New York City Council Considering Fair Chance Housing Act
August 16, 2023
Since New York passed its Clean Slate Act, the city has seen other bills to improve opportunities for the formerly incarcerated. One such push includes the Fair Chance Housing Campaign. This campaign intends to ban housing discrimination against those with criminal records.
Some criminal justice advocates have tried to pass similar legislation for years, hoping to help these individuals. Their goal is to achieve the same type of housing protection that these individuals obtained in employment through the Clean Slate Act. Many studies have shown the crucial part housing plays when reintegrating previously incarcerated people into the community.
As such, criminal justice advocates believe it helps those with criminal records and the community. For example, housing previously incarcerated individuals improves the city’s overall safety. Those with stable housing have proven less likely to reoffend.
Unfortunately, previously incarcerated individuals are much more likely to become homeless than the general population. One study found that previously incarcerated people were nearly ten times more likely to be homeless than others. They are also more likely to live in motels than others, leaving them more vulnerable to becoming homeless.
Homelessness has become a significant problem for those with multiple incarcerations on their records. In addition, homelessness often leads to repeat offenses and imprisonment, thus worsening their situation. This cycle is one of several reasons the Fair Chance Housing Campaign pushes the city council to consider their bill.
The bill would “prohibit housing discrimination in rentals, sales, leases, subleases, or occupancy agreements in New York City, on the basis of an arrest record or criminal history. Landlords, owners, agents, employers, and real estate brokers would be prohibited from obtaining criminal record information at any stage in the process. These entities would be able to take adverse actions against current occupants for reasons other than a person’s arrest record or criminal history, as long as they are complying with laws protecting victims of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking.” It would also enforce exceptions when federal, state, or local laws require criminal background checks or exclude such screening.
If this campaign is successful, it will require landlords to change any necessary policies to comply. Like how employers must review their policies for the Clean Slate Act, landlords would have to consider their tenant policies. The best way for employers and landlords to comply with relevant laws is to partner with an experienced background screening company.
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