Partnership for Strong Communities Supports HUD’s Proposed Rule, “Reducing Barriers to HUD-Assisted Housing” 

By: Danielle Hubley, Advocacy & Education Manager 

Housing is vital to long-term stability and success, but too often, people exiting incarceration and those with conviction histories cannot access quality, affordable housing. The Partnership is supportive of HUD’s proposed regulations ensuring that criminal records are not automatic disqualifiers to HUD housing and programs for people with conviction histories. An individualized review process gives everyone a fair chance at housing. 

Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) and owners of HUD-assisted housing have broad discretion in screening out applicants with conviction histories. Bias inherent to the criminal-legal system means that people of color are disproportionately impacted by these screening policies and the barriers they create. These barriers have real consequences – for individuals, families, and for our communities and economy as well.  

In Connecticut, the average cost to the Department of Corrections each day is $66 per incarcerated person, or over $24,000 per year. Research consistently shows that time spent in prison is not generally rehabilitative. Once folks have a criminal history on their public record, access to job opportunities, housing, and other important basic needs are much more difficult to achieve. This often creates a cycle of re-incarceration that becomes harder and harder to end.    

A criminal record has no bearing on tenancy outcomes, and there is no evidence that excluding people with conviction histories from housing makes our communities safer. In fact, barriers to housing have negative effects: they increase housing insecurity and homelessness and in turn, decrease public safety.   

We urge HUD to adopt a lookback period of no more than three years in its regulations. Requiring a lookback period will ensure uniformity in screening across the thousands of housing providers that will be impacted by these rules, minimizing biases that may surface in the individualized review process. Importantly, a lookback period ensures that people who are years removed from criminal legal system contact are treated in the same manner as other community members. Enforcing a lookback period is a move in the right direction, ensuring that the humanity and dignity of millions of people are restored. 

While we are supportive of this proposed rule change, we feel it is equally important to note that this action alone will not result in the large-scale reform necessary to address the growing instability many households are and have been facing. There are many other aspects that need immediate attention, including the rapidly rising cost of rents, the significant shortage of homes being developed, and the history of disinvestment in rental assistance programs that would alleviate the number of households that are impacted by this rule change. Our communities are safer and stronger when everyone has a place to call home. 

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