WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) applauds Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) for introducing the Fair Chance at Housing Act of 2016, legislation that would take a significant step towards ensuring people with criminal records have meaningful access to housing.
The bill would require PHAs and owners of HUD- and USDA-assisted housing to provide applicants and current tenants with an individualized review that looks at the totality of their circumstances before making a decision based on criminal records. When screening or deciding whether to evict a tenant, housing providers would be limited in considering criminal activity that threatens the health, safety or right of peaceful enjoyment of others or violent activity that happens off the premises and poses future harm to others living or working in the property.
The bill would also require housing providers to provide written notice of their screening policies and the reason why an applicant was denied housing. Right now, many housing providers do not post their policies in readily accessible locations, and some fail to disclose what underlying criminal record caused an applicant to be screened out.
Housing providers would be unable to deny admission to applicants based solely on certain situations, such as an eviction for past criminal activity or a juvenile adjudication or conviction, and they would be prohibited from conducting suspicionless drug or alcohol testing of applicants or tenants.
PHAs would no longer be able to rescreen families who are already receiving some form of housing assistance. HUD can provide additional administrative fees to those PHAs that serve people who have exited jails or prisons.
“We applaud Representative Waters for her bold actions in addressing the housing barriers faced by people with criminal records,” said Diane Yentel, NLIHC’s President and CEO. “This bill," Ms. Yentel continued, “will ensure that people who have served their time will have an opportunity to rejoin their families and communities and make the most of their second chance.”
For additional information, see People with Criminal Records Should get a Fair Chance at Housing