How to Evict Drug Dealers from Public Housing

Report Civil Society

How to Evict Drug Dealers from Public Housing

February 12, 1992 22 min read Download Report
Carl Horowitz
Bradley Fellow in Education Policy

(Archived document, may contain errors)


d n :r well-known drug dealer, Jamie Wise, murdered police Carporal Charles W. Hill in March 1989 in an Alexandria, Virginia, project known as The Berg.The ;pj 2 tenants were fiightened, and long had been clamoring for the housing authorities to rid their project of known violent drug dealers. In the Alexandria project, Wise was known to residents as a one-man crime wave; he had over thirty felony conviction s on his record before the bloody shootout in which he, as well as Officer MI, died2 Kemps Agenda. One major reasonthat drugdealersoften make a public hous ing project their base of operation is that they can pursue their dirty business with little fear of eviction, and are able to enter and leave the premises virtually at will Neither HUD Secretary Kemp nor law-abiding tenants are to blame. Indeed HUD launched in 1989 its Drug Elimination Program (DEP Created under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, DEP give s grants to housing authorities to estab lish residential patrols and tenant drug education programs, among other ac tivities. In addition, Kemp has ordered PHAs to terminate the leases of known drug dealers, has created a ten-point anti-drug plan for publ ic housing, and has es tablished the Office for Drug-Free Neighborhoods.

Kemp also has been pressing Congress to move swiftly to allow more public housing projects to set up tough resident management corporations (RMCs) and resident councils (RCs) to run t he projects. These tenant groups have an excellent record in fighting drug dealers and enjoy thestrong.suppart of tenant leaders even in projects not having such organizations.

Legal Obstacles. The main reason that drug dealers still rule many housing pro jects is that HUD and law-abiding tenants are running up against a wall of legal obstacles. It turns out that certain self-styled public-interest lawyers, espe cially those receiving federal grants through the Legal Services Corporation LSC try to block = form at every turn. Their challenges to the constitutionality of allegedly arbitrary drug-related evictions have tied the hands of the housing authorities. The result: fearful tenants continue to be ruled by the drug lords.

It has become prohibitively time consuming and costly for many oficial project managers to evict known and violent drug users and dealers, or to reject applications for residence in public housing by individuals with prior drug convic tions. In the name of civil liberties, these lawyers seem to be promoting the idea that residence in public housing is an inherent right for everyone, regardless of personal behavior. These advocates argue that drug-dealing public housing tenants, if evicted, would have nowhere else to live. This line of re asoning ignores three realities 2 See James P. Maran Jr High Noon in Alexandria: How We Ran the Crack Dealers out of Public Housing.

Policy Review, Number 53, Summer 1990, pp. 78-

81. Mom, a Democrat, hen mayor of Alexandria, was elected to Congress in November 1990 2 First, without action taken against such criminals, it is law-abiding tenants who in practice would have nowhere else to go. They are the real victims of the current system Second, taxpayers heavily subsidize public housing rents, and thus have a right to demand accountability in the management of all projects.

Thlrd, whether or not they enforce their will with violence, drug dealers do have a shelter alternative: jail . Declares HUD Secretary Kemp: I am determined that federal taxpayers will not be required to subsidize the rent of drug dealers and users or violent criminals. The only housing subsi es for felons should be provided by local jails, and state and federal prisons.

Congress thus far has failed to address the problem of drug dealing in public housing sufficiently. By refusing to place limitations on the situations in which Legal Services attorneys can represent clients accused of drug dealing, Congress is und ermining HUDs anti-drug activities.

Thus far, the most impressive gains made against the drug dealers have come as a result of resident management of the housing projects. Experiences from tenant managed projects around the country Kenilworth-Parkside (Wa shington D.C Bromley-Heath (Boston and A. Harry Moore (Jersey City among others demonstrate that when tenants have a direct and personal stake in managing their projects, they can transform dramatically drug-ridden wastelands into livable communities.

In these Projects, residents, not professional managers or bureaucrats, maintain the premises, and collect the rent. At Washingtons Kenilworth-Parkside, for ex ample, drug pushers roamed the projects corridors and grounds at will prior to tenants assuming ma nagement from the Washington, D.C housing authority in 19

82. Four years after that, overall crime had fallen by 75 percent, with drug dealers finding out in clear terms that Kenilworth-Parkside was hostile territory!

