Formerly incarcerated people in the United States are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. That’s partially driven by the fact that, in many states — like New York — property owners are allowed to reject potential tenants based solely on their criminal records.
To remedy this, Governor Kathy Hochul has included a provision in her proposed budget legislation for next fiscal year that she says would prohibit landlords from “automatically” denying housing to people with criminal convictions.
Her proposal, however, contains large loopholes that would allow landlords and real estate brokers to continue to reject potential tenants because they were convicted of any of a vast array of crimes.
Hochul’s proposed law would make it illegal to deny someone housing because they have a criminal conviction — but with two exceptions: if any of the offenses “involved physical danger or violence to persons or property,” or if they “had an adverse effect on the health, safety and welfare of other people or property.”
The loopholes are so sweeping that advocates who have been organizing for similar laws are urging Hochul to kill the provision altogether, which they say took them by surprise. By their reading, it’s harder to come up with criminal convictions that don’t fall under the proposal’s exceptions than those that do. While people with convictions for drug possession — which landlord groups have claimed aren’t a significant source of housing discrimination — could arguably fall under the measure’s protections, landlords would be able to contend that other crimes as minor as shoplifting, for instance, “had an adverse effect” on people or property.