La. bill to help formerly incarcerated people with housing moves forward
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - There’s a new bill that could help formerly incarcerated people find a place to call home.
HB 665 would allow an applicant to provide some context or additional information about a conviction to a landlord when they apply for housing.
Lawmakers say this should offer some relief from blanket background checks and misunderstandings about confusing arrest records.
“We still have an adult population close to 50% that have a criminal history background, so that could possibly be half our total population screened out because of discriminatory housing policies in our state,” said Rep. Matthew Willard, the author of the bill.
For formerly incarcerated people, this will remove some of the barriers to a constructive return to their families and communities.
“To have that barrier, it was a total letdown for me,” said Earl Hagans.
Earl Hagans went to prison in 2013 and was incarcerated for 5 years. He said he would dream about having the opportunity to rent or own a home, but that turned into a nightmare when he was released.
He said he was denied for months due to his criminal background and lack of rental experience.
“I would talk as if I’m already out there paying trying to pay these bills. I would tell myself that I can’t wait until I can pay my water bill. I was excited about possibly being frustrated about it. I was excited about the thought of getting frustrated about my rent going up,” said Hagans.
“I was 16 years old when I was arrested,” said Kiana Calloway. “The collateral consequences still lingering over my head were not explained to me in 1994. I stand here today this close to being homeless. I’ve been working for 10 years, the income is there, but Louisiana is still using laws that are biased. People coming home deserve to be successful and have ambitions and not to have these roadblocks stand in their way.”
Opponents of the bill have raised concerns about people not wanting to live next door or in the same neighborhood as someone with a criminal record. They have also said landlords should reserve the right to consider any conviction or arrest, no matter the severity or length.
Supporters believe that’s a tall task to avoid.
“We would have a lot of people across Louisiana who might not be living next door to anybody if they want to ensure their neighbors haven’t had an arrest or conviction in their background,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center.
House Bill 665 passed the House Commerce committee, and will now head to the full House floor.
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