Barriers to Housing

Currently there is a shortage of 7.2 million affordable rental units available to extremely low income households. Having a criminal record while competing for these units puts low income people with criminal records at a severe disadvantage. Each year over 650,000 individuals are released from prisons alone and as many as one in three persons in the U.S. has a criminal record. In 2014, black men accounted for 37% and Latino men made up 22% of the male prison population, despite comprising only 13% and 17% of the U.S. population, respectively.

With so many tenants and so few rental units available to low income households, landlords often use criminal background checks to narrow the applicant pool for their housing. Also, public and supportive housing options are in short supply and often people reentering from jails or prisons are ineligible or screened out from these programs. 

People with criminal records are therefore at risk for homelessness and subsequent recidivism.

Public housing authorities (PHAs) and owners of federally-assisted housing have broad discretion in screening out applicants with criminal records or precluding formerly incarcerated individuals from rejoining their families. In addition, many people exiting prisons or jails are not eligible for or have limited access to housing programs serving persons experiencing homelessness if they have been incarcerated for long periods of time or are exiting a half-way house or transitional housing program.

These housing practices and policies disproportionately impact people of color and people with disabilities, as these persons are over-represented in the U.S. criminal justice system.

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