Today, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson failed to bring Intro 2047 to a vote, despite a majority of council members supporting the bill and support from Mayor de Blasio. The bill would have protected the nearly 750,000 New York City residents who have a conviction history from housing discrimination–88% of whom are Black and Latinx.
The City Council squandered an opportunity to enact a measure that would have had a significant impact on lowering the number of people living in shelters and in the streets.
The Fair Chance for Housing Coalition worked tirelessly to pass this historic legislation aimed at lowering the number of people living in shelters and expanding access to housing to families impacted by the criminal legal system.
Housing discrimination is one of the most serious problems faced by people with a conviction record, no matter how old the conviction is.
According to DHS data, a top reason people enter shelter is recent release from jail or prison. It costs $3,800 a month to house a person in emergency shelter and $37,000 a month to detain a person at Rikers Island.
The bill would have been a significant step toward reducing the number of people in shelters and living on the streets without any cost to taxpayers and no liability for landlords. Research shows that a conviction record reduces the probability by over 50 percent that a landlord in NYC will even allow a prospective tenant to view an apartment.
Research also shows that providing greater access to housing would make NYC safer, as stable housing gives people exiting incarceration the stability to move forward with their lives and avoid behavior that can result in re-incarceration.
Access to housing reduces the time spent on the street after incarceration, reducing the likelihood that people will run afoul of laws that criminalize homelessness, such as laws against loitering, sleeping in public, and panhandling.
The bill’s sponsor, Council Member Stephen Levin, has a strong record of enacting measures to address homelessness in New York City, including increasing housing voucher amounts to cover a fair market rent so families could move out of a shelter.
He championed the bill as a matter of fairness and justice, saying that “Safe and stable housing is a right every New Yorker deserves, yet conviction records continue to be used to punish and discriminate against people long after they have left the criminal legal system.” At a recent City Council hearing, the NYC Department of Homeless Services said the jail-to-shelter pipeline is the biggest reason people languish in shelters. Intro 2047 would have gone far toward addressing this, if the City Council had acted.
A majority of council members supported the bill and have spoken out in favor of passing Intro 2047, including Council Members Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers, Tiffany Caban, and Alicka Ampry-Samuel. It also had the support of Speaker-hopeful Adrienne Adams.
But some council members were turned away from the bill by the fear-mongering of the Rent Stabilization Association, a property-owners and real estate industry interest group that also opposed the eviction moratorium enacted in response to COVID-19 and 2019 changes to the Rent Stabilization Law to expand protections from tenants and preserve rent-stabilized housing in New York City.
Intro 2047, also opposed by the Rent Stabilization Association, would have increased critical housing access at a time when the eviction moratorium is ending in January.
At the bill introduction in August 2020, Council Member Robert Cornegy, Chair of the Housing Committee, said “We must dismantle the many obstacles to reintegration that justice-involved individuals face and this Fair Chance for Housing Act would do precisely that. We need to center fairness, equity, and inclusion in crafting housing policy for our shared communities. Alongside colleagues and advocates, I look forward to continuing to promote these principles as we advance the Fair Chance for Housing Act and make inroads in this key area of stability and well-being.” As the bill moved forward, he flip-flopped and revoked his sponsorship, as did Council Members Vallone and Koslowitz.
Inaccurate news stories also played a role. A factually wrong CB2 News story characterized the bill as “11th hour attempt” and alleged that the Council was ramming through the bill.
In fact, the bill was introduced in City Council in August 2020, public hearings on the bill were held in September 2020, and the bill had been pending with strong support for 16 months.
Council members and the Speaker had an opportunity to leave a legacy of justice by ending unfettered discrimination, decreasing the number of people living in shelter, and increasing safety.
They failed the most vulnerable New York City residents.
Photo credit: Jeroen Stevens