June 3, 2021
Housing advocates hail passage of landmark criminal justice bill
Fair Chance in Housing Act would provide remedy for individuals facing housing discrimination
Contact: Anthony Campisi
(732) 266-8221
Fair Share Housing Center Director of Racial Justice Policy James Williams has issued the following statement in response to the Legislature’s passage today of the Fair Chance in Housing Act, a landmark criminal justice reform measure that will curb the ability of landlords to discriminate against prospective Black and brown tenants on the basis of past criminal history:
Today is a historic day for civil rights and criminal justice reform in New Jersey. The Legislature’s approval of the Fair Chance in Housing Act will significantly impact Black and brown communities who have been devasted by our broken criminal justice and housing systems for generations.
The Fair Chance in Housing Act, passed by both houses of the Legislature today, will limit the ability of landlords to discriminate against Black and brown New Jerseyans on the basis of prior criminal records. This discrimination increases recidivism and ensures that the legacy of over-policing in Black and brown neighborhoods continues to follow individuals for years after their release.
The Fair Chance in Housing Act marks the first time that any state legislature has passed a bill limiting criminal background checks in housing. Individual cities – notably including Newark – have shown leadership on this issue over the past decade. Now, it is particularly important to bring this fight to the state and national level, so that the protections these policies provide do not end at any municipal boundary.
The bill adopted today will ensure justice for prospective tenants who have suffered from housing discrimination and gives the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office the tools it needs to ensure that those facing discrimination get relief if the Division on Civil Rights finds that a landlord has violated the law.
We want to thank the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Troy Singleton and Asm. Benjie Wimberly, as well as legislative leaders, particularly Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and for championing legislation that will build a more equitable New Jersey. And we appreciate the significant bipartisan support for this bill, led by Asm. Antwan McClellan, the first Republican co-sponsor.
We also believe it is critical to recognize the broad and diverse coalition that it has taken to get to this landmark day, from civil rights leaders to people who themselves have experienced discrimination based on their past history to rabbis, pastors, imams and congregational leaders who have spoken up for this critical moral issue.
We thank Governor Murphy for his strong support of this bill and look forward to him signing it soon.