Guest Editorial: Seattle Must Do More to Help Former Prisoners Get Housing

Comments

1
I'm with you, Sally. Thanks for your upcoming 'yes' vote and your advocacy.
2
I support this.

And this is also important because so many of these "criminal records" search sites are themselves criminal enterprises, surreptitiously holding on to data and mugshots long after cases are closed.
3
This is a piece of legislation that is coming way too late for too many people. I hope it passes and I hope the State passes something similar.

@2, and they like to hold onto mug shots even when no charges were filed and dismissed.
4
Don't to the crime if you can't deal with the consequences of your actions.
5
Thank you for supporting this ordinance with both amendments, Councilmember Bagshaw, and for explaining your evidence-based reasoning.
6
I fully support Bagshaws advocacy on this issue.
But her advocacy for more impact fees and acquiescence to "neighborhood" demands to slow construction of new housing, is directly at odds with making more affordable house by available.
7
@4: Of the law, not the consequences of people exploiting defendants past and present, innocent or guilty.
8
Actually - statistics show that the current background check law - allowing landlords to see background checks going back 7 years - is a better law.

The current background check law is based on Evidence that shows that recidivism is greatly reduced after a prisoner has been out of prison for 5 years.

Landlords should be able to see criminal records for this reason and decide whether they want to take a risk on an individual tenant.
9
Landlords, up your rent and minimize the impact of these left of liberal laws! Good luck in the land of Comrade Sawant.
10
"The Ordinance with amendments will allow more people to access housing. Under our proposed legislation, arrests that did not lead to conviction or convictions that have been expunged, vacated, or sealed may not be used to screen tenants."

This is all well and good - especially arrests without conviction. Completely in line with the innocent until proven guilty standard. BUT:

"Under this legislation—even with the amendments—a landlord may conduct a credit check, evaluate prospects’ income, look at their tenant history, check references, restrict sex offenders, and remove a bad tenant. What they can’t do is ban a person solely because of the time served in prison."

This is crazy. Do you know what ELSE we can't do, thanks to the Council's first in line system? Give any kind of individualized consideration to people with records. Someone either meets your qualifications or they don't. That means that we either have to find some way to keep ALL criminals (except sex offenders) out of our buildings or we have to accept all of them. What about persons with domestic violence convictions? Convicted burglars? Persons with assault records?

I assume that everyone supporting this is fine with all manner of violent criminals or thieves living in the apartment next door. And this is going to hit those low-income renters that the council loves to help hardest of all, because it is unlikely that recovering criminals are going to be able to afford expensive apartments.

Also, when someone does commit an assault or theft on their neighbors, you know who WON'T get sued? The landlord. Because he is now barred by law from trying to weed out the bad tenants. You know who WILL get sued? The City for forcing him to accept said criminal.
11
That's great. Maybe we should start with the housing we pay for already and apply this rule to anything the Office of Housing or Human Services Department have money in.

After that we can move on to the rest of the city.
12
So a criminal history should not be a barrier, but a low credit score is a totally acceptable barrier. So fuck this.
13
Well, Ol' Sally can always rent a room in her house to a Walla Walla graduate. And she can start with her own district too. By going Apartment building to Apartment building in her district. Hell, even her own neighborhood and ask the building managers and property owners to let ex cons live in their buildings and neighborhoods. Lead by example Sally. Do that, and I might even vote for you. Walking that talk does impress me. Your constituents are sure to re-elect you for letting ex cons live in the buildings of your district. They'll be impressed by the fact that you care sooooo much about what others consider the outcast of society. That you'll win re-election in a landslide victory.
14
If I owned rental property in this town, I'd sell it. No wonder it's hard to find an affordable apartment. Of all the possible applicants, why pick the one who makes terrible choices?
15
@4. When you've already served time, paid fines, completed probation, the consequences of your actions have been administered by the government.

It's not the private sectors right or duty to continue to dole out punishments for a crime against the state.
16
@15- This is not about "doling out punishment" by the private sector. It's about trying to run your business in a way that minimizes risk. People who have committed crimes in the past are at least somewhat more likely to do so in the future. It may not be "more likely than not" that they will, but that is not the standard. It's no different than a person with a poor credit rating - they may not be "more likely than not" to stiff you on the rent but it's perfectly acceptable to set a minimum credit score when renting.

This would be OK if not for the "first-come" law but under the combined effect of both we are not able in any way to individually consider the person with a record and whether they are rehabilitated or not.

And in the case of drug crimes (drug users are extremely likely to re-offend), a landlord is putting his property at risk of forfeiture by renting to the ex-con. That is an unreasonable risk for the City to ask us to run.

I predict several things will happen. One, less affordable housing will be offered. This kind of law makes renting to lower-income populations (who are disproportionally likely to have records) even more risky. A landlord who is considering what kind of housing to build will consider this. More expensive housing becomes a more rational choice. Second, this will increase the resistance to moving more rental housing into Seattle's single family neighborhoods. Bias against renters will increase greatly if the homeowners in an area no longer have any reason to think that the really bad actors are being weeded out.

Neither of those things will help with housing availability. Good work, City Council.