records from public and private housing.

After decades of seeming to encourage local public housing providers to adopt harsh policies barring applicants with criminal records regardless of the nature or recency of the crime, the Obama-era guidance from HUD represents a sea change in federal policy and will force local housing authorities to grapple with the potentially disparate impacts of harsh criminal record policies. The guidance is particularly timely, given that HUD issued a rule clarifying the burden of proof in disparate impact cases in 2013 and the Supreme Court affirmed that disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act in its 2015 decision in Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.  Additionally, while the Trump administration seems focused on rolling back Obama-era protections in some arenas, this guidance has remained in place. Even if withdrawn by HUD, the guidance has already inspired local policies restricting the use of criminal background checks in housing decisions potentially giving rise to a new era for those seeking housing after being released from prison.  This Article first puts the problem of using criminal records to evaluate potential tenants into historical context, discussing the particular impact of the rising rates of incarceration on minority communities. Next, the Article delves into the guidance itself, examining what it does and does not require of housing providers, with a focus on public housing. Finally, the Article provides insight into what is missing from the guidance, what might be done to strengthen it, how advocates might use it, and how housing providers might work to limit both their legal exposure and moral culpability related to the disparate impact the use of criminal records in housing decisions has on minorities.


New Article: College Student Homelessness: A Hidden Epidemic

New Article: Chad Klitzman, College Student Homelessness: A Hidden Epidemic, 51 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Prob. 587 (2018). Abstract below:

This Note examines a surprising obstacle for an increasing number of college students: homelessness. After first offering an overview of legislation in the education field dealing specifically with the education of those experiencing homelessness, this Note then offers insights into how and why people experiencing homelessness tackle both the world of higher education and their respective institutions’ capacities to service their needs both in and out of the classroom. This exploration occurs largely through interview testimony conducted by the author. Many institutions lack the resources needed to service all of a students’ needs (food, clothing, etc.). After exploring the malleability of the higher education and social services systems, this Note argues that certain policy changes — legislation, community work, and change at the institutional level — would be beneficial in combatting this growing homelessness epidemic.

New Blog Post: Who Gets to Tell Stories About Poverty?


New Blog Post: Kalena Thomhave, Who Gets to Tell Stories About Poverty?, Nov. 14, 2018.

New Article: This House is Not Your Home: Litigating Landlord Rejections of Housing Choice Vouchers Under the Fair Housing Act

New Article: Maia Hutt, This House is Not Your Home: Litigating Landlord Rejections of Housing Choice Vouchers Under the Fair Housing Act, Columbia 53 J. L. & Soc. Prob. 391 (2018).

Abstract below:

Over 2.2 million low-income households participate in the federal Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. Voucher holders, who are disproportionately people of color and individuals with disabilities, are frequently discriminated against or denied housing by landlords. This Note argues that prospective tenants who are rejected by landlords for participating in the HCV program have a right of action against landlords under the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact provisions. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Inclusive Communities provides the necessary framework for evaluating these claims, and suggests that federal courts’ historical rejection of disparate impact claims brought by voucher holders is no longer good law. Integrating state and local source of income protection laws into the Inclusive Communities burden-shifting resolves the tension between state and federal approaches to source of income protection, and vitiates the rights of voucher holders.

New Blog Post: A Novel Solution for the Homeless: House Them in Backyards


New blog post: Jennifer Medina, A Novel Solution for the Homeless: House Them in Backyards,, Oct. 29, 2018.

New Article: One-strike 2.0: How Local Governments are Distorting a Flawed Federal Eviction Law

New Article: Kathryn V. Ramsey. One-strike 2.0: How Local Governments are Distorting a Flawed Federal Eviction Law, 65 UCLA L. Rev. 1146 (2018). Abstract:

In recent years, local governments across the country have passed crime-free housing ordinances (CHOs) for private-market rental properties. These ordinances increase the risk of eviction for many tenants by requiring or encouraging private-market landlords to evict tenants for low-level criminal activity, sometimes even a single arrest. CHOs are based on a federal law known as the one-strike policy, which has been applied to public housing tenants since 1988 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002. Unlike the one-strike policy, which applies only to federal public housing tenants, CHOs put an unprecedented number of private-market tenants across the country at significant risk of eviction and its attendant consequences, including homelessness, neighborhood instability, and higher incidences of poverty. This Article examines CHOs as an outgrowth of the federal one-strike policy, and it argues that they are significantly more harmful to tenants than the one-strike policy has been. The Article identifies serious legal issues raised by CHOs and suggests that, before adopting or enforcing CHOs, municipalities should consider these legal problems in conjunction with the crime problem that CHOs purport to address and the other problems that CHOs can create. This more complete calculus weakens the case for crime-free housing ordinances in rental housing.

