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U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan has encouraged the nation's Public Housing Authorities to be flexible in allowing ex-offenders to rejoin their families in public housing developments or in Section 8 programs upon their release from prison.
His June 17 letter to PHA executive directors clarifies that there are only two statutory restrictions that ban occupancy based on criminal activity: those convicted of producing methamphetamine or sex offenses subject to a lifetime registration requirement. PHAs are also required to establish standards that prohibit admission if household members are currently engaged in "illegal drug use, alcohol use or a pattern of drug or alcohol abuse [that] may threaten the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residences." They must also prohibit admission of applicants for three years from the date of eviction if the household member was evicted for drug-related criminal activity, according to the letter. PHAs have discretion to consider the circumstances surrounding these cases and are allowed to make exceptions based on mitigating factors.
Donovan says the Obama administration "believes in the importance of second chances - that people who have paid their debt to society deserve the opportunity to become productive citizens and caring parents, to set the past aside and embrace the future. Part of that support means helping ex-offenders gain access to one of the most fundamental building blocks of a stable life - a place to live."
This letter is consistent with with calls from other cabinet members that key institutions try to accommodate ex-offenders in reentry.