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California Law Review



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housing rights, COVID19, HUD, supreme court


The coronavirus pandemic revealed the need to advance the right to housing and abolition movements. The need for advancements in both spaces was no more painfully apparent than among the recently decarcerated population. Securing housing for the recently decarcerated is particularly difficult due to the “culture of exclusion” that has long pervaded subsidized housing policy, enabled by a patchwork of federal laws, including the Anti-Drug Abuse Act (ADA) of 1988 and the Supreme Court’s ruling in HUD v. Rucker. The culture of exclusion is arbitrated by local housing authorities and works on three levels: eligibility, enforcement, and set asides. As a result, formerly incarcerated persons are often rejected outright during the application process. In addition, persons living in subsidized housing can be evicted for merely associating with the recently decarcerated.

This Article seeks to motivate a pathway toward housing the decarcerated by ending the culture of exclusion. In Part I, the Article updates the status of the prison abolition and right to housing movements and argues why they are interdependent. Part II builds on the idea that stable housing for formerly incarcerated persons is essential to the prison abolition movement’s success by reviewing pilot programs. Part III suggests that “one strike” policies have created a broader “culture of exclusion,” which the Supreme Court validated in Rucker, further burdening the reentry process for the recently decarcerated. Finally, Part IV prescribes policy changes that are essential to housing the decarcerated beyond repealing the ADA and overturning Rucker, including transcending the narrative of innocence, directing public housing authority discretion, and equalizing voucher holders through civil rights laws.

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