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Protecting the Fair Housing Rights of People with Criminal Records

A National Reentry Week Event with HUD

Millions of Americans—a disproportionate number of whom are people of color—have criminal records that can be a barrier to housing. In celebration of National Reentry Week, the Shriver Center and the Vera Institute of Justice hosted a webinar on April 28, 2016, on fair housing rights for people with criminal records.

Earlier in April 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued groundbreaking guidance stating that admission denials, evictions, and other adverse housing decisions based on a person’s criminal record may constitute racial discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. HUD’s actions have made housing an important part of the national conversation on criminal justice reform.

Featuring the head of HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing, this webinar gave an overview of recent guidance issued by HUD, including the Shriver Center’s 2015 report that HUD offered as a resource to public housing authorities. We also covered examples of best practices across the country, such as a pilot program to reunite families in New York City and an innovative way of screening in New Orleans.

Speakers

Lourdes Castro Ramírez
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Public and Indian Housing
HUD

Lourdes M. Castro Ramírez manages a budget of more than $26 billion and leads a team of 1,300 professional employees nationwide, who oversee and support 4,000 public housing authorities and 566 Native American communities, to provide safe and quality affordable housing and create opportunities for resident self-sufficiency and improved quality of life for 3.2 million households. Her career in affordable housing and community development began in Ventura, California as a community planner. From there, she joined the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles as the Director for the Jobs-Plus Demonstration and later as Director of the Housing Choice Voucher program. In early 2009, she became the President and CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority. She received both her MA in Urban Planning and BA in Political Science and Chicano/a Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Margaret diZerega
Project Director, Center for Sentencing and Corrections
Vera Institute of Justice

Margaret diZerega works on a range of projects related to family contact and families’ role in reentry for adults and youth in correctional settings. Most recently, she has been working on public housing access for people with conviction histories including developing the Family Reentry Pilot Program with the New York City Housing Authority. Before starting the Family Justice Program at Vera in 2009, she was the director of training and technical assistance at Family Justice. Prior to that she was a program officer for LISC’s Community Safety Initiative providing technical assistance to police and affordable housing developers. She holds a BA in American Studies from Williams College and a MPA from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Dan Hafetz
Senior Advisor to the General Counsel
New York City Housing Authority

Dan Hafetz focuses on special projects in the areas of strategic policy and operations at the New York City Housing Authority. He served as counsel to the Committee on Health at the New York City Council, where he drafted health-related legislation and conducted oversight over New York City’s public health and hospitals agencies. He received a Skadden Fellowship to work at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A in the Community and Economic Development Unit, where he provided transactional, corporate, and real estate services to community-based nonprofits. Earlier in his career, he was a New York City Teaching Fellow. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University, where he majored in anthropology, and graduated from Fordham University School of Law. 

Amy Solomon
Director of Policy
U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs

Amy Solomon provides policy guidance on issues including prisoner reentry, justice reform, urban policy and place-based initiatives, health reform, and emerging initiatives focused on building trust between the justice system and communities of color. She established and chairs the Federal Interagency Reentry Council working group, spearheading policy improvements affecting public safety, housing, employment, education, veterans’ issues, and access to treatment, healthcare and benefits. She spent 10 years at the Urban Institute, directing projects relating to prisoner reentry and public safety, and worked at the National Institute of Justice, where she developed community crime-reduction and reentry initiatives. She holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Marie Claire Tran-Leung
Staff Attorney, Housing Justice
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

Marie Claire Tran-Leung advocates on behalf of low-income people to reduce unfair criminal records barriers to affordable housing. In 2010, she was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship for a project to increase the use of the Fair Housing Act to challenge such barriers. She most recently authored When Discretion Means Denial: A National Perspective on Criminal Records in Federally Subsidized Housing. Her prior work has included expanding employment opportunities for people with criminal records and preserving subsidized housing. She earned her B.A. from Northwestern University and her J.D. from Loyola of Los Angeles Law School, where she was named a Public Interest Scholar and received a post-graduate fellowship.

Further Reading

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