This edition of Evidence Matters discusses issues related to public safety, crime, and inclusion. It considers the broader context of housing and community development for public safety as well as for those groups communities have historically struggled to include and support. This issue also examines what research tells us about factors that contribute to violent crime at the neighborhood level as well as violent crime’s impact on communities and their residents. These issues are important to understand as HUD works to ensure that all people can live in safe, supportive, and inclusive communities.
The Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) has been closely involved with research that helps us better understand the effects of crime on neighborhoods. Launched in the 1990s, the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration considered how the chance to move to lower-poverty, safer neighborhoods has benefited low-income residents. In addition to recent research showing benefits for children’s adult earnings and educational attainment, MTO documented significant improvements in movers’ physical and mental health. These health benefits were attributed to reductions in stress as families moved to safer neighborhoods; decreased parental stress may be an important mechanism generating the observed improved outcomes for their children.
HUD has taken a number of steps to facilitate inclusive communities. One way is through guidance. In 2011, former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan encouraged public housing agencies (PHAs) to provide second chances to formerly incarcerated individuals. In 2015, HUD informed PHAs and other owners of federally assisted housing that they may not evict residents, terminate assistance, or deny applications because of an arrest record: arrests themselves are not evidence of criminal activity. The 2015 guidance also clarified that HUD does not require “one-strike” policies that deny admission to anyone with a criminal record or require automatic eviction if a household member engages in criminal activity in violation of their lease. Instead, in most cases, PHAs and owners can use discretion. And in 2016, HUD clarified that housing providers’ use of criminal history may constitute a fair housing violation if it has a discriminatory impact or a discriminatory intent — and a blanket prohibition on any person with a conviction record constitutes a fair housing violation.
Several HUD programs and resources have supported inclusion and successful reentry. In April 2016, HUD and the U.S. Department of Justice awarded $1.75 million in grants for the Juvenile Re-entry Assistance Program, which helps justice-involved youth secure jobs and housing. HUD has also partnered with the White House for the Summer Opportunity Project, an interagency initiative that connects youth nationwide with job and education opportunities. In June 2016, HUD released “It Starts with Housing: Public Housing Agencies Are Making Second Chances Real,” a publication highlighting PHA models that successfully reintegrate formerly incarcerated people into their communities.
Housing and community development are closely linked with crime, public safety, and inclusion. These are just a few examples of ways in which PD&R and HUD are striving to build stronger, safer communities.
— Katherine M. O’Regan, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research
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