Pubdate: Mon, 01 Apr 2002
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)
Copyright: 2002 Chattanooga Publishing Co.


It is not a call that any court wants to make, but the U.S. Supreme Court 
was right when it ruled recently that agencies administering public housing 
may evict families from such housing when a family member or guest is 
caught with illegal drugs.

What makes it a difficult ruling, of course, is that the law applies even 
to tenants who might not have been able to control the illegal activity.

With the ruling, the justices upheld a "zero-tolerance" law that Congress 
enacted in 1988 to cleanse taxpayer-funded housing of drug criminals. It's 
no mystery to most Americans that many public housing developments have 
become havens for all manner of crime, including drug crime.

In an appeal to common sense, Chief Justice William Rehnquist noted in the 
ruling that if people cannot control drug use in their own homes, an entire 
housing project can be put in jeopardy. Interestingly, the law mirrors 
routine contracts that let owners of private apartments and rental houses 
throw out even paying tenants who are involved with drugs. Tenants of 
public housing also sign leases providing for the drug-related evictions.

Plus, the law is not so harsh as it might seem at first glance. It still 
lets housing agencies consider whether a tenant had knowledge of drug use 
or sales before evicting that person. This provision has led to many people 
- -- especially the elderly -- being allowed to remain in their homes, while 
criminals who abused their hospitality have been removed.

The law appears to be cutting down on the drug trade in public housing. In 
Houston, Texas, for instance, about a quarter of evictions last year from 
taxpayer-funded homes were drug-related, and many more tenants caught with 
drugs left on their own before they could be evicted formally, according to 
news reports.

Drug trafficking is a scourge on America, and housing paid for by taxpayers 
should not be used to subsidize it.
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