HUD wants to change how fair housing testers with criminal records are used

Posted On: October 31, 2023

In an era of criminal justice reform and social change, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced a groundbreaking Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The goal is to eliminate restrictions on the use of fair housing testers with prior criminal records. This proposal not only addresses an issue of social equity. It could also significantly contribute to our ability to understand and combat housing discrimination more effectively.

A Second Chance for Fair Housing Testers

Fair housing testers play an essential role in identifying systemic biases in the housing industry. These testers mimic real-world housing transactions to uncover racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination. However, the recent announcement from HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge brings a renewed focus on giving individuals with criminal records an opportunity to contribute to this critical mission.

“Through this new rule, we can ensure people with criminal records.. aren’t facing unnecessary barriers,” Fudge said. “People reentering society, and those with criminal records, deserve a fair shot at a second chance. This rule helps us get there.”

Problem-Solving: Why This Rule Matters

1. Tackling Discrimination with Authenticity

Current regulations disproportionately exclude people of color from becoming fair housing testers. This exclusion perpetuates a cycle- at the same time making it harder to detect racial discrimination in housing policies. Hence, removing restrictions allows a more diverse group of testers to investigate whether screening policies are applied in a discriminatory manner.

2. Real-World Applicability

While initial reactions to the proposal have been varied, it’s essential to ground our understanding in hard data. Previous rules are set in outdated beliefs that a tester’s criminal history could undermine their credibility in court. However, modern fair housing investigations rely more on audio and video recordings. The emphasis has shifted from witness credibility to irrefutable evidence, making the prior restrictions less relevant than ever.

Learn what the proposed rule means to you and your property here.

Fair Housing Testers and the Importance of Flexibility

Flexibility is a cornerstone for success in any initiative. By eliminating these restrictions, HUD allows its partners in FHIP and FHAP-funded entities greater latitude in conducting their tests. They will also be able to adjust strategies to tackle evolving forms of discrimination.

Towards an Equitable Future

The proposed rule change by HUD is a laudable effort to make fair housing tests more inclusive and effective. It gives a second chance to people with criminal records while, at the same time, equipping agencies with diverse tools to investigate housing discrimination. It’s a win-win situation for not only for social justice advocates but also for policy practitioners. It’s an instrument for revitalizing communities and empowering people—values that resonate deeply within the fabric of the housing industry.

Public comments are open until December 29, and it’s an opportunity for all stakeholders to contribute to this important discourse. If passed, the rule is a significant step towards fulfilling HUD’s mission and our collective vision for an equitable, discrimination-free housing landscape.

Update: Comment period extended into January 2024. Learn More.


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