Everyone deserves a fair chance at a new beginning. The process of finding and securing housing after incarceration, or even after an arrest, is an expensive, time consuming yet essential endeavor for anyone looking to rebuild their lives and rejoin the community. But the cards are stacked against people with criminal records because housing providers are not required to disclose any details of their criminal record screening process or what crimes will automatically exclude someone from a housing opportunity. The result is that people spend far too much money and time pursuing homes where they will be denied.
Representative Matt Willard’s House Bill 180 or “Fair Chance in Housing,” would have helped remedy these difficulties by:
Unfortunately, HB 180 did not pass out of the House Commerce committee during its May 15th hearing, despite excellent personal testimony from our coalition members like VOTE, Step Up Louisiana, Justice Accountability Center of Louisiana, Louisiana Progress, Power Coalition, and Louisiana Survivors for Reform. During his testimony, Edward Holmes of Step Up Louisiana explained, “We always say that everybody deserves a second chance. Well, being someone who was formerly incarcerated. Where is our second chance? All we ever get is denied. All we ever get is rejected.”
Almost half of Louisiana adults have a criminal record. When housing providers use blanket bans against those with criminal records, or don’t tell applicants what offenses result in denial, a significant portion of our state’s population will have difficulties securing housing. At the same time, a recent statewide poll found that 77% of Louisiana voters believe that records for low level offenses should be sealed and 88% of Louisiana voters believe it should be easier for those with a record to find employment.
Though Fair Chance in Housing did not progress in the state legislature this session, Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, along with our coalition partners, remains committed to passing this crucial legislation and eliminating barriers for people with criminal records from securing housing and rebuilding their lives.