Finding a home in New York City can be difficult, and for some, it’s almost impossible if they have a criminal history.
But now that might change amid support for a bill that would ban the use of criminal background checks by landlords.
The City Council held a hearing Thursday that would ban landlords from asking prospective tenants about arrest or conviction records or doing criminal background check.
“We need to stop demonizing people with conviction histories. People should not face never ending punishment after they have served their time,” said Andre Ward from the Fortune Society.
What You Need To Know
- The City Council held a hearing on Thursday that would ban landlords from asking prospective tenants about arrest or conviction records or doing a criminal background check
- Supporters say the legislation would give all New Yorkers a chance at a safe and stable home
- Opponents, many landlords and co-op boards, including some Republicans, say the bill infringes on a landlords right to safety and security
Supporters say that all New Yorkers deserve an equal opportunity at a safe and permanent home.
An estimated 750,000 New Yorkers have a criminal background.
Advocates note that amid a housing crisis, the city should do more to get New Yorkers off the streets and into a home.
Those with a history say they want to be judged, not by their past, but by their potential.
“I had the means to pay the rent. I did the time without getting in trouble. Yet, I was still not being given a second chance,” said Leah Faria, head of the Women’s Community Justice Association.
She was formerly incarcerated and still has been unable to find permanent housing.
Local lawmakers who support not just those who were formerly incarcerated but also their families.
“It means more people are living on the streets and in shelters. People who have paid their dues and their families will struggle to find stability and the vicious cycle of incarceration will continue,” said Councilmember Keith Powers, the main sponsor of the legislation.
The bill would only affect local law and would not prohibit checks against a sexual offender registry or credit checks.
At the hearing, Republicans and landlords were adamant that the bill would open unsuspecting tenants to potential harm.
“This bill, as it is being presented today, would allow violent offenders to share the floor space with unknowing residents who may very well become victims as a result,” said Councilmember Joann Ariola, a Republican from Queens.
Critics also note that a landlord has a right to know about who might live on their property.
They have proposed changes to the legislation like allowing for a look back window of a few years, as well as allowing for certain violent criminal convictions to be reviewed.
“That’s all landlords, owners and co-op boards are asking for, they’re asking for the right to check,” said Councilmember Joe Borelli, a Republican from Staten Island.
Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday that he supports the “concept of the bill,” but that the safety of tenants should come first.