Under current federal and state law, housing discrimination due to criminal history is a lawful form of housing discrimination. However, an increasing number of studies are showing that the lack of safe, affordable housing dramatically impacts recidivism rates. As a result, there could be fair housing violations depending upon the specific facts of what is occurring. Contact our office to learn more.
- Focus on Reentry: Criminal Justice – A companion guide to assist those working with people with criminal records, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, July 2021
- HUD Memo on Criminal History in Public Housing Authorities, June 17, 2011
- HUD Memo on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions, April 4, 2016
- HUD Guidance for Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) and Owners of Federally-Assisted Housing on Excluding the Use of Arrest Records in Housing Decisions, November 2, 2015
- U.S. Department of Justice Statement of Interest in Fortune Society Inc. v. Sandcastle Towers Housing Development Fund Corp. et al.
- National Reentry Resource Center Info: Provides additional information on housing rights
- Shriver Center Fair Housing & Criminal History
- Marion County Re-Entry Coalition
Reports of Interest:
- Success in Housing: How Much Does Criminal Background Matter?, Wilder Research, January 2019
- The Importance of Stable Housing for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals, Housing Law Bulletin, Volume 40.
- San Francisco Ordinance Providing Some Forms of Criminal History Protection in Housing
- Seattle Report – Eliminating Barriers to Jobs and Housing-Addressing the Impact of Arrests and Conviction Records, March 2011
- Supportive Housing for Returning Prisoners: Outcomes and Impacts of Returning Home, Urban Institute, August 2012
- Locked Out: Criminal Background Checks as a Tool for Discrimination, Report by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, September 2015
- Unlocking Discrimination, Report by the Equal Rights Center, October 2016.
- Locked Out: Criminal History Barriers To Affordable Rental Housing in Austin & Travis County, Texas, Austin/Travis County ReEntry Roundtable, October 2016
Cases of Interest:
- Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. v. Wisely Properties, LLC: Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) filed a 2019 federal lawsuit against the owner and management company of Sterling Glen Apartments in Chesterfield County, Virginia, challenging their one-size-fits-all policy of rejecting any and all applicants with criminal backgrounds as racially discriminatory. Settlement reached in 2019. The policies agreed to as part of the resolution are of interest and provide strong guidance/best practices.
- Savannah Chatham County Fair Housing Council, Inc. (SCFHC), et al v. CHG Westgate and American Management Co. Inc.: Fourteen black mothers who lived in Westgate Apartments in Garden City, GA alleged in February 2012 that the defendants attempted to evict residents based on their criminal backgrounds – most for minor offenses, others more than a decade old – when the companies instituted a “99-year rule” barring tenants if a person in the family had a record – felony or misdemeanor – within the past 99 years. Settlement reached in 2018.
- Fortune Society v. Sandcastle Towers: On October 30, 2014, the Fortune Society, a non-profit organization that provides temporary and permanent housing to hundreds of formerly incarcerated individuals each year filed this suit in the U.S. District for Eastern District of New York. They sued Sandcastle Towers Housing Development Fund Corp under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and New York law, alleging that in the summer of 2013 and early 2014, Fortune tried to rent apartments for its clients at Sandcastle, a multi-building apartment complex that the defendants own and manage in Queens, New York. When defendants learned that Fortune was seeking housing for the formerly incarcerated individuals it serves, they refused to rent apartments per the defendants’ policy prohibiting anyone with a criminal record from renting an apartment or living at Sandcastle. This ban, Fortune alleges, is discriminatory and has an unlawful disparate impact on the basis of race and color. On July 3, 2019, the Court issued an opinion denying Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ disparate impact claim and allowing that claim to proceed to trial. Pending.
- New York City Commission on Human Rights v. PRC Management, LLC: The Commission initiated an investigation against PRC Management, LLC after a Hispanic tenant reported that she was denied housing because of a background report the company obtained that erroneously reported her criminal history. During its investigation, the Commission found that PRC Management, LLC had a blanket policy of denying housing to prospective tenants with criminal histories without considering the nature, severity, or date of their arrest or criminal conduct, and had denied housing to as many as 10 other applicants of color because of their criminal histories. Settlement reached in 2018.