Public housing for people in need is financed by the federal government and administered by the state through the Section 8 voucher program. Federal law currently prohibits certain individuals who are registered on a state’s sex offender registry from being newly admitted to Section 8 housing. However, state agencies and landlords are not authorized to kick a tenant out of the Section 8 program if they are already living in public housing and a new registration requirement goes into effect.
In 2011, Michigan changed its sex offender registry law to retroactively require lifetime registration by individuals who were not required to register at the time they were convicted, resulting in many people being placed on the registry for the first time based on an old conviction. Misapplying federal law, Michigan housing authorities began terminating people from public housing based on these old convictions. After the ACLU of Michigan intervened on behalf of two public housing tenants whose Section 8 vouchers had been wrongfully terminated, their public housing assistance was restored.
In June 2014, we wrote a letter urging the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to provide clear guidance to landlords and public housing agencies that public housing assistance cannot be terminated just because someone is placed on the sex offender registry.
(ACLU Attorney Miriam Aukerman and Legal Fellow Sofia Nelson; Jim Schaafsma of the Michigan Poverty Law Program.)
To view the full 2014-2015 Legal Docket, click here.