This article will help answer some questions about public housing for felons. All too often, felons finish their sentences and are returned to live back in normal society, but they are not fully prepared for the reintegration. Some have difficulty finding satisfying career options; others have a hard time just finding suitable housing. Maybe they have family or friends to turn to for aid—a place to stay, even if it is just a room.
However, many times such options are temporary, and other times, the felon either doesn’t have such persons they can turn to, or they choose not to rely on others. Instead they want to be self-reliant and free. In these cases, finding their own home is vital. But setting up an independent home can be challenging for anyone, especially a prior convict, and that is why there are housing assistance programs established to assist felons obtain a secure and clean residence they can be comfortable in.
Information About Public Housing for Felons
One of the obvious hurdles a felon must overcome in their quest to find a decent place to live is the prejudice of landlords. Many landlords don’t want to rent a place to a felon; it is that simple. And truthfully many neighborhoods aren’t keen on welcoming a convicted felon with open arms, either, especially if the conviction was recent and/or the crime was violent or sexual in nature. But in some ways, these negative feelings against prior convicts have been able to force lawmakers to take action that will help felons get their homes.
Can Felons Qualify For Public Housing?
Short Answer: Yes, some felons can qualify for Section 8 HUD public housing depending on the type of felony that they have been convicted of. Each state also administers their HUD/Section 8 programs in slightly different manors which may disqualify some felons, particularly sex offenders.
Section 8 Housing
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is able to offer assistance, but it is known to have a slow response time due to the very high level of applications it receives. Here are a few facts about HUD and Section 8 housing…
In a nutshell, Section 8 of the Housing Act was designed to help with rental payments to landlords. Felons, especially those who are recently released, can have a tendency to fall into a substandard income bracket. This is quite common, and as a result, they need financial aid in order to make even a low-to-average monthly rent payment. Thus low-income housing, “Section 8 housing” (or sometimes called the housing choice voucher program) can provide a valuable subside for such low-income renters.
If they are able to obtain such aid as Section 8, a landlord has less ability to discriminate based on low income, or other factors. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is managed locally via public housing agencies. There are various requirements for qualification, such as low income and/or low value of total assets. Additionally tenants have to be screened for any “criminal activity, alcohol and drug abuse.” But simply passing a screening is not a guaranteed ticket to ride.
Landlords and Section 8
Private landlords generally are not held to any particular federal law which requires them to provide housing to somebody if they choose not to. They cannot be forced to rent to a felon, but again, proving an ability to pay the rent on time is a huge check in the plus column.
Qualified renters receive vouchers to pay for up to 70 percent of their monthly rent. These vouchers may be “project-based,” which means they can only be used for “specified apartment complexes,” or “tenant-based, in which case it can be used in any private unit.”
Section 8 benefits are widely used, but also widely sought after. As a result, it is useful to apply as quickly as possible, and to let your potential landlord or apartment management company know about any status updates, in case others are looking at the same rental unit. Meanwhile, as far as the felon’s candidacy for Section 8 benefits, it is important to understand what factors will be looked at, in terms of their criminal record.
Felonies and Section 8 Housing
The reviewing official will consider when the felony was committed and what type it was. Certain types of felony convictions automatically disqualify a person from being able to obtain Section 8 benefits. Furthermore, each state has its own rules and regulations regarding Section 8 benefits for felons, and sometimes a state may choose to reject an applicant until a predetermined number of years have passed since the felony conviction, regardless of the offense.
Here are the Section 8 benefit disqualifying felony types:
• Sex offenders
• Drug traffickers
• Various types of fraud
• Violent crimes
HUD regulations contain a “one-strike rule for criminal activity in public housing.” Some of these offenses are considered mandatory; others discretionary. It’s up to the public housing agency to make the determination. But “any individual whose criminal history includes a lifetime registered sex offender status or a conviction for producing methamphetamine in federally subsidized housing is barred for life from participating in the housing voucher program.” Otherwise, the applications are reviewed case-by-case.
As always, this website is not intended to provide legal information and we highly encourage all questions to be directed to a professional attorney or to a qualified parole officer.
HUD Housing Grants
HUD Housing grants are another important option to consider for former felons seeking housing assistance. Many states are home to private or public organizations which offer grants of one form or other which do not have to be paid back.
Usually funds come from various charities within the state which desire to assist felons on their journey to reintegrate into society. Clearly it is beneficial to everyone if a felon is able to find a good job and a good home; this greatly reduces their odds of falling back into a pattern of criminal behavior. To this end, many church organizations have also set up programs to aid felons like Catholic Charities Housing Program.
Halfway Houses and Reentry Programs for felons
Few like the sound of a halfway house, reentry program or transitional houses as they are more properly known. But staying at a halfway house after prison release is hardly the worst thing that can happen to a felon. In fact it offers an opportunity to ease back into regular society, instead of being thrown back unprepared. Funded by subsidies, these forms of public housing for felons are rent-free for residents, which alleviates the burden and stress of tenants making payments. It thus frees up time and allows the felon to focus on other things, such as getting back on their feet, finding work, making healthy social connections or reconnecting with family or other loved ones who were waiting for their release.
Indeed in some situations a felon is required by the terms of their parole to stay at a halfway house. This way they are offered a lifestyle of some structure and accountability, versus total freedom living alone. Freedom is obviously the ultimate goal, but some are not ready for it. Some are perhaps struggling with personal issues, either internal or external…or both. Physical limitations and mental health issues are very real problems which a certain percentage of felons suffer from, and for this reason a halfway house may be the perfect solution for those in need.
With a halfway house, a felon has some small tasks to perform and are also subject to room searches, in an effort to ensure no resident is bringing in contraband or other illegal items. Too often, felons fall back into old patterns of living and maintain connections with criminal acquaintances who exert pressure on them to return to their old ways. A halfway house can help to counteract such pressure.
Just because a halfway house has certain rules and checks doesn’t mean it is a return to some sort of prison life. There is certainly far more freedom given than one would have while incarcerated, and again, many felons greatly benefit from this transitional form of residence. But as the name implies, it is not a permanent solution.
Most states offer halfway houses or similar types of shelter, available for a period of months up to a few years. But it is crucial the felon find a good job and make an attempt to find their own residence as soon as they are ready and able
Reentry and Transitional Housing Search
For more information about transitional housing and reentry programs can be found here. Hopefully this article provides useful information for felons in need of assistance finding a new place they can call home!