Social Housing: Why Women Get Evicted When Some Other Dude Did It

townhouses owned by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation
Toronto Community Housing townhouses, where tenants risk eviction if someone in the household is arrested.

You’ve lived in the same home for over 20 years, and always paid the rent on time. So why has your landlord decided to evict you?

You live in social housing in Toronto or New York City. A member of your household has been arrested. You and the other members of your household can be evicted.

You can also be evicted if you have a guest who is arrested. Note that in both cases, the person in question has been arrested. They have not been tried and convicted. Yet, the landlord is allowed to proceed to evict the entire household.

Landlord-tenant legislation was modified to explicitly allow third party illegal act evictions at the time when governments were fighting the ‘war on drugs’ and continue today. See this story about a Toronto tenant at TVO: Should An Alleged Criminal Act Get You Banned From Social Housing?

How do third party illegal act evictions affect the people who are evicted?

In 2017, Leora Smith investigated third-party illegal act evictions in the two largest public housing authorities in North America: the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

Smith encountered many challenges in her efforts to compare the eviction experience of women leaseholders in TCHC and NYCHA buildings. For example, NYCHA publishes data about leaseholder gender: TCHC does not. Details of the eviction hearings and appeals are available for TCHC: there was information about NYCHA eviction appeals, but not the hearing. At TCHC hearings, the burden of proof is on TCHC to prove why the eviction should take place. At NYCHA hearings, it is up to the leaseholder to provide evidence about why the eviction should not take place.

Despite these challenges, Smith was able to review enough cases to conclude that women leaseholders were far more likely to be evicted on the grounds of third party illegal acts than men leaseholders. You can read more about illegal act evictions in TCHC and NYCHA buildings in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review: The Gendered Impact of Illegal Act Eviction Laws

It hardly seems fair.


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