U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge has announced further steps the Department will take to ensure that qualified people are not denied the opportunity to access housing solely due to a criminal history record. In the weeks ahead, HUD will issue a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in which it proposes to change its regulations governing public housing agencies (PHAs) and HUD-subsidized housing providers to prevent unnecessary denials of housing assistance to people with criminal history records.
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. HUD will also provide technical assistance to encourage grantees, PHAs, and housing owners to use HUD programs to provide housing and services that support people’s successful reentry from prisons and jails to the community, which enhances public safety.
“This Fair Housing Month and Second Chance Month, HUD recognizes that current criminal justice and housing policies have denied those seeking rehabilitation the ability a chance to lead better lives,” said HUD Secretary Fudge. “A year ago, I called on HUD programs to conduct a policy review of ways that we can remove barriers to safe, affordable housing for people with criminal history records. As we execute our action plan, I invite state and local housing agencies, owners, and property managers to partner with HUD to remove barriers to housing to people with criminal records and support people’s successful reentry to the community. Research shows that providing safe and affordable housing and supportive services so that people succeed during reentry makes our communities stronger and safer.”
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, considering 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.
Many of these principles have already been implemented by many housing providers and PHAs who, in doing so, have preserved or improved the public safety of their communities. HUD’s forthcoming notice of proposed rulemaking will propose to require other housing providers and PHAs to do the same.
In addition to addressing barriers to HUD housing assistance, HUD will also provide new tools and technical assistance on ways that HUD programs can support the successful reentry to the community from prisons and jails. For example, HUD will highlight communities that are using Community Development Block Grants to provide reentry services and programs, including counseling and legal assistance, and PHAs that are partnering to provide housing assistance to people reentering the community. HUD will also highlight ways that Emergency Solutions Grants and Continuum of Care Program grants can create models of housing to address homelessness among formerly incarcerated people. Taken together, these approaches make our communities stronger and safer.
The proposals announced by HUD will codify protections against housing discrimination, as HUD works to provide secure avenues for successful community-oriented rehabilitation and reentry.