Montgomery County passes anti-discrimination Housing Justice Act

Maryland

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Finding an apartment or rental housing in our area is hard as it is, but add a criminal conviction on top of that, and you could be looking at a tough time locking in a place to live.

The Housing Justice Act passed unanimously in the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday. Also known as Bill 49-20, it adds restrictions to criminal background checks for those applying for housing. It also prohibits housing discrimination against people convicted or accused of low-level offenses, like trespassing, misdemeanor theft, public urination and possession of marijuana.

Councilmembers behind the bill say some of the crimes now excluded from influencing one’s ability to get stable housing are what they call “survival crimes.”

“Nobody should be denied access to housing because they couldn’t pay a traffic ticket. Nobody should be denied access to housing because they didn’t have access to a bathroom while they were experiencing homelessness,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Councilmember Evan Glass. “Yes, these are real examples of what is happening in our community.”

Councilmember Will Jawando said he hopes the bill will reduce criminal recidivism and remove barriers to re-entry for those who were previously incarcerated.

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