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Durham Housing Authority clarifies arrest policy for Section 8 applicants

Durham Housing Authority board voted unanimously to clarify the arrest policy for people applying for Section 8 vouchers. New language on the DHA website will specify that prior arrests without a conviction do not constitute proof of past unlawful conduct. An arrest alone will not preclude someone from applying or receiving a voucher.

Applicants with felony convictions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A conviction alone might not disqualify someone from the Section 8 program. “We must look at the nature of it,” said board member Bo Glenn, accounting for mitigating circumstances such as the applicant receiving drug treatment.

As BCR reported last week, Gudrun Parmer, director of the Criminal Justice Resource Center in Durham, which works with ex-offenders, had approached Glenn and board chairman Dan Hudgins about the housing crisis facing people leaving jail or prison.

Glenn broached the issue based on a directive from federal housing and justice officials that gives local housing authorities leeway in accepting ex-offenders and people with an arrest record but not convictions into Section 8 programs and public housing. (Certain offenses are still off-limits: registered sex offenders and people convicted of felony meth distribution charges.)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “states than an arrest alone can’t be grounds for denial,” Glenn said, noting that in the DHA administrative plan regarding Section 8, “the word arrest appears in nine places.”

Nor can a voucher be withdrawn solely on the basis of arrest.

Glenn was concerned that DHA would violate the Fair Housing Act unless the agency ensured people with an arrest record were allowed to apply for Section 8.

DHA attorney Eric Pristell countered that DHA policy does comply with federal law, but that  policies need to be updated to better mirror the Office of General Counsel.”

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