Creating Communities. Tenant organiza tions have kept drug dealers at bay be cause the organizations take a personal interest in the welfare of all tenants. They work from the outset at earning the trust and cooperation of their fellow residents they let the midents how the standards expected of them, and enforce these standards; and they strive energetically to replace a welfare-dependency culture with an entrepreneurial culture. They want tenants to succeed as human beings not as supplicants assigned living space. With few exceptions (the Ch i cago and the Omaha Housing Authorities are the two best known PHAs do not respond ef fectively to tenants who want a stake in creating communities P 3 4 Quoted in D PlansTermination of Rental Aid for Tenants Involved in Drug, Criminal Activity, Housing an d Development Reporter, September 4,1989, p. 28 1.

See John Scanlon, People Power in the Projects: How Tenant Management Can Save Public Housing Heritage Foundation Buckgrounder No. 758, March 8,1990, pp. 6-

7. In September 1990 residents of Kenilwd-Parks ide took ownership to 132 units in the project 3 Congress, in making public housing safe and livable, should do two things 1 Include tougher language than at present In the Legal Services Corporation Reauthorization bill H.R. 2039) to increase the likelih o od of eviction from public housing following confirmed drug use or dlstribution While those arrested for drug-dealing and use clearly are entitled to their con stitutional rights to legal representation, they should not enjoy special privileges to take ad v antage of a public benefit offered at the expense of the taxpayer. It is il logical for Congress on one hand to fund anti-drug programs for public housing and on the other to fund attorneys who thwart its efforts to remove drug dealers A recent report by t he Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Office of the Inspector General, understanding the incoherence, recommends that Congress change H.R 2039 to restrict the instances in which LSC grantees can defend persons accused of drug dealing 2 Support Secretary Kem p s initiatives to encourage tenant management and ownership of public housing projects The HOPE 1 component of Kemps Homeownership and Opportunity for People EverywheE (HOPE) program allows for transfer of management and ownership of public housing project s directly to RMCs and RCs. The program was enactedas part of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act of 19

90. So far, however, Congress has not fully funded it, preferring to continue to spend large sums of money on public housing construction, some $800 million in fiscal 1992.

Effective solutions to the problems of drug abuse in public housing ultimately will come from the tenants and management themselves. Washington can do its part, however, by crafting an empowerment strate their projec ts of people who are destroying them. that allows tenants to rid P DRUGS AND VIOLENCE IN PUBLIC HOUSING: A GENUINE EPIDEMIC Large and even medium-sized American cities are suffering a wave of drug dealin and related violence that exceeds even the appallin g statistics of the 1980s. The problem is especially acute in the nations public housing projects, 5 5 David L. Willdnson, Report on Investigation and Survey of Legal Services Corporation Funded Representation of Tenants in Public Housing in Certain DFg-Re lared Eviction Actions, Washington, D.C.: Legal Services Corporation,August 28,1991, henctiforth fe to as -the Inspect&General*s Repon. Wilki~~soi~L resigned his post k LSC Inspector General two monihs before public release of the report in November 1991.

See Carl E Horowik, An Empowerment Strategy for Eliminating Neighborhood Crime, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 814, March 5,1991.

Tom Morganthau et d The War at Home: How to Battle Crime, Newsweek, March 25,1991, pp. 35-38; John McCannick and Bill Turque, Big Crimes, Small Cities, Newsweek, June 10.1991, pp. 16-19 6 7 4 where brutal drug dealers often exact the ultimate retribution- m urder-upon other drug dealers and upon even housing authority security and maintenance workers who might stand in their way. Reports Lamnce Sherman, president of the Crime Control Institute, an anti-crime advocacy organization, Gunfire is a daily Occmnce i n public housing in some areas of the country, such as New York and Chicago. There are children who go to school through a hail of bul lets Tenants confront this devastationfirst-hand, and justifiably fear for their very lives. Says one mother in an Omaha project, who forbids her two children to play outside: My little boy, hes been in the middle of two shootings. My daughter picked up a needle on the way to school. In Birminghams Metropolitan Gar dens project, the housing authority had evicted almost 170 residents for drug use and distribution over a six-month period during 1989-19

