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I was denied for having a marijuana charge on my record. If I move to a state where marijuana is legal, will I be eligible?

Answer

Since the charge is already on your record, it will be considered, so your eligibility is determined by the housing office's policy on how it treats marijuana use.

Drug-related criminal charges on one's record is a major issue that can affect your eligibility for housing assistance. Since HUD has given significant latitude to housing authorities to determine for themselves how to treat drug related charges, a housing authority in one city could enforce completely different standards than a housing authority not far away. That can be good or bad, depending on the policies and positions of housing authorities and their staff.

Fortunately, there has been some scholarly research on various approaches employed by different housing authorities and the types and age of offenses considered. In the paper "Alcohol, Drug, and Criminal History Restrictions in Public Housing" by Marah A. Curtis, as published in 2013 in HUD's publication Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, it has been noted that nearly all housing authorities institute more stringent bans than required by federal law, and that individual housing authorities exercise a wide discretion in setting ban lengths and defining individual problematic behavior. As a result, similar households may encounter radically different rules when attempting to access or retain housing assistance.

This study found among 40 housing authorities surveyed, 37 mention bans based on illegal drug activity. Twenty-two identified no specific ban length, eight mention ban lengths of 1 to 2 years, 14 mention bans of 3 to 5 years, two mention bans of 6 to 10 years, and none mention lifetime bans. These bans and their lengths are affected by additional charges such as intent to distribute or manufacturing. Additionally, whether you were evicted from public or private housing could also extend the period of time a housing authority may decide to issue a ban for. To see a table showing the various levels of criminal charges and how these 40 surveyed public housing authorities addressed bans, see Exhibit 1 on page 7 of this PDF.

We are not aware of any housing offices that has made a significant policy change after marijuana became legal in the state, but it is possible that some offices have lightened their restrictions. Since there is no specific policy a housing office must follow, we recommend you speak to the office you apply through to learn their specific requirements. You can use the search bar on the top of this page to search for housing authority and apartment community contact information.

More FAQs from Low Income Households

  • The housing office I applied through told me I didn't qualify to receive assistance, and I don't know why. What could have made me ineligible?
  • Who qualifies for affordable housing assistance?
  • What has to be included in my household income?
  • What does an income limit mean?
  • Where can I apply?