Legislation to ban most criminal background checks for housing applications in New York City appears highly unlikely to come to the floor of the City Council for a vote in its last meeting of the year, sources tell NY1.
The negative outlook for the proposal is an abrupt shift from just a week ago, when NY1 reported the bill appeared poised to head to the floor. Sources tell NY1 after our story, the Rent Stabilization Association, an influential lobbying group representing property owners in the city, aggressively lobbied members of the City Council. As a result, some members withdrew their support for the measure.
In an interview with NY1, the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Stephen Levin of Brooklyn, said: "The fair chance for housing bill would ensure that the tens of thousands of New Yorkers that have had some experience with the criminal justice system are not penalized for life by not being able to have a roof over their head."
He added: "We made significant changes to the bill to accommodate concerns, such as allowing the sex offender registry to be referenced. But there continues to be those that are stoking fear rather than engaging on the legislation.”
The bill would make it illegal in most cases for landlords or real estate agents to factor in someone’s criminal history when determining who gets to rent an apartment. It does provide some exceptions, like checking the sex offender registry.
The legislation has been pushed for years by housing and criminal justice advocates, who argue that people with criminal records are destined to land in the city’s shelter system, because they are perennially denied housing.
Last week, the Rent Stabilization Association encouraged its members to implore their tenants to write to local council members, urging them not to vote for that bill. That effort appears to have swayed some lawmakers, who started to drop their support for the measure.
Wednesday is the City Council’s last meeting of the year. If the proposal does not pass then, it will not this year. It would have to be reconsidered when the new council takes office in January. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office did not return repeated requests for comment.