NEW JERSEY APARTMENT ASSOCIATION RESPONDS TO
MISLEADING ATTACKS FROM FAIR SHARE HOUSING CENTER ON A-1919
We are once again dismayed and disturbed by Fair Share Housing Center’s (FSHC’s) misleading attacks and efforts to sow a false narrative over concerns with A-1919, the “Fair Chance in Housing Act.”
To be clear, the New Jersey Apartment Association (NJAA) supports second chances for ex-offenders. In fact, we supported A-1919 as it was released from committee in December 2020, which would have been the most progressive ex-offender legislation pertaining to housing in the country. We simply want a bill that balances the important goal of providing second chances to ex-offenders with the rightful expectation of tenants to live in safe housing.
NJAA is asking the legislature to mirror the enforcement provisions in the “Opportunity to Compete Act,” which created “ban the box” for employment, a law that was hailed by all parties as major step toward racial justice.
We don’t feel it is fair to penalize landlords after the Division on Civil Rights determines that a claim was frivolous and we want to provide protections for victims of domestic violence by allowing for a review of all crimes that fall under the broad category of domestic violence. With these changes, we would support A-1919 and we will work with our membership to educate the multifamily industry of their obligations under the law. Yet, despite trying to work toward a solution for one of the most progressive bills in the country, we have been repeatedly and disingenuously attacked by the Fair Share Housing Center.
The ultimate hypocrisy of Fair Share Housing is that they have stated publicly and in testimony that the use of criminal history background checks is discriminatory, yet they themselves use such information and screening methods for their own properties. If such screening is discriminatory, why didn’t they end that practice for their own properties when the bill was introduced two years ago? The fact remains, Fair Share Housing still uses criminal background checks and questions about drug offenses on their applications, as prerequisites toward obtaining a unit in their buildings.
The members of the NJAA range from landlords who own one unit to those who own over 10,000 units. The relationship our members have with their tenants is one of respect and trust and we understand that we have an obligation to provide safe housing. We abide by all state and federal fair housing laws, including New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. As an association, NJAA holds dozens of classes a year to train landlords and their staffs on their responsibilities under the law.
We believe that New Jerseyans expect their lawmakers to pass laws that balance the interests and concerns of their constituents, including the ability of ex-offenders to have second chances, the rights of crime victims and the general public to be and feel safe in their homes, and the ability of landlords, both large and small, to provide safe, decent and affordable housing to millions of residents. The Legislature will make these policy decisions, and they must justify why they did so to the voters. In the end, those voters will hold them accountable.
Debate is a necessary component of developing good policy, and in many cases, people and organizations have varying opinions. That is part of our democracy. However, when it comes to Fair Share Housing, perhaps they should practice what they preach when screening their own tenants instead of attempting to drive attention elsewhere.
Link to Fair Share Housing’s application where criminal background checks are required — https://fairsharedevelopment.org/residents/apply/