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HUD Excludes People With Convictions From Public Housing. Local Solutions Can Help.

Policy reforms implemented by local public housing authorities have the potential to bring about significant transformations in the lives of individuals with criminal convictions, as well as their families.

April 13, 2023

Nearly 7.9 Million Americans with a criminal record are facing the acute housing crisis. There are chances that people with convictions can experience homelessness nearly 10 times more than the general public. No doubt that people with convictions can expect support from federally subsidized housing, but the HUD has added to the problem by asking the Public Housing Authorities to discriminate against people with convictions.

A policy change introduced in New Orleans came in 2016 opens up Public Housing for people with convictions by providing a clear rubric that PHAs can use during screenings and for appointing a board to review applications.

This local approach is the only one available to advocates. Prison Policy published a report in February titled “How local public housing authorities can reduce barriers for People with criminal records”. The Report says to question local PHAs to figure out how they are interpreting Federal Guidelines.

“The restrictions on people having criminal records apply to a large portion of people applying for public housing,” says Wanda Bertram. According to the privacy policy initiative, the median income for formerly incarcerated people is $10,090 a year. It indicates that they meet the income threshold for public housing.

Reilly helped people file appeals and prepare for life outside. Not only this, but he also came to know that people were not able to move back with their families in public housing due to the convictions. He also assembled a report when he was a law student and led the three years campaign which in turn changed the screening policies of the Housing Authority of New Orleans.

At this time, HANO had a seven-year lookback period which resulted in rejected applications. Fortunately, HANO agreed to change its policies in early 2013 by confirming that it would not exclude people merely for having criminal records but only for safety reasons. But the changes didn’t come into effect till 2016 and the agency decided to look at an applicant’s overall history. Consequently, more people with convictions can live with their family members.

Many of the harmful policies HUD had for people with convictions were by the same laws that caused the nation’s Jail and prison population to burst by 700 percent during the 80s and 90s. The Federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act required public housing authorities to have provisions that allow them to evict tenants indulging in criminal activity.

Not only this, the act also imposed a three-year ban on readmitting tenants who were evicted for engaging in drug-related activity. The Housing Opportunity Program Extension Act further made it easier for Public housing agencies to evict tenants and request criminal records from them as a part of routine screening.

HUD mandates two crimes for which PHAs can exclude tenants. The first crime is the people who have to be available for a lifetime to be on the sex offender registry. Such people cannot stay in public housing authority properties. The second one is anyone convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines.

PHAs can also evict tenants for illegal drug use. PHAs can also exclude people depending on the crimes which are decades old. HUD is slowly making efforts to change its policies in recent years.

HUD attempted to clarify the issue by stating that public housing authorities should choose specific types of convictions while applying prohibitions.

HUD announced it would review its policies and make changes to ensure HUD-funded projects are available to people with criminal records. It’s not only about the PHA’s changing its policies because even if they do, the landlords still have the power to exclude people with criminal convictions.

A Louisiana Bill introduced last year by Matthew Willard was trying to ban housing providers from making blanket prohibitions on tenants with criminal records. Instead of this, the bill provided a rubric for screenings depending on the nature of the crime and the time after the crime occurred.

Reilly and other advocates extended their support to the bill and helped conceptualize the legislation. The legislation requires the housing providers to make the rubric clear before it denies people with convictions.

Another bill to prevent private landlords so that they don’t ban people with convictions has gained momentum in New York and a National bill was introduced.

The motive behind these established rules is to provide safety to those who have no criminal backgrounds and it is imperative to provide a safe living environment to those in need. Allowing criminals to be assisted in housing will often place them near vulnerable individuals such as low-income seniors, the disabled, and families. These individuals and families desire to live in a community free of crime.

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Abraham Roshan. “HUD Excludes People With Convictions From Public Housing. Local Solutions Can Help”. Next city, April 13, 2023, HUD Excludes People With Convictions From Public Housing. Local Solutions Can Help. (

Last Updated: September 20, 2021