This report explains how public housing authorities in various U.S. jurisdictions are expanding access for people with conviction histories.
Formerly incarcerated people are 10 times more likely than the general public to be without housing, with a rate of 203 people experiencing homelessness per 10,000 people. Homeless people are more likely to interact with police and are 11 times more likely to be arrested than those with stable housing. There are about 3,300 public housing authorities (PHAs) that serve approximately 1.2 million households, but they are often inaccessible resources for people released from incarceration. Exclusionary criteria governing much of public housing bar people who were formerly incarcerated from moving back with their families, who are often committed to helping the returning family member reintegrate into society. Such housing restrictions affect local public housing development as well as federal housing-choice vouchers under Section B. The latter provide rental assistance to low- and moderate-income families. In 2017, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) launched a new initiative (Opening Doors: Safely Increasing Access to Public Housing for People with Conviction Histories) to remove barriers to housing for people with conviction histories. This initiative has worked with a wide range of partners, including PHAs, law enforcement agencies, county and state corrections departments, reentry service providers, homeless service providers, continuum of care organizations, and resident advocates. As a result of their partnership with Vera, some PHAs created reentry programs to increase access to public housing for people with conviction histories. From 2017 to 2021, Vera collaborated with 13 PHAs. Four of these Vera-PHA collaborations are described, along with other jurisdictions that are exploring innovations in policies and practices that expand housing access for people with criminal records.