Homes stand in front of the downtown skyline in Los Angeles on Aug. 30, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
California cities and counties can no longer enact so-called “crime free” housing policies after a new law went into effect Jan. 1. The policies have been used to penalize tenants with criminal backgrounds or brushes with police, which lawmakers said could be discriminatory.
Assembly Bill 1814, authored by Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood), revises existing state law which previously allowed for such policies. Under the revised law, such policies against tenants or prospective tenants are outlawed, and landlords can no longer require criminal background checks for tenants.
“So-called ‘crime-free’ rental housing policies are pitched by local government officials as a crime-fighting tool. However, there is no evidence that these policies do anything to reduce crime,” Assemblywoman McKinnor said in an analysis of the bill.
Ms. McKinnor, in the same analysis, said that the policies are usually racially motivated and intended to “reverse demographic change in a given jurisdiction.”
The assemblywoman referenced a Los Angeles Times analysis, which found that such “crime free” policies were adopted in areas that had seen an increase in black or Latino populations.
According to Ms. McKinnor, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans had listed the policies as contributing to housing segregation and had called for their repeal. She also noted the policies were unfair to victims of domestic abuse, who may have frequent police contact through no fault of their own.
In 2022, the high desert city of Hesperia settled a lawsuit
with the U.S. Department of Justice and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department after a federal investigation found that Hesperia’s crime free housing policy violated civil rights, where black renters were nearly four times more likely to be evicted under the policy than white renters. Latinos were around 29 percent more likely, according to the investigation.
Under the former law, an entire household could be evicted when a household member is convicted of a crime. Such is also no longer allowed.
Those in support of the recently passed legislation include the California Apartment Association, who said in an analysis of the bill the former policies sometimes asked landlords to report illegal immigrants, against their will.
“This is an inappropriate and objectionable mandate on the part of local governments,” they wrote.
No opposition was received for the bill.