What criminal activities bar individuals from public housing?

November 16, 2015
Criminal justice reform has been a hot topic in the news cycle recently. On November 2, President Obama announced new steps to promote rehabilitation and integration for ex-offenders (see FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated). Also this month, the Justice Department released 6,000 non-violent drug offenders – the largest one-time release of federal prisoners ever (see Justice Department set to free 6,000 prisoners, largest one-time release).
     Research has shown that preventing re-offending and keeping ex-offenders in the community requires policies that address a wide array of factors. Those factors include: mental health and addiction treatment (see Enhanced Discharge Planning Key in Reducing Corrections System Recidivism For Consumers with Mental Illness and Ohio Drug Court Participants Have Lower Recidivism Rates); education and employment (see Prison Education Reduces Three-Year Reincarceration Rate By 30%, and NYC Transitional Job Program For Ex-Offenders Cut Three-Year Recidivism Rates); and housing.
     The challenge with providing housing for ex-offenders is that they are often barred from public housing simply because they are ex-offenders. It’s the proverbial “Catch 22” – ex-offenders often aren’t eligible for housing, making them more likely to re-offend, and remain ineligible for future housing (see NRRC Facts & Trends). So, we wanted to answer the question – what types of criminal activities bar individuals from living in or receiving public housing assistance? The answer is (as always) it depends.