Check out any survey of the top priorities for people searching for a home and “safety” and “family friendliness” always make the list. Neighborhoods with stable, long-term residents contribute to both. But, with the rise of homelessness in Portland we see more individuals struggling to find stable housing options. As a result, neighborhoods are beginning to feel the strain of this lack of stability.
One group that continually struggles to find stable housing and can easily fall into homelessness are people who have exited prison or jail and can’t secure housing for themselves. In a letter issued June 23, 2021, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Secretary Marcia Fudge stated, “Research also shows that people who lack stable housing following incarceration face a higher likelihood of re-arrest and re-incarceration. On the other hand, a stable home can serve as the foundation upon which returning citizens can rebuild their lives, obtain employment, improve their health, and achieve recovery.” In an effort to address this challenge as part of a comprehensive public safety strategy, the Biden administration issued new recommendations to affordable housing providers with the statement, “As persons with criminal records re-enter society no person should wind up on the street.”
Stable Housing Changes Lives
Stable housing builds stable families, and stable families build stable communities. The new HUD directives focus on helping people released from prison or jail find adequate housing for themselves and their families. Too often, people exiting the prison system without an available stable home find themselves revolving between homelessness and re-incarceration. Additionally, “across all age groups, the imprisonment rate for African American males is almost six times greater than for white males, and for Hispanic males, it is over twice that for non-Hispanic White males” (April 4, 2016 memo, Application of the Fair Housing Act). Because of this disproportionate incarceration rate, a lack of housing opportunities for persons re-entering society has the potential of also falling under racial discrimination laws.
Policies to Implement
So, what do these HUD recommendations mean for landlords? Here are four actions you should consider.
1. Individualize Your Application Assessment
Landlords cannot have a blanket, overbroad policy of not renting to someone with a criminal record. Additionally, prior arrests and convictions cannot be an automatic reason for refusal. The Supreme Court recognized that an arrest record has little to do with actual misconduct. What’s more, arrests often fail to indicate the outcome: prosecuted, convicted, or acquitted. Your housing policy must demonstrate that it distinguishes between “criminal conduct that impacts resident safety or property safety and criminal conduct that does not.”
2. Specify Resident and Property Safety
Ensuring resident safety and protecting property are some of the fundamental responsibilities of property owners. In fact, courts consider such interests to be both “substantial and legitimate.” As a result, property owners need to prove through reliable policy and history that housing decisions fall under these responsibilities. Decisions must not drift into stereotypes and generalizations.
3. Develop Written Safety Policies
For instance, you might have written policies that address specific offenses to protect property and safety, like:
- Violent or drug-related felonies.
- Crimes against children.
- Crimes against landlords or rental properties.
- Convictions or pleas to any crime involving metal theft, vandalizing properties, or otherwise damaging properties.
- Arson convictions or pleas.
Landlords should assess these safety policies on individual applications, not as sweeping statements against all persons with a criminal record. The HUD guidelines prevent policies that bar all felons no matter the nature of the crime or when it was committed because it may be considered discriminatory due to the disparate racial impact.
4. Know How to Implement Fair Housing Policies and Remain Compliant
There are companies that can help navigate the legal requirements of renting out properties. Using the services of a legitimate 3rd party screening company that will comply with Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) standards will save you headache and heartache in the long run.
Partner With Rental Property Experts
Keeping up with the changing guidelines and regulations for rental properties can be overwhelming. But providing safe housing impacts not only the neighborhood but the broader community as well. Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew is here to help you find the right tenants for each property and help keep those properties maintained and profitable for years to come. Contact us today if you’d like to learn more about how our team can help your investment property succeed. You can call or text Darla directly at 503.515.3170 or fill out the contact page on our website and we’ll get back to you right away.