90. Tragically, a 35-year old mother in that project was killed by a stray bullet from a drug dealer.

Hand in Hand. Drugs and violence go hand in hand, so it is little surprise that police drug seizures in public housing apartments frequently also turn up illegal fmms on the premises. In 1990, for example, the Chicago Housing Authority seized over 100 guns on the grounds of its projects, which house some 200,OOO people. In one c ase, a tenant found in possession of drugs also had at the time of mst a Savage 7.65 mm handgun, a .32 automatic hypgun, and over 75 rounds The drug dealers who prompt the violence operate in various ways. In some cases, they are public housing residents. In other cases, they have friends or fami ly members who are residents whose apartments then are used as a place from which to do business. As members of an organized gang, dealers often simply take over a vacant apartment and establish headquarters there . It is also common for drug dealers to live outside a project, but establish territory there anyway and prey upon the residents of ammunition. Evicting that tenant took ten months HUDS ANTI-DRUG POLICY UNDER SECRETARY KEMP When Kemp became Secretary of HU D in February 1989 he made ridding public housing of drug dealers a top priority. He ordered HUD to take six initia tives to rid public housing of drug dealing. These are 1) The Drug Elimination Program (DEP created under the authority of the Anti Drug Abu s e Act of 1888.The program, funded for fiscal 1992 at $165 million 8 Quoted in Inspector Generals Repart, p. 11 9 Quoted in W p 12-13 10 Ibid.,p. 12 11 Chicago HolLFing Authority v. Mosley 89 MI-747595, Circuit Court of Cook County, Municipal Department Fi r stDishict 5 gives grants to public housing authorities and tenant groups. The PHA or tenant group submits a plan to HUD that indicates a community-wide approach for eliminating drug-related crime in order to receive funds. Eligible activities under the pr o gram include hiring security personnel, supporting resident patrols, reim bursing local law enforcement agencies for the extra cost of providing protection installing fences and physical improvements to enhance security, and conducting tenant antidrug edu c ation programs 12 2) A declaration by HUD that tenants must keep free of drugs if their leases are to continue. HUD told the PHAs and resident groups that this covered all users of the apartment not just the individual or individuals named on the lease, K e mp reminded PHAs of Section 5101 of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which added the following language to all public housing leases A public housing resident, any member of the residents household, or a guest or other person under the residents control s hall not engage in criminal activity, including drug-related criminal activity, on or near public housing premises, while the resident is a resident in public housing,.and such criminal activity shall be cause for termination of tenancy.

The standard of pr oof for a tenant facing eviction is a preponderance of evidence. The law is reasonable in its scope and application. It allows those ad mitting to an addiction, but who are not current users of illegal drugs, to remain in their apartment unless they have c ommitted some other criminal offense 3) A waiver of the requirement in April 1989 that PHAs have to go through HUDs eviction appeal procedure. These waivers, Kemp, argued, would save authorities as many as twelve months of delay. l3 Since then, PHAs in 47 states and the District of Columbia have been granted waivers 4) A plan, unveiled in April 1989, to eliminate drugs from housing projects owned by or contracted with PHAs. This plan consists of ten general components Beefing up police security in public h ousing BZF Reducing the time required to evict criminals involved With drugs.

Cooperating with the U.S. Attorneys local offices to seize leases to public housing units harboring illegal activity 12 US. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Together We Can...Meet the Challenge: Winning the Fight Against Drugs (Washington, D.C U.S. Deparunent of Housing and Urban Development, April 1991 13 Susan F. Ray, Xemp Asks Repeal of Drug-Related Law, New York Times, July 11 1989.lhe law in question here was a l a st-minute insertion into an appropriations bill that shortly thereafter was deleted p. 43 6 w Requiring PHAs to make vacant units habitable quickly, or otherwise to e Improving the quality of buildings and life generally in public housing make them inacce ssible to drug dealers.

Establishing drug tip hotlines so residents anonymously can report illegal drug activity in their areas promote and conduct drug prevention and education efforts who commit serious drug-related crimes IS? Employing resident managers and encouraging resident organizations to r Terminating Section 8 rent certificate and voucher assistance to tenants Encouraging use of Comprehensive Improvement Assistance Program CIAP Community Development Block Grants CDBGs and Drug Elimination Progra m funds for anti-drug activities.

