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The "One Strike" Policy in Public Housing

By Barclay Thomas Johnson

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has encouraged local public housing authorities to implement a "one strike" policy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(l)(6) and evict tenants for alleged criminal activity by the tenants or their associates, regardless of the tenants' fault, knowledge, or ability to control the activity. Courts have been split, with many refusing to apply strict liability to innocent tenants. HUD's position has been inconsistent, and its policy justifications have been weak. Courts should interpret the statute to contain either a fault, knowledge, or foreseeability requirement or an "innocent tenant" defense, particularly when read in concert with civil forfeiture laws.

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