Fair Share Housing Center Director of Racial Justice Policy James Williams issued the following statement in response to the Assembly Housing Committee’s decision to advance A1919, the New Jersey Fair Chance Housing Act, without key protections:
We are disappointed that the Assembly Housing Committee voted today to advance a deeply flawed version of the New Jersey Fair Chance Housing Act that would fail to protect Black and brown residents from discriminatory housing practices that drive intergenerational poverty.
A1919 was meant to “ban the box” by preventing landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants with prior criminal records. For decades, landlords have used applicants’ pasts to deny them access to safe, affordable housing.
Current policy also has deepened racial and economic segregation in New Jersey. Because New Jersey has exceptionally high levels of disparities in arrests and imprisonment – meaning that a white person who uses marijuana is likely to receive no punishment while a Black or Latino person in the same situation too often ends up behind bars — criminal background checks are tools of racial discrimination.
Yet today’s version of the bill was unanimously opposed by housing and civil rights advocates, as well as the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office’s Division on Civil Rights, because it contains too many loopholes that would empower landlords to continue discriminating against people of color who have criminal records.
At a time when New Jerseyans across our state are calling on their elected leaders to finally address the problems of systemic racism, we are calling on the Assembly to instead adopt the version of this legislation that was advanced out of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee in July.
Instead of catering to the wishes of the New Jersey Apartment Association and powerful corporate landlords, our lawmakers must stand with the people of New Jersey and against housing discrimination.