Many property managers are unwilling to rent to formerly incarcerated people. An estimated four out of five landlords employ criminal background checks to screen out prospective tenants with criminal records.
While many landlords feel that background checks are a tool to deter crime on their properties and reassure tenants, these policies also pose a major barrier for people who have made mistakes, served their time, and are now trying to get a fresh start on life. Our clients are good people who make great neighbors.
Public Housing Authorities (PHA) have great discretion in determining their admission and occupancy policies for people with felony convictions. While PHAs can choose to ban them from participating in public housing and Section 8 programs, it is not HUD policy to do so. When a property manager automatically denies housing access (public or private) to all potential tenants (and their dependents) because of a criminal conviction, they are doing much more than saying, “No.” They are actively participating in two actions that have proven negative consequences, time and time again.
Firstly, immediately denying housing can increase recidivism, increase victimization and decrease public safety, which promotes unfounded and damaging prejudices in our society. Secondly, they are unnecessarily complicating access to an integral part of successful reentry.
Without an address to call “home,” successful family reunification, gainful employment, completing an education program, and the utilization of public services become exponentially more difficult. Fortunately, all it takes is a commitment on the part of local property managers, owners of private rentals, and directors of nonprofit housing programs to make meaningful adjustments. This seemingly small change will yield a huge result – more stable housing for the reentry population and their families and less crime for the entire community.
© 2018 Louisiana Parole Project, Inc.