Establishing recreational programs for children and teenagers to discourage them from drug-dealing and use 5) HUD coordination of Its anti-drug efforts through a special Office for DrupFree NeIghborhoodsXreated in June 198 9, this office holds meetings with tenant or ganizations and helps them develop their own anti-drug activities. Asserts a HUD monograph, Together We Can Meet the Challenge: Winning the Fight Against Drugs, Local pple are best positioned to solve local pro b lem 6) A new lease rule added in June 1990 that allows HUD to cancel leases of public housing tenants implicated in drug-related activities. HUD and the U.S. Justice Department jointly are running this asset forfeiture program, created under the authority of the.1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The law requires U.S. attorneys to ob- tain a court order from a federal judge before a tenants lease can be seized. The order must be based on hard evidence of drug dealing.

While these six initiatives have been applauded by tenants who have been ter rorized by the drug dealers, Kemp has run into stiff opposition from those lawyers who claim to work on behalf of anti-poverty groups. Many of these lawyers are af- filiated with organizations receiving federal funds through t he Legal Services Cor- poration. These attorneys claim that as long as much of public housing is in its current condition, tenants should not have to abide by basic lease provisions Asks Florence Roisman of Washington, D.C one of the most prominent of the s e lawyers: Why should you pay rent to live in such disgusting, illegal, abominable pla~es Such observers, however, confuse cause and effect. It is the drug cul- ture in these projects that helps make them so unmanageable and unlivable 14 U.S. Department o f Housing and Urban Development, Together We Can Meef he Challenge, p. 49 7 Opposition to Kemp's efforts to end drug dealing in housing projects also has come from housing authority officials. They see the anti-drug pmgrams as poten tially diverting money f rom their pet operating and modernization programs When Kemp first unveiled some of his anti-drug initiatives, then-executive direc tor of the Washington, D.C.-based Council of Large Public Housing Authorities Robert McKay, denounced them on just such gro u nds.16 McKay, like Roisman failed to understand that eliminating the illegal drug trade and its accompanying violence in public housing is a basic step toward making life bearable there RADICAL LAWYERS: ENEMIES OF THE POOR The means are available for root i ng out and keeping out the most dangerous ele ments of society from public housing. Most housing authority officials want to take action. The problem is that eviction of people accused of drug-dealing can be costly, time-consuming, and in some cases nearl y impossible, no matter how strong the evidence. Even where a tenant has been convicted of illegal activity that person may remain in public housing for months, even well over a year while lawyers wrangle. While many of the lawyers defending tenants convin ce themselves that every loophole and delaying tactic must be used to protect the in nocent, the effect all too often is to make it impossible to evict the guilty.

Ironically, many of these lawyers are funded by the federal government through the Legal Ser vices Corporation (LSC The Legal Services program was established as a federal agency under the old Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965 by the Johnson Administration as a way to give the poor access to legal rep resentation. The agency then was charter ed as a quasi-independent corporation in 1974 under the Legal Services Corporation Act.

LSC makes grants, dispensing federal funds to 325 local legal organizations nationwide who repsent Americans too poor to pay standard lawyers' fees. The corporation's f iscal 1992 budget is $350 million Unstated Premise. Organizations that receive grants from LSC claim to repre sent the genuine intemts of the poor. Yet often they hurt the poor. This is what happens when LSC-affiliated lawyers bring suits against public h o using authorities, wherever possible, to prevent evictions from public housing. The un stated premise seems to be that tenants of public housing who commit crimes are victims of society, and thus their continued residence in public housing is an un breach a ble right many tenants responsible for much of the misery that plagues America's public Legal Services lawyers long have prevented screening and eviction by PHAs of 15 Quoted in Rick Atkinson and Chris Spolar D.C. Public Housing: A Legacy of Despair Washi n gton Post March 26,1989 16 Gwen Ifiu Kemp's Anti-Drug Efforts Criticized Washington Post, April 18,1989 8 housing. A special report released to the public in November 1991 by the Legal Services Corporation Mice of the Inspector General indicates just how e ffective they have been. The study, authored by then-Inspector General David Wilkinson was prompted by widespread complaints that LSC-funded lawyers were frequent ly defending persons faced with eviction for drug dealing in public housing, or delaying the ir eviction, if the initial eviction proceedings proved successful.

