FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 11th, 2021
Alex Staropoli, (914) 469-0060, firstname.lastname@example.org
FAIR CHANCE IN HOUSING ACT IN EFFECT AS OF JANUARY 1, 2022
Landmark Law Protects Returning Citizens from Discrimination When Applying for Housing in New Jersey
NEW JERSEY–On January 1, 2022, the Fair Chance in Housing Act(FCHA)went into effect in New Jersey. The law was signed by Governor Murphy on June 18, 2021 as part of the state’s Juneteenth celebration, and is the first statewide law of its kind in the country. Sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, the bill would not have been possible without their leadership.
The FCHA prohibits landlords from asking about an individual’s criminal history before making a conditional offer of housing. Once a conditional offer is made, the law prohibits the landlord’s consideration of certain records altogether, and establishes a tiered framework with lookback periods for other prior convictions. The law also includes critical enforcement mechanisms, including fines up to $10,000 per violation for landlords found in violation of the law.
“The FCHA provides the strongest protections against discrimination in housing for returning citizens in the country,” said James Williams, Director of Racial Justice Policy at Fair Share Housing Center. “Formerly incarcerated persons face a multitude of barriers when they come home, housing shouldn’t be one of them. In a state like New Jersey, where we disproportionately incarcerate people of color, the FCHA will have a direct impact on communities of color in our state.”
“Fair Share Housing Center is committed to the successful implementation of this law,” continued Williams. “For far too long formerly incarcerated individuals have been left to fend for themselves when they return home. The FCHA provides a real opportunity to hold bad actors accountable and to give returning citizens a fair chance in our state.”
New Jersey has some of the worst racial disparities in the country, across almost all indicators of well-being, and the criminal justice system is no exception. According to the Sentencing Project, New Jersey ranks among the worst in the country for its Black-white ratio of incarceration: the rate of imprisonment for Black people in New Jersey is more than nine times that for whites.
“This bill will have a life-changing impact on thousands of individuals in New Jersey who have prior criminal records,” said Boris Franklin of NJ Together. “A prior record often prevents any door from opening for returning citizens. With something as essential as housing, it’s critical that
we protect returning citizens from discrimination. We are watching closely to ensure this law is implemented and enforced to its fullest extent.”
Tough on crime rhetoric at the end of the 20thcentury resulted in the creation of a web of policies designed to further punish people beyond the criminal legal system. Harmful housing policies that keep people with criminal records out of housing were initiated and implemented during that time.
“The FCHA will have a profound impact on Latinos and other communities of color in New Jersey, who are disproportionately represented at all stages of the criminal justice system in our state,” said Frank Argote-Freyre of the Latino Action Network. “Ensuring access to housing must be a priority if the ultimate goal is to provide the most opportunity for success for returning citizens. Prohibiting landlords from discriminating against this population is a first step to repairing decades of harm to communities of color in both the criminal justice and housing sectors.”
Housing is an essential need. An individual’s housing status is directly tied to their health and well-being. For the formerly incarcerated, stable housing is directly linked to someone’s likelihood of re-offense. If we want people to succeed in their reentry, we must ensure access to safe, healthy, and affordable housing.
“The FCHA is especially important for Black communities in New Jersey,” said Mike McNeil of the NAACP NJ State Conference. “Prohibiting discrimination in housing for individuals with prior criminal records is crucial to repairing harm to our communities.”
“The FCHA is essential to safeguarding individuals’ rights and access to housing when they have a criminal record,” said Sarah Blaine of RAC-NJ. “RAC-NJ was proud to be a member of the coalition that advocated for this bill, and we look forward to supporting its implementation throughout the state.”
The New Jersey Division of Civil Rights has created helpful resources on the FCHA and will be hosting a webinar on the new law that will feature FSHC’s Director of Racial Justice Policy, James Williams, on January 12 at 6:30pm.