Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY14-D) is set to introduce the Fair Chance for Housing Act, which will help to ensure that persons with criminal records have fair access to stable and affordable housing. Under current law, PHAs and owners of HUD-assisted housing have considerable discretion with respect to tenant screening, which allows for open discrimination against justice-involved persons.
The proposed bill would require individualized review of an applicant’s criminal history and the opportunity for each tenant to provide mitigating evidence by public housing agencies (PHAs) and owners of HUD-assisted housing during the tenant screening process. Also, it would restrict which types of criminal activity a housing provider can consider in its screening to convictions that would threaten the health or safety of other tenants, employees, owners of PHAs. This individualized review, mitigating evidence and limited criminal activity consideration would also apply to the visitation and eviction policies of PHAs and owners. In addition, a household, whether an applicant or tenant, must be given the option to remove the culpable member rather than rejecting or terminating assistance to the entire family. Barriers like drug and alcohol testing as a condition of acceptance or continued eligibility would be prohibited as well.
Furthermore, PHAs and owners would also required to provide applicants with their screening policies, and if an applicant is denied, written notice of reasons for denial and the options to appeal. Finally, the bill would require PHAs and owners to collect and annually report on criminal conduct-related denials and terminations, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sex, and disability status. For more information, please see NLIHC’s factsheet on the proposal. Also, check out the encouraging exchange Rep Ocasio-Cortez had with HUD Secretary Carson at a Financial Services hearing this week.