Among the more notable cases Example: In Covington Housing Authority v. Rice Hidston, Sterling, the North ern Kentucky Narcotics Department entered four public housing units with search wa rrants, and found large quantities of cocaine, cocaine paraphernalia 6,000 in cash, three handguns, and a 1Zgauge sawed-off shotgun. Although five arrests were made, LSC attorneys successfully prevented tenant evi~ti0ns.l Example: In City of Bridgeton Hou s ing Authority v. Herrin, a New Jersey tenant was convicted in September 1989 of possession and sale of narcotics. The local housing authority that November began eviction proceedings. After losing at the Superior Court level, the tenant fded an appeal on procedural grounds. Al though the tenant was convicted for yg dealing, she was still in her public hous ing apartment eighteen months later.

Example: In Chicago Housing Authority v. Mosley, a Chicago tenant was found in possession of cannabis or cocaine, a Savage 7.65mm handgun, a .32 automatic handgun, and over 75 rounds of ammunition. Yet LSC attorneys managed to delay that tenants eviction by ten months.19 Example: In Malden Housing Authority v. Rogers, a Malden, Massachusetts tenant found guilty of pos s ession of cocaine and conspiracy to violate drug laws was sentenced to two years probation. The offenses occd in May 1986, and the conviction occurred four months later. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, a tenants grievance panel, and t h e Malden District Court each approved the eviction. Yet the convicted tenant remained in his public hous ing unit, and appealed the eviction to the Middlesex Superior Court with the help of LSC-funded attorneys. The case took four years, with the tenant a b le to sign lease extensions the whole time lated to the substantive evidence at hand. It turn4 out that an employee of the housing authority, in connection with one of the lease extensions, inadvertently had issued a rider to the lease that had nothing to do with drug possession or dis tribution. The Superior Court ruled that this rider created a new tenancy reversed the eviction. The tenant was permitted to remain in the project The housing authority eventually lost this eviction case on a technicality un r e dYd 17 Inspector Generals Report, p. 14.m particular housing authority does not assign case numbers to grievance 18 Superior Court of New Jersey, Cumberland County, Special Civil 89-T-1462 19 Circuit Corn of Cook County, Municipal Deplment, First Distri c t 89 MI-747595 proceedings 9 The LSC Inspector Generals Report uncovered 909 instances since January 1 1989 in which a housing authority suspected drug use or sale occurring in a specific apartment, but sought eviction on other grounds (for example, nonpa y ment of rent This was because in drug-related eviction cases, the housing authority faces an uphill and expensive task. The cost to a housin authority of pursuing an eviction typically .is in the range of $5,000 to $7,0

00. This is com parable to an enti re years per-unit federal operating cost yd modernization sub sidies to housing authorities having major drug problems. Taking a tenant to court also is time-consuming. It usually takes several months from the time a tenant is discovered to be using or se l ling drugs until the time that tenant is brought to a hearing. Pending the outcome, the tenant is usually permitted to stay in possession of the apartment 51 WHAT CONGRESS SHOULD DO TO DISCOURAGE LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION It is perverse for Congress to a p propriate money for one agency (HUD) to rid public housing of drug pushers, and money for another agency (LSC) to assist local legal organizations to keep these pushers from being evicted. Some have ar gued that the answer is to end all funding for the LS C ?3 But this finds few sup porters in Congress. A more targeted and achievable approach would be for Con gress to prohibit LSC lawyers from defending persons convicted of drug dealing in public housing eviction cases ing an eviction is a preponderance of e v idence rather than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard in criminal cases. This is because eviction is a civil not a criminal proceeding On occasion, the courts have usd the beyond a reasonable doubt criterion to apply to civil eviction cases. In a Geor g ia case for example, the local housing authority presented sworn affidavits of two police officers attesting to the discovery of cocaine and marijuana on separate occasions in a tenants apartment. Yet the court, ruling in favor of the defendant, argued AS [she] has not been convicted of any Criminal charges, only char it is the ruling of this Court that she be allowed to remain in her apartment Courts too often have misread this basic distinction between civil and criminal law because they have been influe n ced by LSC lawyers, who naturally argue that Congress also could declare in legislation that the standard of evidence in seek 20 Maiden Superior Court, 88-2879 21 Letter from Jack kmp, Secretary of HUD, to George W. Wittgraf, Chairman, Board of Directors, Legal Services Coqoration, May 21,1990 22 National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, The Silent Scandal, p. 25 23 See, for example, Lewis K. Uhler, Setting Limits: Constitutional Control of Government, Washington, D.C Regnery Gateway, 1989, pp. 112-1 13 24 Inspector Genemls Report, pp. 17-18 25 Alma Housing Authority v. Lassie Brinson, Magistrim of Bacon County, Docket #89V180, quoted in ibid p. 18 10 the stricter standard ought to apply. Notes Representative Chester G. Atkins, the Massachusetts Democrat , recognizing the issue at stake: There are literally thousands of drug dealers around the country who have been arrested who are still in public housing because we dont have adequate mechanisms to get them out, ev n when theres a preponderance of the evid ence, and even after a convic tion.

