By Christina Libre, NLIHC Policy Intern

NLIHC sent a letter this week to Congress to support Representative Maxine Waters’ (D-CA) bold leadership in introducing the Fair Chance at Housing Act of 2016 (H.R. 5085), landmark legislation that will go a long way to ensuring people with criminal records have access to affordable housing.

The letter was signed by a broad coalition of over 85 national, state, and local organizations that focus on issues ranging from housing, criminal justice reform, disability rights, poverty, and beyond. Together, these organizations argued that everyone, including individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system, deserve a fair chance at decent affordable housing.

Ms. Waters’ Fair Chance at Housing Act would reform the ways in which public housing authorities (PHAs) and owners of federally-assisted housing screen applicants out of or evict tenants from housing based on their involvement with the criminal justice system. Currently, too many housing providers rely on criminal histories to deny housing to justice-involved individuals across the nation.

The letter states, “Barriers to federally assisted housing make the reentry population uniquely vulnerable to becoming homeless. Homelessness, in turn, is often a catalyst to recidivism. These barriers perpetuate a vicious cycle that sends individuals in and out of the prison system and prevent these people from constructively moving forward in life. Approximately one out of ten individuals entering prison will have experienced homelessness in the recent past, and of those leaving prison, one out of ten will experience homelessness in the future. The gravity of these statistics is in great part a result of screening and tenancy policies that keep justice-involved applicants from entering assisted housing or that evict tenants and their families without a complete consideration of their circumstances.”

NLIHC applauds Representative Waters’ for introducing of the Fair Chance at Housing Act and hope that our strong showing of support for this important piece of legislation will raise more awareness that criminal justice reform must ensure people with criminal records can find a decent and affordable place to call home.