HUD Secretary Encourages Public Housing Authorities to Grant Access to People with Criminal Records

February 13, 2017

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan sent a letter last week to executive directors of public housing authorities (PHAs) clarifying HUD’s position regarding people with criminal record’s eligibility for public housing. In the letter, which was co-signed by Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandra B. Henriquez, Secretary Donovan encourages PHA executive directors “to allow ex-offenders to rejoin their families in the Public Housing or Housing Choice Voucher programs, when appropriate.”

“Housing is at the top of the list of what people need to succeed when they return from prison,” said Oklahoma Director of Corrections (and CSG Justice Center board member) Justin Jones. “We are very excited by this news in Oklahoma. It will contribute to public safety by helping people released from prison find a safe, affordable place to live.”

PHA executive directors generally have discretion whether or not to admit people with criminal records to public housing. The only circumstances under which a PHA is required by law to ban a person from federally assisted housing is if he or she was convicted of methamphetamine production on the premises or is subject to a lifetime registration as a sex offender.

The letter from Secretary Donovan and Assistant Secretary Henriquez is one of several efforts by the federal government that demonstrates its commitment to prisoner reentry issues. Under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, various federal agencies have come together as the Federal Interagency Reentry Council.

“As President Obama recently made clear, this is an Administration that 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,” Secretary Donovan and Assistant Secretary Heriquez wrote. “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.”

The Council of State Governments Justice Center’s Reentry Policy Council and National Reentry Resource Center, as well as the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, have issued a series of publications on access to public housing for individuals with criminal records. To learn more, follow the links below.

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