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A Second Shot at Housing for Former Criminals

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Friday, April 8, 2016   

COLUMBUS, Ohio - About 16 percent of Ohioans have either a felony or misdemeanor conviction, and can face discrimination when looking for a home. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development took a step this week to help give these individuals a second chance.

A new guidance released by HUD makes it clear that blanket bans on selling a home or renting an apartment to anyone with a criminal records is illegal discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Rebecca Vallas, managing director for anti-poverty policy at the Center for American Progress, believes it should be applauded.

"This measure has the potential to address housing discrimination, to help families reunify and stay together, and to save taxpayer dollars in the form of reduced incarceration costs," she said, "all while increasing public safety."

Vallas said safe and stable housing is critical to successful re-entry and can reduce recidivism, yet four out of five landlords use criminal background checks when vetting potential renters. A person with a criminal history is more likely to face poverty and racial inequality, she said.

"Having a criminal record - which comes with all sorts of barriers to employment, to housing, to education and more - really has become a life sentence to poverty," she said, "not just for individuals with records, but also for their families and their kids."

According to a Center for American Progress report, about half of all kids in the United States have a parent with at least some sort of felony or misdemeanor conviction on their records.

April is Fair Housing Month, which is aimed at building awareness about housing rights. This past year, HUD awarded $1.9 million in grants to six Ohio organizations to fight housing discrimination.

More information about the HUD guidance is online at portal.hud.gov. The Center for American Progress report is at americanprogress.org.


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