In 2016, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released guidance counseling housing providers that their use of criminal records in housing-related transactions could be in violation of fair housing laws. Despite this, Southwest Fair Housing Council’s Enforcement Department routinely receives calls from individuals who have been denied housing due to their criminal background. SWFHC is currently conducting extensive outreach and enforcement work in this area to mitigate the affects of blanket criminal background bans.
This guidance acknowledges that blanket bans on persons with a conviction on their record disparately impactspeople of color. African Americans were two times more likely to be arrested than the general population. Across all age groups, the imprisonment rates for African American males is almost six times greater than for White males and two times greater for Hispanic males than non-Hispanic White males. Additionally, people of color are significantly more likely to receive harsher sentencings and jail time for the same offences as a white person. While not a part of the guidance, it is also known that mass incarceration also has a large impact on families with children and people with disabilities.For these reasons HUD has determines that blanket bans on criminal background is a disparate impact fair housing issue.
The “criminal background” of many of these callers is as minimal as a traffic violation from over 20 years ago. However, regardless of the offence, every individual is someone who has completed all court requirements, is currently steadily employed, and attempting to obtain stable housing for themselves and their family. Housing providers are obligated to look at everyone’s individual circumstances, including work history, income, and credit score, to determine whether they are approved.
For more information on criminal background and fair housing laws, click the link below to download the Criminal Background Fact Sheet. Also. contact SWFHC with any questions.