Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced on July 10 the “Fair Chance at Housing Act of 2019” (S. 2076 and H.R. 3685). The bill would reform the screening and eviction policies used by federally assisted housing providers, helping to ensure that individuals who have been involved with the criminal justice system have access to federal housing assistance.
The bill would require public housing agencies (PHAs) and owners of private HUD-assisted housing to perform individualized reviews of applicants who have a criminal history, taking into consideration both circumstance and evidence from the applicant. Housing providers would be limited to considering only criminal offenses such as a felony conviction that may pose a threat to the health and safety of other tenants, employees, owners, or PHAs. The bill also prohibits PHAs and owners of private HUD-assisted housing from requiring applicants to pass drug and alcohol tests as a condition of admission or continued eligibility for assistance.
The bill would ban “one strike” policies that allow tenants to be evicted for a single incident of criminal activity, no matter how minor, as well as “no fault” eviction policies that allow an entire family to be evicted for criminal activity by a guest of a household member even without the knowledge of anyone in the household. Housing providers would only be able to terminate assistance if the criminal conduct poses a threat to others’ health or safety, and they would still be required to conduct an individualized review.
“I commend Senator Harris and Representative Ocasio-Cortez for their leadership in introducing the Fair Chance at Housing Act,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel in Senator Harris’ media release. “By ensuring that returning citizens have a real opportunity to access federal housing assistance and rejoin their families and communities, this bill reduces the obstacles to housing that often prevent people from getting back on their feet after serving their time in jails or prisons.”
Senator Harris’s full media release is at: https://tinyurl.com/y3mrlqh5
NLIHC’s fact sheet on the Fair Chance at Housing Act is at: https://tinyurl.com/yyumhj3t
Although the bill texts are not yet posted at Congress.gov, Senator Harris’s media release links to an unnumbered version at: https://bit.ly/32lda05