Bill Introduced to Provide Access to Housing for Applicants with Criminal Records
Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, recently introduced the “Fair Chance at Housing Act of 2016” (H.R. 5085) that would take significant steps towards ensuring people with criminal records have meaningful access to housing. The bill would require PHAs and other 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 to 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 in or working at 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. Also, 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 drug or alcohol testing of applicants or tenants without reason for suspicion. PHAs would no longer be able to rescreen families who are already receiving some form of housing assistance. The bill would allow HUD to provide increased administrative fees to those PHAs that serve people who have exited jails or prisons.