NJ Coalition Supports HUD Rule to Reduce Housing Barriers for Individuals with Criminal Histories


Attorney General Platkin co-leads efforts to improve access to housing and address racial inequities in the criminal legal system.

NEW JERSEY – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, along with the Division on Civil Rights (DCR), has co-led a multistate comment letter supporting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposed rule aimed at reducing criminal history-based barriers to public housing. This initiative is a collaborative effort with the Attorneys General of Maryland, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania to improve access to safe and affordable housing.

The proposed rule, titled "Reducing Barriers to HUD-Assisted Housing," addresses restrictive policies and practices used by many public housing authorities that exclude individuals with criminal records. These barriers often conflict with federal guidance and established case law, disproportionately impacting Black people and other people of color.

The Attorneys General argue that the proposed rule will improve access to housing and reduce the harm to minority homeseekers from these restrictive barriers. Additionally, the rule promotes public safety by fostering community stability and reducing recidivism. The letter offers several suggestions to enhance protections against housing discrimination, which are deeply intertwined with racial inequities in the criminal legal system.

“Housing instability increases the chance of someone reoffending, but finding safe, decent, and affordable housing is still a difficult and sometimes impossible task for those who may have had a prior interaction with the criminal legal system, no matter how long ago, or how minor, the infraction may have been,” said Attorney General Platkin. “New Jersey has been a leader in attempting to break this vicious cycle, with the 2021 passage of the Fair Chance in Housing Act, which I am proud to enforce. With this letter, I and other Attorneys General who are leading the way in this area are asking HUD to standardize a fair and balanced approach to this issue across the country.”

The letter highlights several key points:

  • The proposed rule helps HUD fulfill its legal mandate under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
  • It aligns with state efforts to advance fair housing and combat housing discrimination.
  • It addresses longstanding racial injustice and housing insecurity to improve equitable access to fair housing.

“New Jersey has led the country in combating housing discrimination based on prior criminal history. Our experience with the Fair Chance in Housing Act shows that restricting criminal history discrimination can expand housing access and promote public safety,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “HUD’s proposed rule is an important step towards expanding housing access, and we urge HUD to continue taking steps to ensure that all prospective tenants looking for a safe place to live are evaluated on an individualized basis and do not face discriminatory barriers to housing.”

The Attorneys General emphasize that many public housing authorities and HUD-assisted housing owners continue to use overly restrictive policies that exclude individuals with prior criminal histories. Evidence suggests that these exclusions do little to enhance public safety and are counterproductive. Increased access to fair housing builds stronger communities and reduces recidivism.

Based on their experiences, the states offer several recommendations to further HUD’s efforts:

  • Establishing a standardized lookback period to ensure fairness, transparency, and consistency in tenant screening. Excessively long lookback periods disproportionately affect marginalized communities.
  • Restricting the use of arrest and related records in housing decisions, as arrests do not always lead to charges or convictions.
  • Requiring individualized assessments for housing eligibility and termination decisions to account for mitigating circumstances and reduce systemic discrimination.
  • Prohibiting denials based solely on non-disclosure of prior criminal history, recognizing various reasons individuals may not disclose their past.

The letter also notes that only three statutory exclusions must be enforced in renting and eviction decisions: convictions for methamphetamine production in public housing, evictions for drug-related criminal activity, and lifetime registration on a state sex offender registry. All other offenses fall within HUD’s rulemaking authority, allowing for flexibility in housing policies.

Attorney General Platkin, along with Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry, were joined by the Attorneys General of Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Vermont in this effort.

This matter was handled by Assistant Section Chief Andrew Yang and Deputy Attorney General Ashleigh B. Shelton, under the supervision of Section Chief Jessica Palmer of the Special Litigation Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group.

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