Today, Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced their Fair Chance at Housing Act to the House and Senate. The purpose of the legislation is to make it easier for people with criminal records to receive federal housing assistance. Currently The proposal is a comprehensive reform of the eviction and screening policies so individuals with a criminal history have a fair chance at housing assistance.
“Too many people become involved in our criminal justice system and serve their time only to return home to face additional barriers to employment, education, and housing,” said Senator Harris. “As our country continues working toward much-needed reform of our criminal justice system, I am proud to work with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez to ensure formerly incarcerated individuals and their families have access to safe and affordable housing as they transition back into their community. By requiring a higher standard of evidence and a more holistic review process, we are taking a significant step toward giving Americans a fair chance to succeed.”
“I am proud to join Senator Harris in introducing the Fair Chance at Housing Act. This legislation is one of many steps that need to be taken to repair our broken criminal justice system,” said Representative Ocasio-Cortez. “The denial of basic necessities to formerly incarcerated people does not make our communities safer. Denying housing to those that have been formerly incarcerated increases recidivism. Today we are taking a step to make our communities safer.”
According to a press release from Sen. Harris’ office, the Fair Chance at Housing Act of 2019 would:
- Ban blanket “1-strike” policies, which allow tenants to be evicted for a single incident of criminal activity, no matter how minor, in favor of a holistic review;
- Ban “no-fault” policies, which 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;
- Raise the standards of evidence to be used by public housing authorities (PHAs) and owners and require a holistic consideration of all mitigating circumstances when making screening or eviction determinations based on criminal activity;
- Ensure that tenants who are evicted for criminal activity and applicants who are denied admission for criminal activity are given adequate written notice of the reasons for the decision, and the opportunity to present mitigating evidence or appeal a decision;
- Prohibit the use of suspicion-less drug and alcohol testing by owners and PHAs;
- Provide PHAs with additional administrative funding for helping to house ex-offenders through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program; and
- Authorize $10 million in bonus funding for homeless service providers through the Continuum of Care program to serve ex-offenders.
The hope is that the bill will reduce recidivism by helping ex-offenders find stable, affordable housing for themselves and their families.
The bill has already gained support from several prominent organizations such as the Legal Action Center, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National LGBTQ Task Force, and many more.
“The NAACP is pleased and proud to support this much-needed legislation by Senator Harris,” said Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “This bill will assist the Public Housing Authorities but, perhaps more importantly, it will help people who have been incarcerated rebuild their lives after they have paid their debt to society. It will also go a long way to ensure that families are not punished for the poor or criminal actions of a single family member. This legislation represents an essential step toward reducing recidivism by helping ex-offenders find stable housing upon exiting a jail or prison and by keeping their family free from punishment by association.”
“Every American deserves to live in safe, decent, affordable housing on fair terms,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “Many of our most vulnerable Americans live in public housing – seniors, children, persons with disabilities, and those living in poverty. These folks live under the looming risk of eviction because of harsh and arbitrary policies that penalize a family because someone in a household has been accused of a minor crime. The Fair Chance at Housing Act addresses this unfairness by reducing barriers to federal housing assistance for individuals who are trying to rebuild their lives. This bill is long overdue.”
Read the bill in it’s entirety here.