When the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) wanted to increase efficiency and reduce barriers to housing for people who are homeless, they changed the criminal screening criteria for their housing choice voucher program to be less stringent with respect to applicants’ histories of convictions.
Previously, SHA required variable waiting periods after an applicant has been released from incarceration based upon the crime committed. This waiting period had ranged from 20 years for homicide to two years for burglary or criminal assault. SHA changed this waiting period to a uniform time of 12 months.
This standard is currently in use by King County Housing Authority, which has jurisdiction over most of the county surrounding Seattle. Instituting a uniform standard among the two PHAs increased efficiency by allowing families with vouchers the opportunity to move between the two Housing Authorities’ jurisdictions.
Moving To Work (MTW) was not required to implement this program, and no additional funding or PHA resources were required.
SHA offers this advice to other PHAs, “Anecdotally we hear from staff about how this policy has helped parents who had crimes that took place when they were young adults access housing and assist them on a path to success. We would recommend identifying stakeholders and having small meetings with key groups before starting the full public discourse process.”