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Bill to Exclude Current and Former Drug and Alcohol Users From Elderly and Disabled Public Housing Passes House


January 1996

On October 24, by a vote of 415-0, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill allowing administrators of public housing for the elderly and disabled to develop policies excluding people who use drugs or "use" alcohol, or who formerly used drugs or alcohol ("Bill Would Enable Eviction of Some Recovering Addicts," Substance Abuse Letter, November 17, 1995, p. 3).

The bill allows public housing agencies to consider whether elderly housing candidates currently use controlled substances or have a history of use of alcohol or controlled substances that "provides reasonable cause for the agency to believe that the occupancy by such individual may interfere with the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents." Public housing administrators can consider applicants' past or present participation in rehabilitation or treatment programs. [This bill's use of the term "use alcohol" invites arbitrary or discriminatory application of this exclusion power, and stigmatizes those who seek treatment. It appears to be grossly overbroad.--EES]

H.R. 117, the Senior Citizens Housing Safety and Economic Relief Act of 1995, was introduced by Rep. Peter Blute (R-MA). The bill also allows administrators to establish elderly-only and disabled-only housing, and to evict any tenants for drug-related or disruptive behavior.

"As poor families sit on waiting lists, sometimes for years," Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA) said during floor debate on the bill, "drug dealers roll up their thick wad of twenties and continue to get their rent paid by the Federal government. Federally funded housing should be the most crime-free housing in the nation. Instead it has become synonymous with drugs and violence. Being poor should not mean you are forced to live among drug dealers and violent criminals."

A similar bill, S. 247, the "Senior Citizen Housing Safety Act," has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). That bill would allow the eviction of anyone living in elderly-designated public housing who is involved in three separate incidents of drug-related or disruptive behavior.