New Report: Homeless Exclusion Districts: How California Business Improvement Districts Use Policy Advocacy and Policing Practices to Exclude Homeless People from Public Space

New Report: Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic (Jeffrey Selbin, Stephanie Campos-Bui, Joshua Epstein, Laura Lim, Shelby Nacino, Paula Wilhlem & Hannah Stommel), Homeless Exclusion Districts: How California Business Improvement Districts Use Policy Advocacy and Policing Practices to Exclude Homeless People from Public Space (2018). Abstract below:

Business improvement districts (“BIDs”) are private entities funded by local property assessments that play an increasingly large role in managing public space in California cities. First authorized by state law in the 1960s to help revitalize struggling urban areas, BIDs have grown considerably in number and influence, especially since 1994 when the State Legislature reduced public oversight of BIDs and expanded their assessment and spending authority. Today, approximately 200 California BIDs collect hundreds of millions of dollars annually in compulsory property assessment revenue, which they spend on a wide range of activities. Researchers and policymakers have paid little attention to the rise of BIDs and their growing influence on municipal and state affairs. BIDs typically are located in downtown areas where businesses are concentrated. These same areas, especially in California, often have a high concentration of homeless people, including many people who are unsheltered. The interests and activities of BIDs and homeless people intersect and conflict in several important ways, including in the areas of public policy, policing practices, and social services. In this report, we share research findings about the relationship between California BIDs and homelessness. We conducted a literature review, studied municipal laws that target or disproportionately impact homeless people, researched the legal framework authorizing BIDs, and surveyed BIDs in California’s 69 largest cities. To help interpret the data from these sources, we conducted in-depth case studies of eleven BIDs in the cities of Berkeley, Chico, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco, including analysis of public records, interviews with BID officials, and surveys and interviews of homeless people. Our key finding is that BIDs exclude homeless people from public spaces in their districts through policy advocacy and policing practices. BID involvement in social services is experienced by homeless people as an additional form of policing, surveillance, and harassment. Our findings raise several legal concerns. When BIDs spend property assessment revenue on local and statewide policy advocacy, they may violate California law. BID spending on policy advocacy with revenue from assessments of publicly owned properties raises special statutory and constitutional concerns. Further, BID policing practices may violate the legal rights of people experiencing homelessness and expose BIDs to criminal liability. The findings and legal concerns inform several key recommendations, spelled out in more detail in the report. First, the State Legislature should amend state laws that grant BIDs broad authority to collect and spend property assessment revenue and to operate largely independent of government oversight. Second, city governments should provide more careful scrutiny and regulation of BID activities within their jurisdictions. Finally, BIDs should assume greater accountability to all district residents and visitors.

News Coverage: We gave six homeless people cameras and asked them to photograph their lives. Here’s what they showed us.

News Coverage: We gave six homeless people cameras and asked them to photograph their lives. Here’s what they showed us, Salt Lake Tribune, 9/9/2018.

Call for Papers: Sustainability in Affordable Housing, Fair Housing & Community Development

ABA Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law Call for Papers: Sustainability in Affordable Housing, Fair Housing & Community Development. Abstracts due October 15, 2018; Drafts due January 1, 2019

The Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law (the Journal) invites articles and essays on the theme of sustainability in affordable housing, fair housing and community development. Contributions could explore sustainability from environmental, economic, social or political perspectives and address topics ranging from green building and disaster preparedness/response to affordable housing preservation to funding for local fair housing organizations. Articles and essays could analyze new issues, tell success stories and draw lessons, or explore problems and propose legal and policy recommendations. The Journal welcomes essays (typically 2,500–6,200 words) or articles (typically 7,000-10,000 words).

In addition, the Journal welcomes articles and essays on any of the Journal’s traditional subjects: affordable housing, fair housing and community/economic development. Topics could include important developments in the field; federal, state, local and/or private funding sources; statutes, policies or regulations; and empirical studies.

The Journal is the nation’s only law journal dedicated to affordable housing and community development law.  The Journal educates readers and provides a forum for discussion and resolution of problems in these fields by publishing articles from distinguished law professors, policy advocates and practitioners.

Interested authors are encouraged to send an abstract describing their proposals to the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Tim Iglesias, at by October 15, 2018. Submissions of final articles and essays are due by January 1, 2019. The Journal also accepts submissions on a rolling basis. Please do not hesitate to contact the Editor with any questions.


New Article: Homeless, Hungry, and Targeted: A Look at the Validity of Food-Sharing Restrictions in the United States

New Article: Samantha Holloway, Homeless, Hungry, and Targeted: A Look at the Validity of Food-Sharing Restrictions in the United States, Hofstra L. Rev. Vol. 46, 2017.