The city of Oakland, California could become the first in the state to ban landlords from denying potential renters based on their criminal records.
A new measure passed by the Oakland City Council last week aims to ease homelessness, and will undergo a final review in February before coming into law. Similar measures have already come into effect in cities such as San Francisco and Seattle.
Under the new rules, landlords in Oakland would be barred from asking prospective tenants to disclose their criminal histories. Any landlord who violates the rule could face a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation. Advocates of the new rule say it will help ex-c0nvicts who’re often discriminated against based on their history and therefore struggle to find stable housing and rebuild their lives. This could ultimately reduce homelessness, the proponents add. They note that homelessness grew by 16.4% in California last year.
“We’ve all made mistakes,” said John Jones III, who was formerly incarcerated, in an interview with CNN affiliate KPIX. “Who wants to be permanently punished for a mistake they made?”
Jones, who now works as an aviation mechanic, was released from prison in 2012 but has struggled to find a home since then because of his criminal history.
Single-family homes and government-funded housing will be exempt from the Oakland ordinance. Further, landlords can still consider the sex offender status of a potential renter when evaluating rental applications.