“Denying Housing Over Criminal Record May Be Discrimination, Feds Say”

HUD to private landlords: from now on, prepare to defend a discrimination suit if you decline to rent to felons. After all, any such rule might have disparate impact on members of protected groups. [NPR] Julia Vitullo-Martin writes: “Amazing, given that government — in the form of public housing — has refused to rent to felons since Clinton administration reforms.”


  • In theory I agree. After someone has paid their debt to society, they should be able to start over without harassment. But how do they reconcile this with laws that prevent sex offenders from living within a certain distance of a park or school and in some cases makes it impossible for them to find a place to live?

    • Um why do you agree? It’s one thing to say that there ought to be generally applicable laws that prohibit discrimination against ex-cons. But here, HUD presupposes that refusal to rent to ex-cons would be ok, but for the fact that such policies, writ large, have a disparate impact . In other words, people’s right to screen out criminals is dependent on the rates of criminal conduct within groups of people. That’s surpassing strange once you unpack it.

      • “That’s surpassing strange once you unpack it.

        That’s just par for the course for our federal government.

    • But refusing to rent to those convicted under Obama’s justice dept would presumably be OK, since Obama fixed all that.

      More seriously, a criminal might have paid his/her legal debt via punishment of some sort, but other individuals still have the right of free association and can make up their own minds. Renting to someone means, in essence, living with them to some extent; with their music, their habits, their coming and goings and their attitudes etc. If an individual doesn’t want to be that close to me or to someone else, that is the individual’s choice, regardless of legal debt or not.

  • So because of this, a landlord rents to a convicted rapist who has served his time, against his better judgment. Then the guy rapes a woman in one of the other apartments. Is the Government going to protect the landlord from being sued by the victim, because, he knew he was renting to a rapist? Is it going to be racism if the landlord informs his other tenants that he is renting to an “ex-criminal”?

  • 1) The government, acting through the police, and courts, is the sole entity by which someone becomes labeled a ‘felon’.

    2) Disparate labeling of felony is effected/mandated through government action.

    3) Surely the police and other government agencies would have ceased disparate application of felony conviction if that is the sort of thing government wanted to do.

    Conclusion: disparate impact is government sanctioned.

  • Isn’t this just like the EEOC case about criminal background checks, involving BMW?

    BMW unfortunately settled that case but they started with a very strong argument IMHO i.e EEOC uses criminal background checks for their hiring ergo it must be fair for BMW to do the same because EEOC is the govt agency responsible for determining fair hiring practices.

    Can’t work out why BMW settled.

    • Because BMW is in the car business and has to make a profit while the government can spend money on litigation without concern of anything?

      Just sayin’….

  • Public housing and private should be considered as two different things in a capitalist society. An owner has rights to refuse someone whom he doubts. Actually, it shouldn’t considered as discrimination, law is equal for both sides.