FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2022
New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers Introduced the Fair Chance for Housing Act
Powers’ landmark bill will confront pervasive housing discrimination in New York City, while tackling the homelessness crisis
New York, NY — Today, New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers introduced the Fair Chance for Housing Act. This historic legislation removes barriers to housing by prohibiting landlords from discriminating against potential tenants on the basis of criminal record. As our city confronts a crippling homelessness crisis, the Fair Chance for Housing Act will make it easier for thousands of New Yorkers to find housing.
“For too long, formerly incarcerated individuals have faced enormous difficulties trying to find housing in our city,” Majority Leader Keith Powers said. “New Yorkers who have paid their debts still experience severe discrimination, no matter how minor the offense or how long ago. The Fair Chance for Housing Act will finally give these folks a place to sleep a night—and the opportunity to rebuild their lives.”
Under current law, landlords, brokers, and other housing providers have the right to deny housing to an individual on the basis of a criminal background, leaving thousands of New Yorkers subject to severe housing discrimination. Given that formerly incarcerated individuals are 10 times more likely to become homeless than the general public, this barrier to housing forces thousands of New Yorkers into the city’s shelter system or out on the street.
As of 2019, there were nearly 750,000 New York City residents with a conviction history—nearly 11% of the city’s adult population. And per the Fortune Society, 53 percent of landlords won’t even allow applicants with a conviction record to view a property, let alone rent one. Just last week, City Limits reported that over 50,000 people slept in the city’s shelter system—and that’s excluding unsheltered homeless people sleeping on the street, in the subway, or in other public spaces.
The Fair Chance for Housing Act will help solve this crisis by making it illegal for landlords to factor in an individual’s criminal record when considering tenants, except in cases where they are listed on the sex offender registry. Previously introduced in 2019, this bill has overwhelming support in the Council with 34 co-sponsors, including the Comptroller, four Borough Presidents, and the Public Advocate.
“Formerly incarcerated New Yorkers deserve a fair chance – truthfully, often a first chance – and in too many areas, their past record leads to discrimination and barriers rising to interfere with re-adjusting and increase recidivism. Years ago, we passed a law to give people a Fair Chance at employment, and it’s past time they had a Fair Chance at housing,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “This battle is occuring in a city with growing housing and homelessness crises, which are further compounded if you are a returning resident determined to be a productive member of the city. I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation with Council Member Powers and urge the City Council to move quickly to pass this vital protection.”
“The Fair Chance for Housing Act will help prevent discrimination against those who have been justice system involved, closing a loophole that consigns people with conviction histories to continued cycles of poverty, homelessness, and potential recidivism,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “We are in the midst of a housing crisis in New York City, and bold action must be taken to ensure that New Yorkers aren’t unfairly prevented from finding housing.”
“Quality, affordable housing should be made more accessible to all persons, regardless of criminal background,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “In fact, we should help facilitate fairer housing for this group of people to ensure sustainable reentry that can suppress recidivism rates. We thank Council Member Powers for championing such an important piece of legislation that will ultimately make housing accessibility more equitable for New Yorkers, including Brooklynites.”
“With homelessness at historic highs, I applaud the introduction of the Fair Chance for Housing Act which ensures those who have paid their debt to society will not be penalized further when it comes to accessing housing,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson. “This legislation would provide equity, fairness, and stability to formerly incarcerated New Yorkers across the city, suffering under current laws barring them from housing due to their criminal record. I want to thank New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers for his leadership in working to change the outcomes for formerly justice-involved New Yorkers who will now be protected legally in obtaining clean and safe spaces to rebuild and re-establish their lives.”
“The right to decent housing is a basic human right that applies to all people, including those who have a past criminal record,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “The Fair Chance for Housing Act would protect these individuals from unfair discrimination and ensure they have access to the quality housing that can help them get on their feet. I commend Council Member Powers for introducing this legislation, which with homelessness on the rise is needed now more than ever.”
“By disallowing discrimination in housing based on prior criminal record, this bill will not only halt an ongoing bias that leaves many New Yorkers vulnerable in an oversaturated system, but it reduces the rate of recidivism by helping to ensure stable housing for those most at risk,” said Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala. “Intro 2047 will give hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers frequently abandoned by a revolving door of criminal justice a chance at a stable home life, and, overall, a chance at a better life.”
“A conviction history should be history, and the Fair Chance for Housing Act will put an end to the legally sanctioned housing discrimination that has impacted so many communities of color. Our communities are healthier and safer when we ensure everyone has access to housing,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, Chair of the Committee of Criminal Justice. “I am proud to join the majority of my colleagues in the City Council in sponsoring this legislation to protect housing justice for all New Yorkers.”
