HUD Seeks to Remove Unnecessary Barriers to Housing for People with Criminal Records

HUD recently announced upcoming efforts to ensure otherwise qualified people are not denied the opportunity to access housing solely due to a criminal record. In the short term, HUD plans to introduce rulemaking, establish a process for individualized assessments, and outline guidelines for public housing authorities and HUD-subsidized housing providers to prevent unnecessary denials of housing assistance to people with criminal history records.

One level deeper: The announcement follows a comprehensive review of HUD regulations, policies, and guidance geared toward increasing opportunities for qualified individuals and families to receive housing assistance from HUD. That review found that many of HUD’s regulations and sub-regulatory provisions could be improved and clarified to ensure that PHAs and HUD-affiliated owners are following recognized best practices, including:

  • Not automatically denying an applicant housing assistance simply based on the presence of a criminal conviction, other than where explicitly prohibited by federal law.
  • Disregarding criminal history that is unlikely to bear on fitness for tenancy, such as arrest records, sealed or expunged records, older convictions, and convictions not involving violence or harm to persons or property.
  • Using individualized assessments to determine whether applicants truly pose a future risk to persons or property, taking into account other factors such as the applicant’s employment, engagement in alcohol or drug treatment, and constructive community involvement.
  • Providing applicants with criminal history records with reasonable time and opportunity to provide supporting information regarding mitigating factors before an admission decision is made.

HUD’s forthcoming actions also will help PHAs and HUD-affiliated owners comply with the Fair Housing Act. Black and Brown people, other people of color, and people with disabilities are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system. As a result, policies that unnecessarily deny housing because of a criminal history record can violate the Fair Housing Act of 1968, pursuant to the discriminatory effects rule that HUD recently reinstated. To ensure these reforms are successfully implemented, HUD is also stepping up fair housing investigations and enforcement.

Watch for: HUD will issue new guidance and technical assistance to assist PHAs and HUD-affiliated owners in determining what convictions are relevant to health and safety and how to conduct an individualized assessment when reviewing criminal history records.