Support Fair Chance Housing Ordinance - Lansing, Michigan

Mayor Andy Schor & Lansing City Council Members

The City of Lansing should consider a housing policy that would give people with a criminal record a chance to find safe and affordable housing for their families within the city. If enacted, the “Fair Chance Housing” policy would end the practice held by some landlords and rental management companies who automatically deny rental agreements to anyone who has a criminal record, no matter what a person’s arrest or conviction record shows or how old the information may be. If approved, Lansing would join several other cities in Michigan that have already enacted similar Fair Chance Housing policies, including major metropolitan areas and smaller cities.

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To: Mayor Andy Schor & Lansing City Council Members
From: [Your Name]

Dear Mayor Andy Schor and Lansing City Council Members:

Last year the City of Lansing initiated its first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan. However, there is still much to be done. Nation Outside (NO), along with its members and allies, believes that the City of Lansing should implement a Fair Chance Housing Ordinance.

According to Mayor Andy Schor, “The City of Lansing is a community where systems of oppression are dismantled and citizens have opportunity and equitable access to all economic and social resources.” (Report on Racial Justice and Equity, 2021). We agree that the City of Lansing should be such a place.

Nation Outside is a grassroots and advocacy organization entirely led by the formerly incarcerated. Our mission is to drive policy and practice reforms that build transformative systems of support for justice impacted people, their loved ones, and their communities.

Housing is fundamental to a stable and prosperous life. Passing a Fair Chance Housing Ordinance would demonstrate that the City of Lansing is willing to support people who are committed to rectifying their mistakes, redefining themselves, and making meaningful contributions to society. According to research, it would also help reduce recidivism and build safer Lansing communities. People who have stable housing are more likely to maintain stable employment, seek after higher education and are less likely to engage in crime.

People who have served their time and are seeking to provide for themselves and their families face significant barriers in finding adequate housing. Formerly incarcerated people are ten times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population. They often accept living in dangerous, dilapidated and yet overpriced housing simply to have a roof over their heads. It is certainly reasonable for landlords to choose tenants with care. But as individuals complete their sentences and return to the community, it is only right that they have a fair chance at a fresh start in a safe and stable environment.

The COVID-19 public health crisis has shown us all how important safe and attainable housing is. However, some of those who seek housing in Lansing can be denied even an application for a lease. The Fair Chance Housing Ordinance allows people with criminal records to complete an initial screening process before disclosing their conviction history. Landlords would retain the right to conduct background checks after a conditional lease is offered, and to deny applicants whose record would impact public safety, property, or other tenants. However, people would be given the chance to offer evidence of rehabilitation prior to final denial by a landlord.

We ask that the City of Lansing join the many other communities across the state of Michigan who have taken on this issue by adopting similar ordinances. Please support the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance and thereby offer access to secure housing for formerly incarcerated people and their families. We believe this ordinance will help make the City of Lansing a more stable community for all of its residents.