According to Fox Business, at least 30 NYC council members have declared their support for the Fair Chance for Housing Act – guaranteeing its passage in the 51-member chamber. The law seeks to ban discrimination on the basis of an individual's criminal history or arrest record, essentially putting criminals on the same level as law-abiding citizens in their search for housing.
The law prohibits building owners, agents, employees and real estate brokers from obtaining information about a possible renter's criminal records. However, it does not apply to two-family homes or homeowners renting out single homes. Moreover, New York City Housing Authority compounds will not implement the law as they are federally required to do background checks for potential tenants. The new law also does not prevent landlords from checking the Empire State's sex offender registry to remove perverts as possible tenants.
However, the bill's present language leaves landlords vulnerable as it does not discuss those listed in sex offender registries outside of New York state.
The office of NYC Mayor Eric Adams expressed plans to help enforce the bill once it passes.
"No one should be denied housing because they were once engaged in the criminal justice system, plain and simple," a spokesperson for the mayor's office said in a statement given to Fox Business. "We will work closely with our partners in the city council to ensure this bill has maximum intended impact."
Democratic NYC Councilman Keith Powers supported the measure, writing in a tweet: "It's important that people who've rehabilitated themselves have an opportunity to be able to stabilize their lives."
Andre Ward of the non-profit Fortune Society said the law is long overdue because "about half" of people leaving city jails end up homeless and in shelters. The non-profit Fortune Society helps formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society.
"We think this legislation is critical to supporting people upon their release so they can live a life of contribution," said Ward, who serves as vice president of the group.
The bill's introduction came amid crime rates in the Big Apple exponentially rising in the last few years, including a 31 percent hike in overall crime during the past summer. (Related: Authorities, residents raise alarm: "Crime-riddled New York City may be sliding back into its bloody past.")
Republican Councilwoman Inna Vernikov disagreed with the bill as it could endanger families. While she believed in "second chances," she reiterated that landlords should have the right to see a person's rap sheet.
Vernikov urged the NYC council to "vote no" on the bill, "which would prohibit landlords from conducting criminal background checks of potential tenants."
"Murdered someone? Beat up your girlfriend? Robbed? Stabbed your neighbor? No problem. Come live among us. Would you be willing to rent a floor of your home to s/o who has a long rap sheet and history of burglarizing homes [or] assaulting people?"
Vito Signorile, a spokesman for the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), said many of the 25,000 landlords the group represents are angry about the bill. He added that many members are hearing a lot from current tenants who do not want any part of sharing buildings with violent career criminals."
"We are proponents of second chances when it comes to low-level crimes like drug use, but renting to people convicted [of] more serious crimes like … arson and murder [and repeat offenders] is a whole other thing," Signorile stressed.
Watch this Fox News report below about NYC's surging crime rate, which the new bill could exacerbate.