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Chicago Housing Authority Wants to Require Drug Testing for Residents

By Soyoung Kwak in News on May 28, 2011 6:00PM

Photo by lo go
The Chicago Housing Authority is causing some controversy over their new plan to require drug testing for its current and future residents. The proposed policy would require any CHA resident over the age of 18 to be tested for drugs, and would effect 16,000 families currently living in CHA establishments. But this is not the only new policy that is raising some eyebrows. The new CHA proposal also calls to eliminate "innocent tenant defense," which the Sun-Times refers to "evictions initiated when a drug-related or violent crime has been committed by a relative or guest of the leaseholding tenant - but the tenant was not involved nor had knowledge of the crime."

This is pretty serious stuff, as some tenants are feeling "humiliated" about the ordeal. Is this drug testing proposal something that is completely irrational? Not really, says the CHA:

Spokeswoman Kellie O'Connell-Miller pointed out several CHA mixed-income properties currently require drug testing. "These are policies to help strengthen and improve the safety of our public housing communities," O'Connell-Miller said.

O'Connell-Miller goes further and describes that the CHA is initiating the change to react and respond to those who have spoken out about creating a safer living environment for tenants:

"We're constantly hearing from law-abiding residents that they want us to hold the non-law abiding residents more accountable. We're trying to tighten up our lease with some of these issues. Drug dealers won't come where there are no buyers. If you remove the folks who are interested in drugs, hopefully it will remove some of the problems," she said.

The ACLU opposes CHA's new plan saying it is without direct cause. However, it is federal policy to prohibit drug users from public housing property - the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn't actively enforce this policy, but separate housing authorities have the initiative to enforce the policy as necessary. A public hearing for the proposed plan is scheduled for June 2. The proposal will need to ultimately be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before it is implemented throughout the CHA system.