Should housing be equal for all? Even ex-cons? Well, according to more than half of the city council members it should be. Thirty out of fifty one council members are in support of passing the Fair Chance for Housing Act that prohibits landlords from checking the past criminal records of possible tenants. As days are passing, we are quickly approaching the possibility that landlords won’t be able to run criminal background checks on possible tenants because of the increasing likelihood this Act passes.
Ex-cons have a history of having a hard time finding housing, in fact formerly imprisoned people are 10 times more likely to be homeless in comparison to their counterparts, but why ? Well, because affordable housing is becoming harder and harder to find. There are approximately only 36 affordable homes for every 100 low income people. Throw in the fact that these people are also ex-criminals, and it’s almost impossible for them to secure homes after the background check is run, even if they happen to pass all other parts of the screening.
The idea behind the Fair Chance for Housing Act is that it can even out the odds and give ex-convicts just as much of a chance at finding housing that others have, without discrimination. And in New York City where nearly 200,000 people are convicted of a crime annually, this law could potentially be very beneficial to those people and their families after a sentence/punishment is served. So then, this is a good change in policy right? Well yes, it is a good thing on one hand, but on the other hand, tenants who already live in respective housings that the ex-cons may move into are being put in danger.
While many do agree that housing should be available for all, a lot are still skeptical on how far this Act will go. No one wants to be neighbors with a murder or robber. Namely, how are tenants to know that these ex-cons aren’t going to commit more crimes? In a report given to the New York Post, the NYPD claims one out of every five burglars are rearrested within 60 days on a felony charge. So, how are the ones that aren’t going to reoffend going to be weeded out from the ones that are?
Another unknown concern about the Fair Chance for Housing Act is how tenants are going to be chosen. Will it be purely on other factors such as income, credit scores, and references? How helpful will this Act be to ex-cons getting housing since criminal background checks aren’t the only obstacle ex-cons face? Will this Act help with income or credit scores and other factors that landlords look at?
A lot of questions still need to be answered about the Fair Chance for Housing Act, and a lot of concerns are still apparent. Answers will come in due time, with the passing of the Act becoming more likely to happen.