Glendale, Calif. Debates Section 8 Criminal Background Checks

Glendale, Calif., presently has a long list for federal affordable housing vouchers, and as a proposal to shorten it, the city may start running criminal background checks on those currently receiving Section 8. If the proposal goes through, the city may start screening the 4,400 individuals who currently receive help to find violators. Residents can vote on the proposal next month.

Glendale is caught in a conundrum regarding public housing. Currently, the city has low resident turnover and insufficient funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Since 2002, HUD has required local housing agencies to conduct criminal background checks on those receiving Section 8; Glendale, during this time, has removed 32 out of 147 individuals for criminal charges.

At the same time, if an individual within a family is found to have a criminal history, the whole family is removed from Section 8 and, as a result, has few to no housing options. The city, additionally, plans to spend $130,000 to $150,000 from its $3.7 million housing funds to conduct background checks and mailing purge.

The Glendale News-Press offers two perspectives within the city. Mayor Laura Friedman told the press last week:

“We’ve got people on the waiting list who are law-abiding and deserving, and then we have people who choose to break the law.”

Maria Palomares, an attorney with nonprofit Neighborhood Legal Services, on the other hand, thinks the city needs to find another solution to deserving individuals on Section 8 and to prevent homelessness. She said:

“It’s very alarming to see something like this would come down the pipeline. It could be very detrimental.”

At the same time, criminal background checks prior to receiving Section 8 is standard practice in other municipalities, including New York City. For receiving a voucher in New York, everyone 16 years old and older needs to be screened for criminal records and must submit names from current or past landlords.

Should Glendale find a better solution to getting more residents on Section 8? Or, is conducting criminal background checks the best approach?