Yesterday the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) adopted a new criminal background policy, which goes a long way to expand housing choice and provide safe, decent and affordable housing to the community it serves. The criminal background policy is what HANO uses in order to decide how an individual’s criminal background affects their ability to access housing or jobs with HANO. The “old” policy, deemed as both discriminatory and unfair by advocates, considered arrests and convictions equally, and barred many New Orleanians from employment and housing opportunities with HANO.
Member based organizations like STAND with Dignity have been instrumental in pushing HANO to overhaul the current policy. For example, STAND members with arrest records from more than a decade ago were repeatedly excluded from housing or employment.
The new policy considers convictions rather than arrests, and does not bar anyone categorically, except where mandated by federal law. The devil may be in the details, but HANO has contracted with the well-respected Vera Institute for Justice for substantive review of policy and procedures. To that end, GNOFHAC and STAND look forward to working with Vera on the next step: revising procedures that implement the new policy. The time length of look-back on any criminal history is just one example of policy that will be addressed via procedures.
GNOFHAC and STAND welcome the spirit and intent of HANO’s policy. Properly implemented, the policy will promote housing safety, opportunity and choice, and will expand employment opportunities for all New Orleans residents. GNOFHAC and STAND urge the quick drafting and implementation of procedures to support the policy statement.
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