Montgomery County Council Approves the Housing Justice Act

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Montgomery County Council Approves the Housing Justice Act

On Tuesday, April 20th the county council approved the Housing Justice Act, which prohibits landlords from considering certain types of criminal records in rental applications.

The “Housing Justice Act” was introduced by Councilmember Evan Glass back in December.

“No one should be denied housing because they couldn’t afford to pay a traffic ticket or because they didn’t have access to a bathroom while experiencing homelessness”, Glass said in a tweet on Tuesday.

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 20, 2021

ROCKVILLE, Md., April 20, 2021—Today the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved the Housing Justice Act, which will strengthen protections against housing discrimination in the County and help to advance racial equity and social justice. This legislation limits inquiries into certain types of arrests and convictions in rental housing applications and requires increased transparency during the criminal background and credit check process. Councilmembers Evan Glass and Sidney Katz are the lead sponsors and Councilmembers Will Jawando, Craig Rice, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer are cosponsors.

“With the passage of the Housing Justice Act, we are ensuring that residents who have experienced homelessness or were incarcerated for minor offenses are not discriminated against when they apply for permanent housing. We know that some housing policies were originally designed to restrict socio-economic diversity, and the passage of this legislation is one step to correcting decades and centuries of injustice,” said Councilmember Evan Glass, the Council’s Lead for Homelessness and Vulnerable Communities. “I am proud to have championed this issue alongside Councilmember Sidney Katz and to have the support of community groups who work with most vulnerable residents.”

“Montgomery County residents exiting homelessness often face discriminatory housing practices rooted in systemic racism,” said Councilmember Sidney Katz. “The Housing Justice Act equalizes the power differential between landlords and prospective tenants, ensuring clarity and transparency of rental application requirements. It also acknowledges the need to more deeply understand an individual’s experiences and humanity. Thank you to Councilmember Evan Glass, Council staff, and the many public and private stakeholders who contributed to the introduction of this important legislation.”

The Housing Justice Act will require landlords to include any criminal and credit history requirements on their rental applications; prohibit inquiries or consideration of certain arrests and convictions in rental housing decisions; and make housing decisions based on market demands, not source of income or other discriminatory factors.

Existing fair housing legislation does not compel landlords to list offenses considered in the rental decision, credit history requirements, and rent fees on their lease applications. In addition, landlords are not mandated to explain why a rental application is denied. This lack of transparency can mask discrimination based upon race and ethnicity, source of income, and criminal history resulting from life-sustaining activities undertaken during periods of homelessness.

The Council staff report can be viewed here.

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