Housing is a fundamental need for individuals and families alike. However, for those with a felony conviction on their record, finding suitable housing can be an arduous task.
The impact of a felony conviction extends beyond the criminal justice system, often affecting various aspects of life, including housing opportunities. One of the most notable effects of a felony conviction is the limited availability of rental housing. Most landlords and property management companies conduct background checks on potential tenants, and a felony conviction can significantly diminish one’s chances of securing a lease. Landlords may perceive individuals with criminal records as higher risks, fearing potential property damage, disturbances or illegal activities on their premises.
The Fair Housing Act criminalizes discrimination based on religion, race, sex, national origin, disability and familial status. However, it does not explicitly protect individuals with criminal records. As a result, some landlords may refuse to rent to individuals with felony convictions, effectively barring them from certain housing options.
Felony convictions can also impact an individual’s eligibility for public and subsidized housing programs. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can assist low-income individuals and families through programs like Section 8 and public housing. However, individuals with certain criminal convictions, particularly drug-related offenses or violent crimes, may be ineligible for participation in these programs.
Individuals with a felony conviction may have the opportunity to pursue expungement or record sealing. These legal processes aim to remove or limit public access to criminal records, effectively reducing the visibility of the conviction.
Individuals can also participate in rehabilitation programs and obtain relevant certifications to demonstrate their commitment to personal growth and reintegration into society. Rehabilitation programs can be related to:
- Substance abuse
- Anger management
- Vocational training
- Educational courses
Limited rental options, housing discrimination and restrictions on public and subsidized housing programs create significant barriers for individuals seeking shelter after a conviction. However, with access to legal resources and participation in rehabilitation programs, individuals with felony convictions can potentially work towards greater opportunities.