Report

Housing Disenfranchisement

Background

Under draft rules being considered by the Texas Department of Housing andCommunity Affairs, anyone on the sex offender registry or those with drug manufacturing convictions would be permanently barred from state-supported housing. Others with violent felony convictions would be banned for three years, non violent felony offenders would be excluded for two years, and Class A misdemeanor offenses would result in a one-year ban.

Who would be directly impacted?

Sex Offenders:
As of Fall 2019, there were approximately 752,000 registered sex offenders in the UnitedStates. Nearly 13% of all registered sex offenders were registered in Texas. More people are registered as sex offenders in Texas (94,469) than in any other state, followed by California (78,607) in second place and New York (41,608)and Michigan (40,367) in a distant third and fourth, respectively. There are approximately 3,476 sex offenders registered in the Houston area.
Drug Offenders:
Approximately, 1,654,282 people were arrested for drug violations in 2018 in the U.S. In Texas, an estimate of 148,477individuals (including juveniles) were arrested for drug abuse violations in 2018.
Felony Convictions:
As of 2019, about24 million people in the United States have had felony convictions. Texas has500,474 persons with active felonies in the community and approximately138,926 (5.86%) of the felony disenfranchised are African American. InTexas, more than 84,000 felons were on parole as of August 31, 2018, according to the Texas Department of CriminalJustice. During 2019 , an estimated64,445 people were released fromTexas prisons, and approximately 9,029were released back to the Houston area(Harris County). Texas’ incarceration rate (891 per 100,000 people) is higher than the national average (698per 100,000 people), ranking 7th. The total incarcerated population of Texas is 250,000. Texas locks up a higher percentage of its people than many other wealthy democracies.

Takeaways

People experiencing cycles of incarceration and release are more likely to be homeless. People who have been to prison just once experience homelessness at a rate nearly 7 times higher than the general public. Being homeless makes formerly incarcerated people more likely to be arrested and incarcerated again, thanks to policies that criminalize homelessness. Rate of homelessness or housing insecurity among formerly incarcerated people is 5,700 per 100,000 people. 49% of people with 2 or more arrests per year have incomes below $10,000. The strongest predictor for recidivism is poverty. Banning those with drug manufacturing convictions, violent felony convictions, and Class A misdemeanor offenses from state-supported housing will likely increase the number of homeless people and recidivism rates.

Top 5 Recommendations

  • Repeal policies that impose outright bans on public housing for certain types of offenses.
  • Pass legislation that requires agencies to conduct an individualized evaluation of each applicant with a criminal record before making a decision on the application.
  • Acknowledge the right of all Texas residents to adequate housing that is decent, safe, and affordable.
  • Adopt policies that require individualized consideration of each applicant with a criminal record, prior to making a decision on an application ,to determine whether he or she will pose a risk to existing housing tenants.
  • Monitor denials of public housing to ensure that they are not arbitrary, that they are based on reasonable and individualized determinations of risk, and that they do not have a disproportionate and unjustifiable impact on applicants from racial and ethnic minorities.
Adapted from Human Rights Watch

Conclusion

Overall, research has found that there is no relationship between low income housing and an increasing crime rate. On the contrary, crime has actually been shown to decrease in low income housing areas. Interestingly, the decrease in crime has been demonstrated for both violent and property-related offenses (see chart on previous page). Research also shows that affordable housing draws the attention of high earning home buyers to low-income neighborhoods; however, low income home buyers are led towards areas where salaries are higher and there are fewer minorities. In conclusion, there is no empirical support to justify the exclusion of formerly incarcerated individuals from affordable housing in any neighborhood, including Texas.Barring formerly incarcerated individuals convicted of felonies from state housing increases the likelihood that individuals would end up homeless or relapse into a life of crime to survive. Given that a lack of housing options is a contributor to recidivism, there is a greater need for alternative housing opportunities for current and ex-felons.