SAN JOSE — A controversial proposal that would empower landlords in the city to evict people who are arrested for certain crimes will need public input before lawmakers consider adopting it, a council committee decided on Wednesday.
The Crime-Free Multi-Housing Program would require tenants to sign an agreement that says they could be evicted if they’re arrested for crimes involving gangs, drugs, prostitution, sexual offenses, unlawful use of firearms or assault and battery. If landlords and their tenants agree to the eviction terms in the voluntary program, it would make communities safer by getting rid of the bad apples and protecting victims, said Councilman Johnny Khamis, who proposed the idea along with Councilman Tam Nguyen.
“People don’t want drug dealers, Norteños or Sureños in their neighborhood,” Khamis said during the meeting Wednesday, referring to two notorious street gangs. “This is designed to empower hardworking families.”
Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, who originally opposed the plan, said city leaders have to be careful not to “set something into motion that creates unintended consequences.” Herrera recommended the city manager’s office solicit public input from the community, in addition to an analysis from the city attorney and housing department. The proposal will then go to the Neighborhood Services Committee in March and possibly to the City Council at a later date.
Khamis said the program has reduced crime by up to 65 percent in some 2,000 other cities where it’s used, including Fremont, Union City, Hayward, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Leandro, Livermore and Richmond. But critics worry it will lead to unnecessary and unfair evictions, especially for low-income families, undocumented residents and victims of crimes such as domestic violence.
Under the program, critics argued, domestic violence victims might fear eviction if they report the crime against their spouse. Entire families could be thrown out because of one family member or a friend who they didn’t know was involved with crime.
Others worry landlords will take advantage of the program to evict tenants and raise rents.
“They will go into people’s records and look for a way to evict people so they can raise the rent $500,” said Omar Vasquez, who works for Sacred Heart Community Service.
But Khamis stressed the program won’t target undocumented residents, domestic violence victims or those involved with minor crimes like possessing marijuana.
The program won the support of the California Apartment Association and a handful of landlords, who say it will allow them to better protect their law-abiding tenants.
“We have residents that come to us complaining about criminal activity,” said David Wong, a housing provider in San Jose. “Crime doesn’t affect a single unit, it affects the entire neighborhood.”
Follow Ramona Giwargis at Twitter.com/ramonagiwargis or contact her at 408-920-5705.