Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) rolled out a new plan Wednesday, in partnership with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), that intends to increase housing assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals and prevent unnecessary evictions.
“As our country continues working toward much-needed reform of our criminal justice system, I am proud to work with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez to ensure formerly incarcerated individuals and their families have access to safe and affordable housing as they transition back into their community,” Harris said in a statement.
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The bill, which has the backing of the NAACP, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Housing Law Project, comes two months after the California Democrat introduced legislation to assist public defenders financially. Harris’ focus on criminal justice reform could soften criticism of her record as a prosecutor.
What’s the reason for the plan?
Harris and Ocasio-Cortez, along with housing advocates, say that the plan is necessary to reduce recidivism rates by increasing the likelihood that formerly incarcerated individuals can find stable housing.
What would it do?
The legislation would prohibit tenant evictions over a single incident of minor criminal activity as well as the eviction of an entire family over the criminal activity of a household guest. In addition, the bill would require that public-housing applicants who are denied housing because of their previous criminal record have the ability to appeal the decision. The bill also increases the amount of evidence needed for denying an application based on an individual’s criminal record and requires that tenants receive a reason for their denial. It also requires that public housing authorities provide data about how many applications they reviewed each year and how many applications were denied because of an applicant’s record. Additionally, the bill aims to curb the use of alcohol and drug testing by public housing authorities, by prohibiting testing as a condition for approval of an application.
Finally, the bill would give public-housing authorities more money to go toward finding homes for formerly incarcerated individuals and would allocate $10 million in more funding for homeless-service providers.
What have other candidates proposed?
Harris is not the only candidate to tackle issues related to re-entry after incarceration. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) co-sponsored criminal justice reform bill that President Donald Trump signed into law last year and has introduced legislation that would help formerly incarcerated individuals find jobs. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), meanwhile, has addressed housing by introducing legislation to invest $470 billion over 10 years toward helping states build or maintain affordable housing.