New Jersey Together held a press conference asking Acting New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Bruck to enforce the Fair Chance in Housing Act, a law to ensure there is no discrimination against felons or returning citizens when renting an apartment.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“There is no compliance right now. There are people being unfairly rejected for housing even though this is the law. The law is on the books and it needs to be enforced,” said Pastor Alonzo Perry Sr., of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Jersey City.
Edwin Ortiz, who founded a returning citizens support group, noted the law bars landlords from asking about criminal records and history unless the person is flagged as a sex offender or made methamphetamine in a housing project building.
“The law is not being enforced and people are still being discriminated against. As a returning citizen I can attest to this. I can recall how it felt every time my application was denied due to my criminal record.”
He noted he was forced to live with his mother, sister, and then a motel to get by
“If not for the Reform Church of Highland Park … I would probably still be bouncing from couch to couch,” Ortiz added, also encouraging landlords to rent to returning citizens.
“We believe that everybody deserves a second chance,” said Reform Church Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale.
Jamons Arrinton, who was released this month, said he has been denied a rental apartment multiple times.
“600,000 coming home cannot find places to stay. That has a severe impact on our economy. It impacts the communities they live in. There is no teeth in the bill and support from the top,” noted Rev. Herman Scott.
He asked the AG’s office and municipal governments to embrace the bill and enforce it.
“They have paid their debt to society,” he said of the felons.
Scott noted many who are discriminated against because they were in jail are often forced to return to a life of crime and end up back in jail.
“If there are individuals being discriminated against, you should file a claim with the division of civil rights,” stated James Williams, of the Fair Share Housing Center.
He noted the AG is going to hold a training via webinar to inform people and educate them about the enforcement mechanism.
“They are very welcoming,” activist Boris Franklin said of the Attorney General’s office.
Ortiz noted that even people who had secured a coveted Section 8 housing voucher were being denied access.
“You can’t win,” he exclaimed.
He noted many landlords use screening agencies, therefore New Jersey Together wants to work with screening agencies to inform them of the new law.
New Jersey Together has a Jersey City chapter that has fought for affordable housing and fully funding the school district, as well as branches in Morris and Essex Counties.
Along with New Jersey Together, the Fair Share Housing Center, and the Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of Reform Jewish synagogues, fought for Fair Chance in Housing Act and its enforcement.
Disclosure: Daniel Ulloa is on the Latino Action Network board, which is part of the coalition that advocated for the passage of the Fair Chance in Housing Act.