Next City: Roshan Abraham - December 29, 2022
Alameda County, California has become the first county in the nation to prohibit landlords from performing criminal background checks on potential tenants, according to The Guardian. The ordinance was adopted by Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors last week with four yes votes. Oakland and Berkeley, both in Alameda County, already passed laws banning criminal background checks in housing applications in 2020 and 2021, as Emily Nonko previously reported for Next City. And in nearby Richmond, California, the city passed a ban on background checks in 2016, though it was limited to federally-funded affordable housing. Similar legislation has been passed in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.
Criminal records have long been a barrier to housing in the U.S. and have contributed to what advocates refer to as the prison to homelessness pipeline. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 73% of people living in Oakland homeless encampments have some type of criminal record. About 7% of unhoused respondents to an Alameda County survey attributed their homelessness directly to having a criminal record.
The Alameda ordinance could bolster the movement nationwide, including in New York City, where 750,000 residents have a criminal record but legislation banning background checks have faltered. The city council held hearings on a ban this month. Mayor Eric Adams has expressed support for a ban, albeit with caveats, saying, “We need to respect the safety of people who live in buildings,” and singling out people who have been convicted of violent crimes, according to ABC7NY.
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