The Crime Free Multi-Housing Program is Wrong for San Jose

The city of San Jose seems on track to join other cities in implementing a Crime Free Multi-Housing Program. Housing advocate, Anthony King writes that this plan is not informed by the residents most impacted and will lead to pushing the already vulnerable communities of San Jose out of their homes.



The city of San Jose is gathering community input on a Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, a proposal that is entirely wrong for San Jose and will only lead to increased homelessness for many vulnerable families, including those escaping domestic violence, in an already tight rental market.

This program, if enacted, would create a relationship between the police department and the owners of multi-family apartment complexes that exist in these crime-free zones. A relationship in which a tenant living in one of these buildings could be evicted for the arrest – not the conviction, but the arrest – of anyone living in the household, including guests, whether that arrest occurred on the residential property or not. Simply put: Doug lives in south San Jose. Doug's cousin, Donald, is visiting Doug for the holidays and gets arrested downtown for disorderly conduct. Doug and his entire family can be evicted from their apartment under the terms of this program. As an advocate for increased services for those living on the streets and a tenant organizer around the preservation and development of more affordable housing, I find this to be disturbing on many levels.

At the heart of my concerns is the wording around what constitutes grounds for a violation under this program. In its community outreach, the City of San Jose Housing Dept. and S.J.P.D. staff listed the following as grounds for eviction:

“...drug-related criminal activity, prostitution, criminal street gang activity, assault and battery, discharge of firearms, sexual offenses and any act intended to facilitate criminal activity on or near the premises...” These reasons are far too broad to be able to be linked to an eviction process, which has the potential to leave whole families homeless here in San Jose.

Proponents, like City Councilman Johnny Khamis, argue that programs like these are necessary to deter crime. And while presenters stated that calls for emergency responders went down 40% in other cities that have enacted such programs, they could not speak to the rise or fall of arrests or convictions in these affected areas, or to the overall safety levels of the affected apartments in these other cities. I feel that ordinances like these have the potential to cause real harm to already vulnerable groups such as domestic violence survivors, persons with mental disabilities and people of color; while at the same time could undermine ongoing state, county and city efforts to successfully integrate homeless persons and formerly incarcerated persons back into our community. 

California law already allows a landlord to evict a tenant for most violent crimes and nuisances, adding more with such broad terms does not ensure our neighborhoods will be any safer and could lead to the unnecessary and unfair eviction of countless tenants. Furthermore, “Crime-free Multi-Housing” ordinances can and will lead to “disparate impact” discrimination, where a seemingly neutral policy has a disproportionate impact on a protected class even where there is no intent to discriminate. 

The city of San Jose can and must do better by its most vulnerable community members. The City Council should go beyond community outreach and appoint a task force comprised of the Housing Department, Code Enforcement, City Attorney, tenant representatives, landlord representatives, S.J.P.D., and other stakeholders including domestic violence advocates, fair housing advocates and civil rights experts in order to craft an ordinance that thoroughly and equitably addresses community stability, law enforcement intervention, victim safety and, when necessary, offender accountability. This program should not be implemented in San Jose on the notion that other cities nationwide have used it; an appropriate program for San Jose should be designed by those who have the biggest stake in this issue: tenants. In his speech at the Vatican last year, Mayor Sam Liccardo acquiesced to the wealth inequality in our city and how it affects marginalized communities; he also said he had a plan to fix this. If he is truly dedicated to this goal, now would be the time to show true leadership, and push for the creation of the aforementioned task force.

Two more community meetings for public outreach are planned:

Thurs. 1/14 from 7pm-8:30pm
Immanuel Lutheran Church at 1710 Moorpark Ave. San Jose, CA 95128

Tues. 1/19 from 7pm-8:30pm
McKinley Community Center at 651 Macredes Ave. San Jose, Ca 95116 

Find out more information at http://sanjoseca.gov/neighborhoods

 

Related Media:
San Jose's Process for Controversial "Crime Free Multi-Housing Program" Gives Community the Runaround
Renters Rally at First Advisory Committee Meeting to Revise San Jose's Rent Ordinance
Renter's Organizing Workshop in San Jose's District 7
 

About Anthony King

Anthony King is a homeless advocate, formerly homeless himself and now actively working to end homelessness in San Jose. He is also part of Silicon Valley Renter’s Rights Coalition working to create rent stabilization in San Jose.

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This article is part of the tags: Councilman Johnny Khamis  / Crime Free  / Crime Free Multi-Housing Program  / Domestic Violence Survivors  / San Jose 

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