Fair Share Housing Center Executive Director Adam Gordon has issued the following statement in response to the Assembly Housing Committee’s passage yesterday afternoon of A1919, the Fair Chance in Housing Act, a landmark criminal justice reform bill that would limit the ability of landlords to discriminate against Black and brown New Jerseyans on the basis of prior criminal records:
We are pleased that the Assembly Housing Committee advanced the Fair Chance in Housing Act, A1919, a crucial piece of legislation designed to address the systemic racism underlying our criminal justice system by limiting the ability of landlords from discriminating against Black and brown New Jerseyans on the basis of prior criminal records.
However, we are calling on the Assembly to significantly strengthen this bill before it comes for a final floor vote. As currently written, the bill fails to provide any remedy for the victims. Although a large landlord guilty of housing discrimination may have to pay a fine to the state, that same landlord would not be required to provide housing for the families denied housing. This pernicious loophole would perpetuate the problem, increasing housing insecurity for the very people this bill is trying to help.
At the same time, the New Jersey Apartment Association is continuing to push for further amendments that would weaken enforcement and tilt the scales in favor of landlords by preventing potential tenants from appealing enforcement decisions made by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
Lawmakers must resist these attempts by landlords to continue discriminatory practices while working with civil rights organizations, faith leaders and criminal justice advocates on strengthening the Fair Chance in Housing Act so that it provides true protections and meaningful relief for communities of color that face the continued effects of over-policing and mass incarceration.