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December 12, 2022

The New York City Council is in the process of voting to end criminal background checks for potential tenants. Those who are in favor of the law claim that it provides poor New Yorkers with a second opportunity. Opponents propose there is a significant safety concern.

What Is The Fair Chance For Housing Act?
The Fair Chance For Housing Act prohibits landlords from asking about a tenant’s criminal background at any point in the application process. Two exclusions from the law exist. You may check the sex offender registry. Although, out-of-state sex offender registries are not addressed, so landlords are at risk of renting to individuals who committed sex crimes in other states under the bill’s present wording.

Two-family house landlords and landlords of rooms in owner-occupied housing are permitted to check a tenant’s criminal record. Tenant criminal behavior is not the responsibility of the landlord.

The proposed law has the support of 30 of the council’s 51 members, including Mayor Adams,

Those in Favor

Many people have argued in favor of this bill. They say we must avoid stigmatizing those with criminal records. Once someone has completed their sentence, they shouldn’t continue to be punished.

Councilman Keith Powers is one of the people in support of this bill. He states that regardless of whether they have found a solid job or undergone self-rehabilitation, or whether they have a family, there is a barrier in the way when they come in to attempt to rent an apartment. People are being told that they cannot obtain an apartment in a housing market that is extremely competitive

He continues to say, “We want to strike a balance between public safety and solving the housing crisis, but it’s evident that background checks aren’t being used efficiently and that too many individuals are being denied homes because of an error in their history”.

Those Against

People against the bill have argued that society has always believed in justice and second chances, but it’s not acceptable to take away one’s power to keep our people safe. You’re going to drive the middle class and working class out of New York City.

A person who has committed a violent crime should not live next door to one of our elderly neighbors, who may look like an easy target.

If we can’t guarantee safety and the knowledge of who lives next door to us in our own houses, people will go elsewhere to feel safe.

It is true that everyone deserves a second chance, but at what cost?

What happens if a portion of these people recommits crimes, particularly those that landlords weren’t aware of because of this law? Is it not a safety risk to those who live among the individuals?

Is it necessary to test that at all?

With crime on the rise in all five boroughs, is this a smart move for the council to make? People already don’t feel safe.

There must be a solution; might it be the Fair Chance for Housing Act?

To read the full breakdown of this act, go to the Fair Chance for Housing Act’s website.