“The Fair Chance for Housing Act will help in addressing the homelessness crisis by prohibiting landlords from discriminating against those who were formally incarcerated or may have a criminal record,” said Council Member Nantasha Williams. “It is already incredibly difficult for New Yorkers without a record to find a stable home, and it makes it nearly impossible for those with a record. As our city confronts a crippling homelessness crisis, this legislation will remove barriers to housing against potential tenants on the basis of their past mistakes. I would like to thank Majority Leader Keith Powers for introducing this crucial piece of legislation.”
“Despite suffering from the highest levels of homelessness since the Great Depression nearly a century ago, our City continues to rely on discriminatory practices that actively exclude thousands of New Yorkers from the opportunity for safe, permanent housing and worsen a crisis we have the tools to solve,” said Council Member Crystal Hudson. “As it stands, our City empowers landlords to deny housing to the nearly 750,000 New Yorkers with a criminal record––80% of whom are Black or Latinx. The Fair Chance for Housing Act will provide legal recourse to some of the folks who have been most harmed by this pervasive form of housing discrimination that has not only exacerbated the homelessness crisis, but hindered our ability to create the just and equitable City we all deserve.”
“Growing research indicates that housing, particularly supportive housing, for homeless formerly incarcerated persons reduces recidivism, makes neighborhoods safer, promotes family reunification, and is more humane and cost-effective than re-incarceration,” said Office of Council Member Pierina Sanchez. “Yet, many New Yorkers are locked out of this potential because of their record. The Fair Chance Housing Act is critical to not only maintaining housing for our homeless formerly incarcerated neighbors, but to bring about safety for all New Yorkers.”
“Your past should not confine or define your future, and housing should never be on the chopping block,” said Council Member Carmen de la Rosa. “Housing is not an incentive, it is a human right and a vital aspect of the restorative justice process. Formerly incarcerated New Yorkers deserve dignity and a fair process in building a new life and securing a home. The Fair Chance for Housing Act would assist in alleviating a restrictive and already difficult process and hopefully create a more equitable housing environment, especially considering the disproportionate numbers of Black and brown folks who have dealt with systems of incarceration. This is long overdue, but I am glad we are taking a step forward and bringing some dignity back into the lives of those who want to change their trajectory and start a journey of healing.”
“No New Yorker deserves to face discrimination when they seek housing,” said Council Member Shaun Abreu. “Having faced housing insecurity myself, I know how critical it is to break down barriers to accessing a home. We know that, every day, formerly incarcerated members of our community and their family face housing discrimination that exacerbates the homeless crisis and increases the likelihood of recidivism. It’s time to take action to give every New Yorker a fair shot at a home.”
“Housing is a human right. But it isn’t treated that way by our city, especially when discrimination against tenants is rampant,” said Council Member Shekar Krishnan. “We know that our criminal system is racist, locking up and locking out of society so many Black and brown New Yorkers. This includes access to housing, a fundamental right affecting everything else in our lives. The Fair Chance for Housing Act finally addresses one of the most glaring forms of housing discrimination. I am proud to fight alongside CM Powers and fellow co-sponsors for this critical measure for housing justice.”
“In a time when housing stock continues to be a crisis, and rent prices and homelessness are sky-rocketing we can no longer limit housing opportunities for any New Yorker,” said Council Member Amanda Farías. “When formerly incarcerated people are 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public, as a city we need to act to protect everyone. We have to stop the cycle of poverty and mass incarceration by giving everyone the fair chance they deserve to live in a safe, stable home. Everyone currently and formerly incarcerated deserves stability and safety, that is why I am proud to co-prime sponsor the Fair Chance for Housing Act under the leadership of Majority Leader Powers.”
“Mass incarceration has resulted in too many families unable to find housing because of the widespread use of background checks,” said Juanita O. Lewis, Executive Director of Community Voices Heard, “We know that 80% of people with a conviction in New York City are Black or Latinx. Making sure that families who have been impacted by the criminal legal system have a fair shot at housing is a racial justice priority.”
“For far too long, housing discrimination has been a lifetime barrier to reentry and stability for New Yorkers with conviction records, exacerbating the homeless crisis in our city. This legislation would reduce the cycles of discrimination, homelessness, and despair that prevent people from moving forward with their lives,” said The Fortune Society President and CEO JoAnne Page. “We applaud Council Member Powers for reintroducing the Fair Chance for Housing Act, which will create a more inclusive, equitable, and safer city, where we see people for who they are now, and not what they once did.”
