D.C. Weighs 'Banning the Box' on Housing Applications

Washington, D.C. might prohibit landlords from asking tenants for criminal histories, at least at first pass.

1 minute read

December 16, 2016, 5:00 AM PST

By Elana Eden

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Under a bill awaiting consideration by the D.C. Council, landlords would not be allowed to ask about prospective tenant’s criminal histories before extending a conditional housing offer.

Jen Kinney reports that the measure is designed to "level the playing field" for the approximately 60,000 D.C. residents with conviction records. In April of this year, HUD affirmed that denying housing based on a criminal record alone violates fair housing rules.

After extending the conditional offer, landlords could review certain serious or violent convictions that have occurred in the past seven years. They would then have the option to revoke the offer.

Inability to find housing is acknowledged as a major factor in prison recidivism, particularly since housing security can lay a "foundation" for stable employment, family connections, and healthcare.

Ban-the-box legislation on employment applications exists in more than 100 cities and counties, as well as 13 states, Next City notes. D.C. joins Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New Orleans as one of the few cities to consider banning the box in the housing sector.

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