Access to public housing is another matter where there is ambiguity and debate when it comes to illegal immigration. Access to federal housing is restricted based on immigration status, but notably, access to state housing does not depend on immigration status. This has been the case since 1977, when U.S. District Court ruled in Weeks v. Waltham Housing Authority that the state law banning non-citizens from access to public housing violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and struck down the law (M.G.L. Chapter 121B Section 32 (d)).
This decision seems to leave little room for a tightening of immigration restrictions on access to public housing, as it says the state is “permanently enjoined from requiring or allowing local housing authorities to deny eligibility for or participation in public housing to persons because they are not citizens of the U.S.” (Paragraph 3).
The Department of Housing and Community Development regulations on housing eligibility thus make no mention of immigration status as a criterion. However, there is a requirement in the regulations (760 CMR 5.12 (2)) that an applicant for public housing provide contact information for their landlords for the past five years, which could lead to problems for recently-arrived illegal immigrants obtaining public housing. In future posts, I will explore any available statistics on how many illegal immigrants use public housing and I will also look more deeply into the Weeks case.