The Austin Housing Coalition is a coalition of nonprofit agencies and other interested organizations, businesses, and residents who support the creation, improvement, and preservation of affordable housing for the Austin community.
We believe in providing safe, quality, affordable housing options to all types of people, including those who have been involved in the criminal justice system. When it comes to enacting tenant screening criteria that evaluates a prospective tenant’s criminal history, we believe housing providers are best suited to create and implement criteria for the communities they build and manage.
That’s why we’re contacting you regarding the latest draft of the Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). While we appreciate the efforts of staff at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in their attempt to create universal criminal screening criteria for supportive housing developments, we have concerns that the one size fits all approach is too restrictive and prevents housing providers from using their expertise to create criteria that is specific to the communities they build.
For these reasons, we recommend the following changes to the QAP.
- Remove Section 11.1(d)(122)(B)(v) of the Draft QAP entirely.
- If removal is not an option, replace Section 11.1(d)(122)(B)(v) with the following:
11.1 (d)122(B)(v): have Tenant Selection Criteria that fully comply with §10.802 of this title (regarding Written Policies and Procedures), which require a process for evaluation of prospective residents against a clear set of criminal history screening criteria.
If either 1 or 2 are not acceptable to staff, we recommend the following changes to Section 11.1(d)(122)(B)(v) as reflected in the following red-lined version:
11.1 (d)122(B)(v): have Tenant Selection Criteria that fully comply with §10.802 of this title (regarding Written Policies and Procedures), which require a process for evaluation of prospective residents against a clear set of criminal history screening criteria credit, criminal conviction, and prior eviction history that may disqualify a potential resident.
(I) The criminal screening criteria must, at minimum, include: not allow residents to reside in the Development that are on the National or Texas Sex Offender website or that have been convicted for the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802); and
(-a-) Permanent denial based on criminal history at application or recertification for lifetime registered sex offenders, or any conviction for murder related offense, sexual assault, kidnapping, or arson or felony manufacture of methamphetamines; and
(-b-) Temporary denial for a minimum of three years two years from arrest based on criminal history at application or recertification of any for a violent or armed felony conviction. for
ischarge/display or firearm or illegal/deadly weapon, armed offense, stalking, obstruction or retaliation, violation of a protective order, or similar offense involving harm to others;
(-c-) Temporary denial for a minimum of two years for non-violent felonies; and (-d-) Temporary denial for a minimum of one year for Class A misdemeanors
(II) The criminal screening criteria may include provisions for mitigation of that waive temporary or permanent denials, such as including documented drug/alcohol treatment, participation in case management, letters of recommendation from mental health professionals, employers, case managers, or others. with personal knowledge of the tenant. The criteria may include provision for individual review of permanent denials if the conviction is more than 20 years old and the prospective resident has no additional felony convictions in the last 20 years.
(III) Disqualifications in a property’s Tenant Selection Criteria cannot be a total prohibition, unless such a prohibition is required by federal statute or regulation, or this subparagraph (i.e. the Development must have an appeal process for other required criteria). As part of the appeal process the prospective resident must be allowed to demonstrate that information in a third-party database is incorrect.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments you may have about the above changes. We thank you in advance for considering these changes.
2020 Chair, Austin Housing Coalition