Two CA Cities Repeal Crime-Free Multi-Housing Programs

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
The City of San Bernardino recently agreed to a settlement requiring that the city update its plans to build more affordable housing and scrap its Crime-Free Multi-Housing Program. Photo Credit: Matt Gush

In the past week, two California cities – Riverside and San Bernardino – have repealed most of their “Crime-Free Multi-Housing” programs, which were designed to improve tenants’ safety but have been criticized for destabilizing families, especially in low-income communities of color.

The program helps landlords choose better landscaping and lighting, and promotes neighborhood watch groups. City of San Bernardino Public Information Officer Jeff Kraus said it also established rules against criminal activity.

“Tenants were required to sign an addendum to the lease that, if there was illegal activity by either the tenant or the guests, that the tenants could be evicted,” said Kraus. “And that component is where some of the controversy lies.”

There have been cases in other cities where people were evicted even when the alleged crime took place elsewhere, or when there was no arrest or conviction.

Families have been uprooted when one member ran afoul of the law. And domestic violence survivors have been evicted after calling police.

San Bernardino will still help apartment complexes harden their property against crime, but agreed to scrap large parts of the Crime-Free Multi-Housing program as part of a settlement in a case over delays in the city’s adoption of a state-mandated housing element.

Attorney Anthony Kim is a staff attorney with Inland Counties Legal Services, which brought the suit. He noted that the program required landlords to do a universal background check on all tenants.

“It’s already pretty difficult for individuals to reintegrate themselves into society after getting out of jail,” said Kim. “And everyone deserves housing, and having a record should not be any sort of precluding element to that.”

A number of people testified against the program at the Riverside City Council meeting, including Desiree Sanchez – a member of the Inland Region Housing Justice Coalition and senior policy advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

“The removal of the program will ensure the city does not increase homelessness by putting an end to illegal evictions,” said Sanchez. “And that’s strengthening the public safety and economy of the City of Riverside.”

The City of Hesperia recently withdrew its program after a federal lawsuit said it discriminated against Black and Latino renters.