Rachel Batterson, director of the Housing Discrimination Law Project at Vermont Legal Aid, was interviewed by Channel 22 about new federal guidelines that are making it easier for people with criminal records to find housing.
According to the new guidelines, landlords must consider carefully before screening out applicants based on criminal history. They also can't screen some people, but not others, for criminal records if who they screen is based on race or other bases prohibited by the Fair Housing Act.
Rachel clarified what this means: "If 90 percent of the time you check the criminal background of African Americans but you don't check the criminal background of white people, you are discriminating against African Americans."
The Housing Discrimination Law Project investigates when people report that they believe they have been discriminated against. “We will send an African American and a white person out to apply for the same apartment and compare how they're treated," Rachel explained. “People of color, immigrants, people with children are all discriminated against at a pretty high rate, some of them almost to the 50 percent level."
HUD also cautions landlords not to consider arrests that don't lead to convictions and to consider what crime the applicant was convicted of and how long ago it happened.