Jackson residents with a criminal background will soon have a “fair chance” at housing. At their Tuesday, March 9 virtual meeting, the City Council voted to officially enact the City’s Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, which bars landlords from immediately disqualifying a potential tenant for rental housing based solely on their criminal or arrest record.
- The new ordinance does the following:
- Prohibits landlords or any rental agency from asking renters about their criminal history during the initial screening process.
- Postpones any background check until a conditional lease is offered.
- Prevents landlords from unfairly denying applications for housing solely based on criminal history, unless it would impact public safety, property or other tenants.
- Allows tenants to show evidence of rehabilitation prior to final denial by a landlord.
Landlords still have the ability to perform background checks and the ordinance does not limit a housing provider’s ability to choose the most qualified and appropriate candidate from applicants for housing. It doesn’t force landlords to rent to anyone who has been convicted of a violent offense, is on the sex offender registry, has been convicted of crimes that impacted property or safety of landlords, or has had a drug conviction in the past five years.
“No one loses with the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance,” said Tony Gant, the Jackson Coordinator of Nation Outside, a nonprofit led by justice-impacted people working for criminal justice reform. “Finding a home and creating a sense of independence means everything to someone who used to be incarcerated. The community benefits because housing opportunities are related to less recidivism and less crime. This ordinance simply gives everyone a chance to be considered for a lease, no matter what they did in the past.”
This new ordinance was proposed by Mayor Derek Dobies and Sixth Ward Councilmember Will Forgrave. “The Fair Chance Housing Ordinance is something that helps everyone in the community and will end a discriminatory practice in our City. I thank the City Council for taking this bold step for our underserved residents and helping to continue equity and justice efforts in Jackson.”
The Fair Chance Housing Ordinance will go into effect in 90 days. A longer implementation period was enacted by the City Council to allow time to educate tenants and landlords. Any potential violations of the ordinance will be reviewed and enforced by the City’s Human Relations Commission.