NY kicks families out of public housing over relative’s drug arrest — even if they’re acquitted
Disabled veteran David Venable and his wife Barbara Smith are facing eviction, all because their son decided to nap in their apartment after work.
This is thanks to a public housing policy that forces low income New York City tenants to essentially cut ties with loved ones who have been arrested on drug charges. The policy is now receiving backlash.
According to an investigation by City Limits, the New York City Housing Authority policy known as “permanent exclusion” allows them to not only evict tenants for drug-related arrests – with or without a conviction, but punish tenants whose relatives have been arrested.
Venable and Smith face eviction next month because their son Davon, who was arrested for smoking a joint at a basketball court in 2012, stopped at their apartment after leaving work at 4 a.m. to get some sleep, prompting NYCHA investigators to knock on the door.
Taisha Taylor, a 22 year old single mom, now has her apartment routinely intruded on and searched because her uncle and brother gave her address to police without her knowledge when they were arrested. NYCHA put her on “probation” as a result, even though Taylor had nothing to do with the arrests.
Because Davon plead guilty after being arrested for having marijuana, resulting in two days of community service, he has been banned from setting foot inside his parents’ unit, prompting an outcry and questioning of whether the policy is just.
The family’s case goes before a hearing officer in July, City Limits reports. Meanwhile Taylor says housing investigators are rude and invasive.
“I feel like it’s a violation on my rights,” she told City Limits. “Not only is it scary because I am a woman here alone with my children. For them to come here, and enter it, and touch everything … I just don’t want people to touch my things. I can’t go into their home and do it. Why should I be subjected to it?”
Smith called the policy and related practices outrageous.
“He should be able to come here, spend time with his father, see how his father is doing, have Sunday dinner with us, spend Christmas day with us. We can’t do none of that,” Barbara Smith told City Limits.
The tenants said NYCHA never offered them legal representation, even though they are entitled to it under law.
NYCHA’s own resident board president, Reginald Bowman, told City Limits he has personal qualms with the policy, which flies in the face of the constitutional right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Someone being arrested for suspicion of a crime should not result in their entire household being punished, he added.
Bowman and other organizations are pushing for a policy change.
“Nowhere in any other property that’s being managed in this city will you getting arrested automatically trigger you being evicted from your apartment,” he told City Limits. “Just because someone is arrested for an offense, that does not necessarily mean they are guilty of that offense.”