Congress should end confusion between civil and criminal law in its applica tion to drug dealers or illegal drug users in public housing. A measure that could do this is H.R 2039, which reauthorizes funding for Legal Services Corporation.

H.R 2039, introd uced last April by Representative Barney Frank, the Mas sachusetts Democrat, was passed by the House Judiciary Committee last July, and is expected to go to a full-floor vote this spring. The bill addresses the public hous ing drug issue in this way 2 No f unds made available by or through the Corporation may be used for initiating the defense of a person in a proceeding to evict that person from a public housing project if the person has been convicted of the illegal sale or distribution is brought by a pu blic housing agency because the illegitl drug activity of that person threatens the health or safety of other tenants residing in the public housing project or employees of the public housing agency.

Such language, though superficially laudable, is flawed in four distinct ways.

First, it would bar funds to LSC for defending tenants in eviction cases only following a criminal conviction.

Second, it covers only convictions involving the sale or distribution of drugs not their use.

Third, it refers only to persons who deal drugs, not all persons whose names appear on the lease to that apartment. Thus, LSC lawyers could continue to pursue cases where a household member is a convicted drug dealer, but where someone elses name is on the lease to prove case by c ase if the health or safety of residents or employees of the project had been adversely affected. For all practical purposes, this flaw alone would nullify the legislations potential effectiveness Fourth, public housing authorities seeking a drug-related e viction would have 26 Ibid 11 TENANT EMPOWERMENT: THE LONG-RANGE SOLUTION Discouraging Legal Services attorneys from blocking reasonable evictions would tackle the immediate problem of gang-infested projects; empowering law abiding tenants to control the criminal element in their projects is the long-term solution.

Experience from various tenant-run projects demonstrates that aggressive tenant managers can control projects.more effectively than the PHAs. Explains Robert Woodson, president of the National C enter for Neighborhood Enterprise, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank specializing in inner-city issues people are given responsibility, they can set standards for themselves.

Louiss Cochran Gardens for example, tenants transformed a den for drug dealers into a showcase for how to run a safe and clean housing project. And in Chicagos notorious Cabrini-Green project, residents were given the right to manage one building. They now patrol the corridors and the lobby, having driven out the drug dealers and o ther criminals.

Putting control of the projects in the hands of responsible tenants keeps out dealers. Resident managers know who is dealing drugs or using narcotics. They frequently patrol the premises during evening and night hours, long after housing au thority bureaucrats have gone home from work. They are thus in a better posi tion to threaten guilty tenants with eviction. They typically inform all other mem bers of that persons household, and press them to deal with the problem. Ifresi dent manager su spects a teenager of drug use or distribution, they notify the parents. Such action often nips the problem in the bud.

Extending Resident Management. Kemp is attempting to extend tenant management and ownership as fiir as possible. HUD recently has yd a goal of having 250 resident groups receive management training by 19

92. Between 1988 and 1991 tenant groups received over $12 million in funding for resident management programs; another $5 million will be awarded this year. Of the 100 tenant groups initii j,Jy funded, thirteen are fully operational as resident manage ment corporations.

