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Detroit approves housing ordinance to give ex-prisoners fresh start

It was a unanimous vote toward fair housing in the City of Detroit.

"It is the ban the box for housing," said Janee Ayers, Detroit City Council Member at Large.

It was a personal victory for Ayers, who proposed The Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, which will require landlords in the city to follow a Ban the Box policy for returning citizens from jail.

The ordinance states that if the applicant has a criminal record they may be denied housing only for crimes relevant to the safety of others.

"Only after you've done your typical credit checks, or reference checks and you've deemed them qualified. then at that point do a criminal background check," Mayor Mike Duggan said.

It's a fair chance at housing. Ayers said her father was in and out of the prison system and she knows returning citizens need support when they are released from prison.

"When we talk about about what it takes to be a world class city we have to have world class legislation that is inclusive for everyone," she said.

People like Karlos Harris who is Chief Operating Officer at Detroit School for Digital Technology, but previously he served a total of 11 years on several breaking and entering offenses.

"When I go in because of my criminal background and I attempt to sign a lease, I'm denied because of my criminal background," she said.

Returning citizens say its policies like this that keep them out of the system. Richard Speck is a Community Organizer for the ACLU but he also served time for robbery and gun related offenses.

"The first two times I was released, consequently I re-offended, because I did not have safe and stable housing," Speck said.

Ayers says it will be at least 6 months before the ordinance goes into effect and for now they want to educate landlords on the policy.

"We want to say to these citizens who paid their debt, you are fully welcomed in this community," Duggan said.


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