The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released another document in support of relaxing restrictions on access to public and federally subsidized housing for people with criminal records. Released in June 2016, HUD’s most recent resource on the topic, It Starts With Housing: Public Housing Agencies Are Making Second Chances Real, highlights three communities around the country that have proactively tackled the issue of reentry and access to affordable housing.
Access to safe, stable, affordable housing is a key component in successful reentry. As HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez states, “The unfortunate reality is that the first question many face when exiting the door from prison to freedom is, ‘Where am I going to sleep tonight?’”
It Starts With Housing encourages public housing authorities (PHAs) to collaborate with partners to “make second chances real for the men and women returning” from jail and prison. Successful sample policies and program designs from the King County Housing Authority in Washington, the Burlington Housing Authority in Vermont, and the New York City Housing Authority, can help other communities build their own reentry programs.
It Starts With Housing comes on the heels of other guidance from HUD on access to public and other forms of federally-subsidized housing for people with criminal records: Guidance on the Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records (published in April 2016), which states that using one’s criminal record as the basis for denying access to housing may be a violation of the Fair Housing Act; Guidance for PHAs on Excluding the Use of Arrest Records in Housing Decisions, published in November 2015; and the companion FAQ on that guidance, released in March 2016.