Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) proposed a bill aimed at increasing housing aid to former inmates and prevent unnecessary evictions, Politico reports. The bill, backed by the NAACP, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the National Housing Law Project, was announced two months after Harris introduced legislation to assist public defenders financially. Her focus on criminal justice reform could soften criticism of her record as a prosecutor. Harris and Ocasio-Cortez say the plan is necessary to reduce recidivism rates by increasing the likelihood that formerly incarcerated individuals can find stable housing.
It would prohibit tenant evictions over a single incident of minor criminal activity as well as the eviction of an entire family because of a guest’s criminal activity. It also would require that public-housing applicants who are denied housing because of a previous criminal record be able to appeal. The bill would increase the amount of evidence needed for denying an application based on a criminal record and requires that tenants be given a reason for a denial. It also requires that public housing authorities provide data about how many applications were denied each year because of an applicant’s record. Additionally, the bill aims to curb the use of alcohol and drug testing by public housing authorities, by prohibiting testing as a condition for approval of an application. At least one other presidential candidate has made a proposal on prisoner reentry. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has introduced legislation to help ex-inmates find jobs.