“Ending housing discrimination against those with criminal records is critical not just to address the homelessness crisis, but also to ensure a just and compassionate city,” said Neill Coleman, Executive Director of Trinity Church Wall Street Philanthropies. “As a founding member of the Faith Communities for Just Reentry campaign, Trinity knows that safe, stable housing is key for our fellow New Yorkers with criminal justice histories to rebuild their lives. The time to pass Fair Chance for Housing NY is now.”
“New Yorkers who have paid their debt should be allowed to rejoin society and should not have to carry these collateral consequences for the rest of their lives.” said Robert Desir, Staff Attorney with the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “Providing a fair chance at housing will go a long way towards helping New Yorkers avoid the pitfalls that prevent them from stabilizing their lives and from reuniting with their families after criminal system involvement. We urge the City Council to pass this bill as soon as possible.”
“At Osborne, we know that access to safe and affordable housing is often the biggest hurdle our participants face as they return to their communities from incarceration. Prohibiting housing discrimination on the basis of arrest or conviction record is an important step toward equitable housing policy for the 750,000 New York City residents with a conviction history and for their children and families,” said Archana Jayaram, Osborne’s President and CEO. “We thank Majority Leader Keith Powers for reintroducing the Fair Chance for Housing Act in the City Council and we look forward to a New York where safe and secure housing is available for everyone.”
“We are thrilled to see the Fair Chance for Housing Act reintroduced in the City Council. We know the criminal legal system is racist and overly punitive. To let a conviction record continue to determine someone’s access to housing–effectively preventing the successful reintegration into society that we ask justice-impacted individuals to strive for–is unconscionable. Everyone deserves access to safe, affordable housing without discrimination. And in turn, safe, permanent, dignified housing for all will make whole neighborhoods and communities safer and more integrated. As a coalition of housed neighbors advancing housing justice in our own backyards, we urge the Council to swiftly pass Fair Chance for Housing for New York City,” said Sara Newman, Director of Organizing for the Open Hearts Initiative.
“Exodus Transitional Community is a preventative, reentry and advocacy organization with a staff size of over 300, 80% of whom are directly impacted by incarceration. Passing Fair Chance for Housing is imperative for both the people we serve and for our staff. Every day, we witness people being discriminated against for housing; people who are working and have families to support. All the while, real estate development companies make millions! Perpetually punishing people for their criminal record by denying them housing is a moral and fiscal stain on our City. Brokers, landlords, and real estate companies are feeding into a system of oppression and discrimination, and we must be bold and fight against this! Passing the Fair Chance for Housing Act will help all people have a fair chance at securing safe and affordable housing. It is our hope that the City Council stands up for what is right as housing is a human right!” said Kandra Clark, Vice President of Policy & Strategy.
“As a directly impacted person with a criminal justice history who has since my release acquired a Masters of Social Work degree, along with obtaining my social work license, aren’t I the type of tenant a landlord would want?” said Hilton N. Webb Jr., Fair Chance for Housing Campaign Member. “But simply because of my history, I am being denied an opportunity to find housing, get on with my life, and do the work I have done. All I want to know is when does the punishment stop and when will I be free of stigma?”
“As a co-chair of the NYC Department of Correction’s Young Adult Task Force, a former foster care teen, and child of a military family, I know too well what it feels like to have the system fail you. Now is the time for the City to lead by protecting its most vulnerable. Over 50% of people incarcerated in New York City have a mental health concern and over 70% of the women on Rikers are survivors of domestic violence. Healing and health must be a part of reentry, and housing is necessary for that to happen,” said Founder of Visionary V Ministries and Community, Health and Justice Organizing, Mental Health Project, Urban Justice Center – Chaplain Dr. Victoria A. Phillips. “The Fair Chance for Housing Act is exactly what Black and brown communities who have been impacted by mass incarceration and housing injustice deserve. Having a conviction should not result in people being houseless and we cannot let housing discrimination continue to fester. I applaud and thank Council Member Powers for his leadership on criminal legal reform issues and for reintroducing the Fair Chance for Housing Act.”
“Individuals who have been involved with the criminal legal system are disproportionately people of color,” said Britny McKenzie, Policy Coordinator at the Fair Housing Justice Center. “Given the racially biased systems that led to significantly greater numbers of arrests and convictions of Black and Brown people, we must understand the potentially discriminatory impact that exclusions based on criminal history can have on protected classes. This legislation is fundamental to ensuring people with a criminal legal history gain access to stable housing and reintegrate back into society after incarceration.”