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Fair Chance for Housing Act would prohibit NYC landlords from factoring in potential tenants' criminal records

Bill would prohibit NYC landlords from considering criminal record
Bill would prohibit NYC landlords from considering criminal record 02:09

NEW YORK -- A controversial bill that would prohibit landlords from considering a potential tenant's criminal record is stirring up lots of reaction from New Yorkers. 

New York City Council members introduced the Fair Chance for Housing Act on Thursday, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported. 

Vilma Ortiz Donovan said she turned her life around since serving prison time for selling drugs. She went back to school and now works full-time, but finding a permanent home wasn't easy. 

"Everybody deserves a fair chance to call a place their own," said Donovan. "A landlord told me that I would never, ever get housing because of my criminal record." 

Council Member Keith Powers of Manhattan and others hope to change that.

Their bill would make it illegal for New York City landlords to factor in an individual's criminal record when considering tenants, except for registered sex offenders. 

"There's a continuation to deny housing to people with a record no matter what, or how long ago, or how minor, or what that offense was. And the result is tens of thousands of New Yorkers are locked into an endless, revolving door of homelessness, incarceration and housing instability," Powers said. 

Currently, landlords and brokers are allowed to deny housing on the basis of a criminal background. There was a push to change the law in 2021, but many landlords and tenants were able to stop it. 

"In a nutshell, it's putting criminal privilege over resident safety," said Frank Ricci, executive vice president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords and managers in the city. 

As of 2019, an estimated 750,000 New York City residents had a conviction history, according to supporters of the bill. 

"I think most council members will admit that there are certain categories of criminality that put other residents at risk, such as gun possession, registered sex offender, arson, drug dealing," said Ricci. 

Advocates said the bill has the support of 29 council members, enough for it to pass. Opponents said they're ready for another fight. 

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