Housing Disenfranchisement

THE CASE AGAINST BARRING FELONS FROM AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Housing Disenfranchisement

THE CASE AGAINST BARRING FELONS FROM AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Problem

Recently proposed draft rules in Texas would ban certain individuals with felony convictions from eligibility for public housing assistance for 3-10 years after incarceration. Housing advocates warn this policy change could displace thousands of felons in Texas who rely on public housing, contributing to homelessness, recidivism, and other public health risks. Nationwide over 7 million felons could potentially be impacted by similar housing exclusion policies. Lack of stable and affordable housing options is a major obstacle to successful re-entry and rehabilitation for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Background

Texas is home to an estimated 500,000+ residents with active felony convictions who have served their sentences and been released back into communities. Extensive research shows housing instability is strongly associated with likelihood of recidivism among felons. Formerly incarcerated individuals are 10 times more likely to become homeless than the general public. Housing insecurity makes it difficult for returning citizens to obtain employment, healthcare, and other services critical to rehabilitation. In Houston alone, over 9,000 felons return from prison yearly in need of safe, affordable housing. Felony disenfranchisement disproportionately affects minorities, who face higher conviction rates and barriers to housing access. Exclusion of felons from public housing awaiting scarce private housing options may lead to increases in homelessness, unemployment, racial disparities, and preventable crime.

Policy Recommendations

  • Repeal outright housing bans based on offense type.
  • Require individualized assessment of applicant risk.
  • Pass legislation affirming felons’ right to safe, affordable housing.

Key Takeaways

  • Denying felons housing contradicts data showing housing reduces crime.
  • Lack of stable housing after release predicts recidivism.
  • Affordable housing access promotes reentry success.