Recommendation: All local public housing agencies (PHAs) should use their discretion to (1) make individual determinations about an applicant's eligibility for public housing that take into consideration such factors as the nature of the offense(s), the time that has elapsed since the conviction(s), familial support, and any evidence of rehabilitation the applicant can provide; and (2) adopt reasonable time frames of ineligibility for applicants with conviction records.

Best practices: The Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued guidelines in June 2002, which urged PHAs to use their discretion when making decisions in cases involving drugs in public housing. Responding to the Supreme Court's decision in Department of Housing and Urban Development v. Rucker (535 U.S. 125 (2002), which upheld the provisions of the federal housing laws permitting PHAs to evict tenants for drug-related criminal activity of guests and household members out of their control or without their knowledge, the 2002 guidelines urged PHAs to continue to make these types of eviction decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Recommendation: PHAs should consider only conviction records - and not arrests that did not lead to conviction - when determining eligibility for public housing.

Best practices: The Miami-Dade Housing Authority in Florida and the Detroit Housing Commission in Michigan are two examples of PHAs that make individual determinations about applicants' eligibility for admission and only consider convictions.

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