LA County Loosens Restrictions on Ex-Offenders to Qualify for Section 8
On April 7, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted, by a 3 to 2 vote, to ease restrictions on ex-offenders who are applying to the Housing Choice Voucher Program. In the revised motion, the Board directed the local housing authority to eliminate any and all provisions screening applicants out of the Housing Choice Voucher Program due to probation or parole status.
The Board also directed the housing authority to reduce the criminal “look-back” period for drug offenses to no more than two years, develop a definition of “serious violent” crimes that the three-year criminal “look-back” period would apply, and revise the category of “other criminal activity” to other criminal activity that may threaten the health and safety of persons residing in the immediate vicinity. All applicants to the voucher program are screened for drug-related, violent- and any other criminal activity during the application process.
In the revised motion, Board members cited, as part of the rationale for their decision, a 2011 letter from HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to public housing agencies (PHAs) that “encourage[d] PHAs to find a balance between allowing ex-offenders to return to HUD subsidized housing and reunite with their families and maintaining the safety of all residents in its programs.” The letter stated that while PHAs must maintain lifetime bans on lifetime sex offenders and individuals convicted of certain drug-related crimes as mandated by federal law, PHAs had discretion in their admission and termination policies to reunify ex-offenders and their families. The Board’s motion went on to say, “[R]esearch has shown that ex-offenders are less likely to recidivate if they have stable housing in the community.”
The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles weighed in on this issue with the Board and continues to monitor the changes as they go into effect on Sept. 1.
Source: LA Times, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, National Apartment Association