The Fair Chance for Housing Act: A Victory for Housing Equity in NYC

A group of lobbyists in New York City. The Act a bold step that gives people who have faced unending housing discrimination a new hope at finding housing.

In January 2024, the Coalition for the Homeless, together with a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals, celebrated the Fair Chance for Housing Act (Intro 632-A) being signed into law in New York City, marking a significant step towards equity in housing. This legislation offers hope to individuals and families who previously faced the harsh realities of housing discrimination due to past convictions.

The impact of this law cannot be overstated. For the nearly 750,000 New Yorkers with a conviction record, many of whom are Black and brown individuals, this Act will offer vital protections to those in our city who have long been wrongly excluded from the housing market.

A survey spanning 14 states, including New York, revealed that 79% of formerly incarcerated people and their families report being denied housing due to a criminal conviction. These barriers perpetuate cycles of poverty and homelessness, particularly in communities of color.

One of the key provisions of the Fair Chance for Housing Act is the restriction on housing providers’ ability to discriminate based on convictions outside of a specific “look back window.” For felonies, the “look back window” is set at five years; for misdemeanors, it is three years. Notably, landlords or brokers can request a background check for convictions only within these periods after pre-qualifying an applicant based on financial and other relevant factors. This approach ensures that individuals who have served their time and are seeking to rebuild their lives post-incarceration are not unfairly denied housing opportunities.

“No human being should be denied the dignity, safety, and stability of a home, and for too long, those with previous convictions have been wrongly denied this most basic need. The Fair Chance for Housing Act rights a wrong that has contributed to housing injustice and social inequity in our city, and we celebrate its enactment,” said Dave Giffen, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless.

Housing is more than just four walls and a roof; it is the necessary foundation for employment, health, and overall well-being. The Fair Chance for Housing Act acknowledges this fundamental truth and paves the way for individuals to support themselves and their families, creating safer and more vibrant communities. The Fair Chance for Housing Coalition, which played a pivotal role in the legislation’s passage, stands ready to collaborate with the City to ensure its effective implementation.

The Fair Chance for Housing Act is a hard-fought victory for equity and justice in New York City. It is a testament to the power of grassroots advocacy and the tireless efforts of those who believe that housing is a human right. As we celebrate this milestone, it reminds us there is still a long way to go as we work towards building an inclusive and equitable society where everyone can have a place to call home.