published Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Making public housing safer

All of us have a stake in seeing that reasonable order is maintained in public housing managed by the Chattanooga Housing Authority. Residents of those facilities obviously want to be able to walk through their neighborhoods and relax in their homes without fear of violence or property crimes.

But even if we do not live in public housing, we have a moral interest in opposing crime there. And we have a financial interest in keeping the peace because we pay taxes that support public housing. High rates of crime mean faster deterioration of housing, which means higher taxes to pay for upkeep.

So it is sensible that the Housing Authority has increased the number of people it is removing from public housing under a “one-strike” eviction law enacted by Congress. CHA says that it has more than doubled its rate of evictions this year as it seeks to fight crime in public housing.

The firmer enforcement of the one-strike eviction policy started after four men were wounded in two shootings at public housing properties in March. Weeks later, a man fired at three police officers at the Greenview Terrace site, according to authorities.

The men, women and children who live in public housing cannot have a sense of security with that kind of violence going on.

There may be some gray areas — minor infractions, for instance — in which outright eviction would be an unduly harsh measure. And it is only fair to point out that not all crimes committed in housing projects are committed by residents of those homes.

But clearly, eviction is one appropriate response to violent crime.

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