Advocating for the End of Policies that Exclude Justice-Involved New Yorkers
from Public Housing
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest public housing authority in the United States, with nearly 180,000 units housing nearly 400,000 low-income individuals and families in 334 developments throughout the city. While the NYCHA plays an important role in providing affordable housing, it also discriminates in problematic ways against justice-involved individuals and their families. Under its overreaching permanent exclusion policies, even minor contact with the justice system can result in eviction and a lifetime ban from all NYCHA housing. This devastating result can occur even when the criminal justice involvement at hand poses no risk to other tenants. NYCHA residents do not even have to be convicted to face eviction and permanent exclusion. Eviction proceedings are often initiated before charges are even adjudicated. And once one’s name is on the permanent exclusion list, it’s almost impossible to get the ban lifted.
This policy has resulted in thousands of people who cannot live with, or even visit, their families who live in public housing, with harsh effects on the young and old alike. Youth under the age of 18 can be excluded from public housing even if their families – who are legally responsible for them – are still living in NYCHA, and even if they have nowhere else to go. Many elderly residents have also been forced to exclude family members who act as their caretakers, leaving them without the vital assistance they need to manage the tasks of daily living.
PRI is advocating for change. In August 2014, deeply troubled by the effects of NYCHA’s exclusionary policies on justice-involved individuals and their families, PRI convened a cross-section of organizations working in housing, legal services, and criminal justice to review NYCHA practices concerning permanent exclusion and ineligibility due to criminal history. The work group recently completed an analysis of current practice to identify areas in need of reform, generated policy recommendations, and met with the City Council, officials from the City, and tenants and tenant organizers. This group of engaged stakeholders is working to promote alternatives to eviction, permanent exclusion, and eligibility bars that would ultimately:
- Better serve public safety needs;
- Preserve families; and
- Increase affordable housing opportunities.
WORK GROUP MEMBERS
Engaged Youth Empowerment Squad (E.Y.E.S.)
In partnership with GOLES, CVH, FUREE, and our partners in the NYCHA Permanent Exclusion Working, PRI is working ensure that youth living in NYCHA have a say in the policies that impact them. E.Y.E.S. is engaging young people directly in developing the most innovative ways to reach their peers, to educate them about the current Permanent Exclusion policy and their rights as public housing residents, and to ensure they have a leading voice in shaping how we advocate for brand new, more inclusive policies. E.Y.E.S. is working to ensure that youth who have been in contact with the criminal justice system have a supportive environment—a cornerstone of preventing recidivism and protecting our communities. By including young people in NYCHA public engagement spaces traditionally dominated by older adults, our goal is to deepen the discourse, bringing together experience and innovation, and generate alternatives to punitive policies that will present a better public safety result. E.Y.E.S. is a multi-year campaign to spark new levels of ownership and engagement for young people who live in public housing, creating the next generation of community leaders in public housing.