The Cost of Being “Crime Free”

Crime free rental housing and nuisance property ordinances often have very costly consequences for tenant families, landlords, and the whole community.

There is a growing trend of municipalities in Illinois and across the nation pursuing crime free rental housing and/or nuisance property ordinances. However, these ordinances can often have very costly consequences for tenant families, landlords, and the whole community. They can reduce the supply of rental housing, displace crime victims and others who need to reach out to the police for help, chill reporting of crime to the police in the first place, increase the number of vacant properties and the rate of family homelessness, deny persons with disabilities the opportunity to access housing that is integrated into the community, and prevent persons with criminal records from finding stable housing, among other concerns.

When The Cost of Being Crime Free report was released in August of 2013, the intention was to start a conversation with local governments about the dangers and legal liability surrounding these laws. Our hope ultimately was for local governments to consider alternatives to these ordinances. However, the report did not center the role police play in enforcement, and did not explicitly call for abolition of these ordinances.

As we have investigated these ordinances over the years and listened to the experiences of Black and Latino/a/x families directly targeted and harmed by these laws, it is clear that the abolition of crime-free and nuisance property ordinances remains the only solution. Tragically, the death of Breonna Taylor—who was murdered by an officer assigned to the “place-based investigations” team of the Louisville police department—illustrates the serious consequences that can result when police are tasked with surveilling residents at so-called “problem” properties.

We call on all local governments to deeply interrogate their use of these ordinances, the role of police in enforcement, and the history behind their origination and recognize that abolition is the right and just choice if we are to become an inclusive and welcoming society for all.

About the Author

Eric Sirota
Eric Sirota
Eric Sirota
Director of Housing Justice

312.767.9273

Tex Pasley
Tex Pasley
Tex Pasley
University of Virginia Powell Fellow in Legal Services

312.549.9877

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