Called the “Ban the Box” law by advocates, the FCHA aims to stop someone’s criminal history from giving them access to stable housing. Under the new law, landlords may only request an applicant’s criminal history if they’re a sex offender or were convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine in a federally-assisted housing unit. Other offenses may also qualify, but they have narrow time limits on how far back the inquiry may go.
It’s no coincidence that Murphy signed the FCHA into law on the first-ever commemoration of the new federal Juneteenth holiday. Blacks and other minorities have long been disproportionately impacted by weighing criminal history in housing applications, the Governor said. He also cited housing instability as “a known driver of recidivism,” with 30% of prison releasees in New Jersey returning to prison within three years. The criminal justice system also affects a disproportionate number of Blacks and minorities.
“As we commemorate Juneteenth, we must commit to both remembering the past and continuing to take action to ensure communities of color, especially Black Americans, achieve the full equity they deserve,” Governor Murphy said as he signed the law into effect. “Today I am proud to sign the Fair Chance in Housing Act into law and work to level what has been for too long an uneven playing field when it comes to access to housing.”
Juneteenth, a long-recognized holiday in Texas, celebrates the end of slavery in the state back in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, which ended slavery across the nation after the Civil War. It’s believed that Texas was the last state to end slavery after it was outlawed, according to an NPR report on the history of Juneteenth.
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