Statement of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law on HUD Criminal Records Guidance for Housing Authorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 3, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — On November 2, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued guidance to clarify that public housing authorities may not use arrest records as a basis to deny admission to housing and to stress that criminal records screening criteria must comply with civil rights laws. The following can be attributed to Marie Claire Tran-Leung, Staff Attorney, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law:

New HUD public housing guidance, announced by President Obama today, marks an important step toward eliminating barriers to housing for people who have had contact with the criminal justice system. One in three Americans has a criminal or arrest record. For too long, overly restrictive admission policies imposed by housing providers have prevented thousands of individuals with records from securing safe and affordable housing.

The Shriver Center documented the extent of this problem in federally subsidized housing earlier this year in its report, “When Discretion Means Denial: A National Perspective on Criminal Records Barriers to Federal Subsidized Housing” (available at http://povertylaw.org/wdmd), which the HUD guidance encourages federally subsidized housing providers to read. Based on a survey of over 300 admissions policies of public housing authorities and project-based Section 8 properties across the country, we found wide use of arrest records as a basis for denial of admission, long lookback periods, vague categories of criminal activity, and failure to consider mitigating circumstances as a means of overcoming denials. We also found that many policies ran afoul of civil rights laws, notably the Fair Housing Act.

These policies not only cause hardship and homelessness, but they also have a disparate impact on racial minorities, who are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system.

Today’s guidance makes it clear that landlords may not use blanket bans to refuse housing to individuals with arrest records. It also reaffirms the duty of housing providers to apply the discretion they have in crafting and administering criminal records policies in compliance with civil rights laws. The guidance, which applies to federally funded public housing, lauds as a best practice an individualized assessment of each applicant’s criminal record, including consideration of the seriousness of the crime, the length of time since the offense was committed, and any evidence of rehabilitation. We applaud HUD and President Obama for taking this action to ensure that millions of Americans are not unnecessarily denied safe and affordable housing.

For more information, contact:

Marie Claire Tran-Leung, Staff Attorney
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
50 E. Washington, Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 263-3830 ext. 293

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The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. We specialize in practical solutions. We advocate for and serve clients directly, while also building the capacity of the nation’s legal aid providers to advance justice and opportunity for their clients. www.povertylaw.org.

Please contact
Michelle Nicolet at
312.368.2675.

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