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HUD Reinterprets Fair Housing Act to Protect Ex-Offenders

Phil Hall
Apr 04, 2016
The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) is preparing to add expand its anti-discrimination protections to include individuals with criminal records

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) is preparing to add expand its anti-discrimination protections to include individuals with criminal records.

According to a New York Times report, HUD Secretary Julián Castro is planning to unveil a guidance that incorporates the rights of ex-offenders for coverage under the Fair Housing Act. While the Fair Housing Act does not specifically include people with criminal records as being subject to federal anti-discrimination housing—and any amendment of the law would require congressional approval—HUD is offering an interpretation the legislation that would prevent property owners and landlords from using these records as the basis for disqualifying consideration of prospective residents.

“Right now, many housing providers use the fact of a conviction, any conviction, regardless of what it was for or how long ago it happened, to indefinitely bar folks from housing opportunities,” Mr. Castro said in a statement obtained by the Times. “Many people who are coming back to neighborhoods are only looking for a fair chance to be productive members, but blanket policies like this unfairly deny them that chance.”

However, not everyone with a criminal history will find a friend at HUD: the Fair Housing Act enables landlords from renting to those with convictions relating to the manufacture or distribution of narcotics.

“Policies that exclude persons based on criminal history must be tailored to serve the housing provider’s substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest and take into consideration such factors as the type of the crime and the length of the time since conviction,” said the new HUD guidance.

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