Sign-On to Reduce Barriers to Subsidized Housing for Justice-Involved Individuals
Please fill out this form to endorse the "Far From Home" Report recommendations ( and to sign the letter below to Massachusetts Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). We urge PHAs to implement various policy recommendations that will reduce barriers to subsidized housing for justice-involved individuals, ensuring a fairer and easier process for everyone to access subsidized housing.
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Sign-On Letter
Dear Public Housing Authorities,

In June 2021, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge wrote a letter to all US Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) outlining the Biden Administration's mission of meeting the housing needs of justice-involved individuals (JII's) and reducing barriers to housing people with criminal records.  In this letter, Secretary Fudge wrote “HUD is committed to taking a comprehensive approach to addressing the housing needs of JIIs, and by doing so, increasing public safety within our communities.”

However, existing PHA regulations unduly limit access to housing assistance among JIIs in Massachusetts. PHA policies restricting housing access to JIIs are harmful, discriminatory, and based on an outdated view of the criminal legal system. They affect not only JIIs, but their families and children: more than 5 million children under the age of 18 reportedly have had a parent in prison or jail nationwide, including 38,000 in Massachusetts alone. These policies have a disparate impact on people of color, who despite making up only 17% of the percent of the state population represent 50% of the incarcerated population. Denying access to subsidized housing makes it more likely that these families will experience homelessness, unemployment, and ultimately criminal justice involvement, perpetuating a grim cycle of poverty and recidivism.

We envision a pathway to expand access to subsidized housing to ensure the needs of JIIs and their families are met. We, the undersigned, endorse the findings and recommendations of the Far From Home Report ( and urge PHAs to implement the following policy recommendations:

1. ALLOW PEOPLE ON PAROLE OR PROBATION ACCESS TO SUBSIDIZED HOUSING. Currently, many PHAs in Massachusetts automatically deny people on parole or probation access to subsidized housing programs, preventing some of the most vulnerable Massachusetts residents from having access to stable, affordable housing.

2. LIMIT RELEVANT CRIMINAL HISTORY CHECKS TO SERIOUS CRIMES. PHAs should prohibit the consideration of offenses such as larceny or drug possession when determining an applicant’s housing eligibility.

3. LIMIT RELEVANT CRIMINAL HISTORY CHECKS TO CONVICTIONS, NOT ARRESTS. As HUD noted in 2015, “arrest records are often inaccurate or incomplete.” Arrest records should never be seen as proof of criminal activity or used as a basis for evicting, denying admission, or terminating a resident’s voucher.

4. CONDUCT NEUTRAL, HOLISTIC INVESTIGATIONS BEFORE DENYING APPLICANTS OR PROPOSING VOUCHER TERMINATIONS. Currently, applicants are often provisionally denied and then offered an opportunity to dispute or mitigate their criminal record to avoid denial. This puts the burden of proof entirely on the applicant to demonstrate that they should be admitted. Instead, PHAs should conduct neutral, holistic investigations that consider mitigating factors before reaching a proposed denial of eligibility.

5. ENSURE THAT ALL JIIS WITH PROPOSED DENIALS, TERMINATIONS AND EVICTIONS HAVE REPRESENTATION. When PHAs intend to deny applicants on the basis of their criminal record, they should refer the applicant to legal or community representation free of charge by partnering with community organizations to create a referral system for such applicants.

6. ENACT POLICIES TO SUPPORT THE REUNIFICATION OF FAMILIES IN SUBSIDIZED HOUSING. Justice-involved individuals should be allowed to move back in with their families upon release.

7. CURB THE UNJUSTIFIED USE OF NO VISIT NO RESIDE AGREEMENTS. When the family member of a resident is arrested or faces legal trouble, PHAs often ask the resident to sign a “No Visit, No Reside” agreement to bar their family member from living with or visiting them. If they refuse to sign the agreement, they face eviction or subsidy termination. This practice should be severely restricted and, in extreme cases where it is implemented, be time-limited.

8. SET ASIDE A NUMBER OF UNITS FOR JUSTICE-INVOLVED INDIVIDUALS. In 2021, the BHA announced it would provide 15 vouchers set aside for justice-involved individuals. Other Massachusetts PHAs should follow suit.

9. FURTHER REDUCE THE "LOOKBACK" PERIOD FOR CORIS. In Massachusetts, PHAs can look at criminal records as far back as 7 years for felonies and 3 years for misdemeanors. But many PHAs use shorter lookback periods, including a one-year lookback period in Seattle and a two-year lookback period in Los Angeles. PHAs in Massachusetts should follow these examples and substantially reduce their CORI lookback periods.

10. DO NOT CONSIDER SEALABLE CORI RECORDS AND SUPPORT CORI REFORM. Currently, the process to “seal” one’s CORI is done inefficiently on an individual basis. PHAs should support legislative efforts to provide greater and equal access to CORI sealing.

11. ENACT FAIR CHANCE POLICIES. Applicants’ eligibility should first be assessed without consideration of their criminal record. Criminal records should only be considered after an initial determination is made that the applicant is otherwise eligible.

12. IMPROVE DATA COLLECTION ON JUSTICE-INVOLVED APPLICATIONS AND TERMINATIONS. Data on the voucher and tenancy terminations and application denials of justice-involved individuals should be collected by PHAs and made public.


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