McDuffie Introduces the Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act

Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie (D – Ward 5) released the following statement today regarding the “Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act of 2016.”

“The ‘Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act of 2016’ is much like the cornerstone legislation that came before it, commonly known as “Ban the Box.” At the heart of this proposed legislation is the prohibition of a housing provider’s preemptive and unnecessary inquiry into personal and private information. More specifically, this bill will assist in the successful reintegration of our returning citizens into the community by removing barriers to securing adequate housing.

Accordingly, under the bill, a housing provider would be prohibited from considering an applicant’s arrest record during the application process and would restrict a housing provider’s inquiry into an applicant’s prior convictions until after a conditional offer of housing.

Finding and securing adequate housing is one of the most difficult challenges faced by formerly incarcerated people and homelessness within this population is prevalent. One-tenth of individuals entering prisons have recently been homeless, and many of those returning citizens end up homeless as well.

With this legislation, a housing provider will be required to address a list of factors when taking into account certain portions of an applicant’s criminal background. Certain exemptions are established within the bill to remain in accordance with already existing federal and District laws as well as to protect certain owner-occupied housing accommodations.

Also like Ban the Box, the bill establishes penalties and provides for a complaint process through the Office of Human Rights.

Finally, this bill is particularly timely in light of the recently published guidance by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on application of the federal Fair Housing Act standards to the use of criminal records. HUD recognized and shined a light on how the discriminatory effects and disparate treatment methods of proof apply in Fair Housing Act cases in which a housing provider justifies an adverse housing action- such as a refusal to rent or renew a lease- based on an individual’s criminal history. Surely such discriminatory effects and disparate treatment exist in the District as well.”

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