Houston Law Review
In Lindsey v. Normet, 1 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a state wrongful detainer statute against tenants who withheld their rent after the Bureau of Buildings of Portland, Oregon declared their house to be uninhabitable. 2 In reaching its holding, the Court stated that it was "unable to perceive in [the Constitution] any constitutional guarantee of access to dwellings of a particular quality, or any recognition of the right of a tenant to occupy the real property of his landlord beyond the terms of his lease without the payment of rent." 3 The Court did not address the separate issue of a lack of any housing, but subsequent federal court decisions have interpreted Lindsey to mean that housing is not a fundamental constitutional right. 4 Because housing has been denied fundamental right status with its attendant strict scrutiny standard of review, 5 federal and state courts routinely have rejected attempts by the poor to obtain adequate shelter despite the extremely hard facts that these cases often present. 6
Ann Burkhart, The Constitutional Underpinnings of Homelessness, 40 Hous. L. Rev. 211 (2003), available at http://scholarship.law.umn.edu/faculty_articles/253.