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Washington, D.C. — Considering the release of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) new proposed action plan to use their authority to remove unnecessary barriers to housing for people with criminal records, Juliene James, vice president of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures, issued the following statement:

We applaud the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed action plan on increasing access to housing for people with a criminal record. Currently, public housing authorities can enact exclusionary policies that impact people with records, including blanket bans, considering arrest records even where no conviction occurred, and unnecessarily long look-back periods. These barriers may force people into untenable housing situations in which the risk of eviction, crime victimization, or criminality may all increase. 

HUD’s guidance affects programs that cover 3,300 public housing authorities and 1.2 million households. Their action plan builds on the work HUD has conducted to undergo an internal policy review of the ways that the agency can remove barriers to safe, affordable housing. In the weeks ahead, HUD will propose changes to its regulations governing public housing agencies and HUD-subsidized housing providers to prevent unnecessary denials of housing assistance. This is critical to codify the important changes HUD is embarking upon. 

Importantly, HUD will issue new guidance and technical assistance to assist public housing authorities and HUD-affiliated owners in determining what convictions are relevant to health and safety. This is critical, especially in light of research we have supported showing that a person’s likelihood of reoffending declines rapidly once people are in the community. After a sufficient period without a new conviction, even people initially deemed to be at the highest risk for reoffending transition to risk levels similar to that of the general population. In lieu of relying on overly broad bans, the guidance will outline how to conduct an individualized assessment when reviewing criminal history records, which will allow for housing providers to consider the specific circumstances of a conviction and any evidence of rehabilitation. HUD recognizes that removing barriers is necessary but insufficient to the scope of the problem and will also provide new tools and technical assistance on ways that HUD programs can affirmatively support successful reentry to the community from prisons and jails. 

Arnold Ventures supports policies that will allow people to clear their records, reduce barriers to successful reintegration, and eliminate the severe and long-lasting collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. We support the changes proposed by HUD because we believe that a criminal record should not result in a life of poverty, and that safely expanding access to housing will strengthen our communities.”

Arnold Ventures is a philanthropy dedicated to tackling some of the most pressing problems in the United States. It is a team of more than 120 subject-matter experts headquartered in Houston with offices in New York and Washington, D.C. It works in four key issue areas: Criminal Justice, Education, Health, and Public Finance. Its work is guided by Evidence-Based Policy, Research, and Advocacy.