Kemp recognizes that the housing shortage facing low-income Americans is not one of quantity. The public housing system, for example, contains over 100,OOO vacant units; thi s represents a vacancy rate in the 1.4 million-unit system in excess of 7 percent. The lack of affordability instead lies with a welfare culture whose laws discourage both work and the formation of families. Lacking incen tives to better their lives, publ i c housing tenants often have little sense of respon 6!q; St 27 Quoted in Scanlon, op. cif p. 9 28 HUD Releases Biennial Report, Calls Efforts New War on Poverty, Housing and Development Reporter January 6,1992, p. 649 29 Ibid 12 sibility for keeping up th eir property, and engage in destructive (and self-destruc tive) behavior In fall 1990 Congress enacted the HOPE (Homeownership and Opportunity for People Everywhere) program as part of the National Affordable Housing Act.

This legislation, building upon pu blic housing resident management and owner ship provisions contained in the 1987 Housing and Community Development Act, awards on a competitive basis grants to resident groups in public housing OPE l), multifamily housing (HOPE 2 and single-family housing HOPE 3) projects.

HOPE 1 provides up to $200,000 in planning grants for public housing tenant groups to develop homeownership programs. It is the centerpiece of Kemps anti poverty empowerment strategy. Curiously, support from Congress has been tepid. Congress appropriated only $161 million for HOPE 1 for fiscal 1992, about one-fifth what it appropriated for public housing construction. The Bush White House, however, is seeking to give HOPE 1 a major push for fiscal 1993, propos ing $450 million for the program.

Congress see ms even more reluctant to support a recent initiative that Kemp names radical Perestroika for public housing. Under this proposal, tenants living in projects owned by the 23 public housing authorities on HUDs troubled list would have the opportunity, on a project-by-project basis, to vote out the PHAs as managers and owners, and vote in new manageis and owners either non-profit groups or other government agencies. The new program would also, under a feature Kemp calls Take the Boards Off, enable RMCs, othe r non profit groups, and state and local governments to assume ownership of substantial ly vacant public housing projects. All funds would be set aside from other exist ing HUD programs. Congress, if it is truly committed to eliminating poverty ought to re s pond to the need for such residential choice among public housing tenants, who axe the poarest of the poor the following As a show of support far Kemps empowerment campaign, Congress should do X increase funding for HOPE 1 from its present $161 million to $450 million, as recommended by the Administration, and immediately cancel ail further public housing construction Reduce from three years to one year the minimum period in which tenant management organizations can assume ownership of their projects 30 Fo r a summary of this plan, see Bill McAllister, Kcmp Urges Plebiscites for Projects, Washington Post December 23,19

91. Originally, 24 housing authorities were on Ds troubled list; HUD recently removed the Dade County (Miami) authority from the list 13 I X Support Kemps radical Perestroika pian In these ways, public housing projects can become the kinds of communities that drug dealers and their customers readily understand to be off-limits to them If all low-income urban neighborhoods were as vigilant in t h eir anti-drug efforts as the various resident organizations managing and owning such housing, drug dealers one day may have no choice but to clean up their act for good CONCLUSION George Bush in his 1989 inaugural address correctly spoke of drug abuse in A merica as a scourge. That scourge has been felt heaviest in public housing projects. Kemp is drawing the line against this scourge, declaring, in effect, that it will not stand. Kemp is promising that public housing will not be a safe haven for either dru g dealers or their customers. He and his staff, especially in DS Of fice for Drug-Free Neighborhoods and the Wice of the General Counsel, under stand that public housing tenants, like other Americans, are entitled to live in a drug-free environment.

Beatin g Drug Dealers. Legislation reauthorizing funding for the Legal Ser vices Corporation should contain language that clearly discourages all of its af filiated attorneys from defending convicted drug dealen and known users in evic tion cases. This would aid in realizing the goal of drug-free public housing. Con gress also should back Kemps initiatives to empower tenants of public housing transferring, wherever feasible, management, and, better still, ownership of the projects to them.

Experience teaches that where public housing tenants have a real stake in im proving their own living environment, they will take on the drug dealers-and win Carl F. Homwitz, Ph.D.

Policy Analyst 14


Carl Horowitz

Bradley Fellow in Education Policy