The Providence Housing Authority is considering revisions to its admissions policies for convicted felons applying for public housing.
According to the executive director of the PHA, Paul Taveras, the move comes after years of pressure from former convicts and activists. These groups argue the current rules for public housing hurt ex-convicts trying to re-enter society.
Current rules automatically disqualify anyone who has been convicted of a violent or drug-related crime within the last decade from applying for public housing. Rules also prohibit a convicted felon from moving in with someone who already lives in public housing.
Taveras says these rules date back to the “tough on crime” decades.
“And if you look at the result of those it definitely delivers disparate treatment to those who have been incarcerated,” said Taveras.
Proposed revisions would allow convicted felons to apply for housing if they’re not registered sex offenders, and officials would only go back five years into criminal records.
Tavares says that the proposed changes could make public housing more fair and accessible.
There was little opposition to the proposed changes at a recent public forum, which is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development when significant changes, like the ones PHA is considering, are proposed. Tavares says other than residents who want to make sure public housing remains safe, most concerns come from those waiting on long lists for public housing.
“This won’t circumvent the list in any way. People who may have been denied the list may now be able to get on the list. They would still have to wait accordingly. It’s not like they would get preferential treatment,” said Tavares.
The PHA doesn’t have an estimate of how much longer the waitlist would get if these rule changes expand the number of people eligible to apply.
The proposal still needs approval from the Board of Commissioners before it can go to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for final approval.