Fair Chance Housing

Housing is a human right for all of us, not just for some. But nearly one in three American adults has a criminal record, and for them, access to safe and affordable housing remains out of reach.

Fair Chance Housing works to enshrine housing as a basic human right by preventing a person’s criminal record from counting against them when they apply for housing.

The need for this legislation is immense. The United States is the most incarcerated country in the world, and Pennsylvania has the sixth-highest prison population in the country. Fair Chance Housing has the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of people with criminal records.

Jessica Lopez

B. Preston Lyles

Citizen Co-Sponsorship Campaign

 

Pennsylvania needs Fair Chance Housing so that people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system can find housing and rebuild their lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. Please add your name to become a citizen co-sponsor of this important legislation and affirm housing as human right for everyone!

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If you have been incarcerated, your voice is very important! We invite you to share your story:

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What is Fair Chance Housing?

The implications of this legislation will ripple across communities throughout our Commonwealth: in Pennsylvania, nearly 3 million people have a criminal record. Fair Chance Housing is an important tool in reforming our state’s criminal justice system, in pushing back against mass incarceration, and in the broader fight for equity and justice.

Pennsylvania’s Fair Chance Housing legislation is modeled off laws in  San Francisco, Seattle, and Richmond, CA.

How Fair Chance Housing Works

Prohibits rental housing providers from screening the criminal history of applicants.

Under the status quo, a person’s brush with the law can easily turn into an accidental life sentence that impacts their ability to be housed for decades after they have served their time. This bill will make screening for criminal records a form of discrimination, and it will prevent landlords from doing it.

Strengthens tenants’ rights.

Tenants with criminal records, and tenants whose household members have criminal records, would be legally protected from discrimination and from unjust eviction. This means that family members can support their loved ones after they are released from prison, and that all people with criminal records are given a chance to reintegrate into society.

Why Fair Chance Housing Works

Cuts the cycle of houselessness and incarceration.

Formerly incarcerated people are much more likely to experience houselessness than the general population. In interviews with formerly incarcerated people and their family members, nearly 8 out of 10 report being denied housing because of a criminal conviction, and access to affordable housing and livable wages are often listed among the top things that would have kept people out of prison in the first place.

Fights against systemic racism.

People of color are significantly more likely than white people to experience evictions and houselessness in the United States, resulting from centuries of structural racism that has excluded Black and brown people from equal access to housing, community support, and economic mobility. In addition, Black and brown people have been disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system: although they make up 19% of Pennsylvania’s general population, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency found that Black and brown residents account for 31% of arrests made in our state.

Fights against LGBTQIA+ discrimination.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are overrepresented at each and every stage of the criminal justice system, starting with juvenile justice involvement as children, and continuing through arrest, incarceration, and probation and parole. In Pennsylvania, this disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system collides with the complete lack of statewide protections for members of the LGBTQIA+ community for employment, housing, and basic services.

Helps support children of formerly incarcerated people and family reunification.

For children, housing insecurity carries a greater likelihood that their social networks will be uprooted, their learning will be disrupted, and that they will be exposed to unsafe structural conditions in their housing unit.

In instances in which children do not live with a formerly incarcerated parent, studies have found that stable housing allows parents to have their children over more frequently and to play more active roles in their lives through creating a safe environment to spend time.

Frees up funding for longstanding community investment.

Communities spend $40,000 per year for each person who experiences chronic houselessness, with much of this money spent on crisis services, including arrests and incarceration and emergency department and hospital visits. Access to safe and affordable housing will reduce these costs so that communities may invest in broader support services for residents, rather than waiting for a crisis to occur.

Stabilizes neighborhoods.

Stable neighborhoods and communities are crucial for families’ well-being and economic security, and housing stability is central to community stability. Stable housing can encourage civic engagement, economic success, and a sense of belonging.

Promotes safety throughout communities.

Connecting formerly incarcerated people with access to stable housing is recognized as a tool to effectively lower crime and reduce the costs associated with it. Both incarceration and a lack of housing can severely limit a person’s economic opportunities. When a person has access to safe, affordable housing, they are better able to find a job and to receive supportive services. Data shows what we all know instinctively to be true: we promote safety in communities by making sure we meet the needs of every person in it, starting with the baseline need for housing.