A new study from Justice 4 Housing and Harvard Law School’s Tenant Advocacy Project analyzes how barriers to housing can be reduced for people with criminal records in Massachusetts. Housing access is fundamental to reintegrating formerly incarcerated individuals into communities. Research shows that formerly incarcerated individuals are almost ten times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population, and this rate is even higher for people of color (and especially women of color). The study notes that legislation passed in the late 1990s, along with strict screening and eviction guidelines that were later codified, have contributed to a 40% increase in public housing evictions.
The report posits several policies that could eliminate or reduce barriers to housing for formerly incarcerated people. These include allowing people on parole or probation to access subsidized housing; limiting relevant criminal history to serious crimes; limiting background checks to convictions and not arrests; conducting neutral, holistic investigations before denying applicants or proposing voucher terminations; ensuring that all justice-involved individuals with proposed denials, terminations, and evictions have representation; and several other policies.
The authors also included testimonials from several residents that have been impacted by these barriers. The report also cited a recent study from Ohio that found formerly incarcerated people who participated in a housing re-entry program were 40% less likely to be re-arrested. To that end, the Boston Housing Authority – a CLPHA member – created the Stable Housing and Reintegration Pilot Program, whereby BHA directly assists Justice-Involved Individuals with housing stability while Justice 4 Housing provides supportive services.