Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is asking a new task force to help the city decide how to reduce barriers to housing for people with criminal records.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will announce a new, 18-member task force Tuesday to work on how the city can reduce barriers to housing for people with criminal records.
The volunteer task force will develop proposals to address rental-housing discrimination, provide wider access to rent assistance and increase enforcement of Seattle’s existing fair-housing ordinances, according to Murray’s office.
The members will include representatives from a number of advocacy organizations and from groups representing both tenants and landlords — the Tenants Union of Washington State and the Rental Housing Association of Washington.
“Creating an affordable Seattle means we must have equitable access to housing for everyone,” Murray said in a statement.
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“Too many of our residents face lifelong barriers to housing due to their criminal histories long after they have served their sentences and paid their debt to society. Lack of fair access to housing can lead to homelessness and deeper dependence on public services. We must ensure everyone in our community has a fair chance to find a stable home.”
Last month, a coalition led by Columbia Legal Services and the Tenants Union launched a campaign for Seattle legislation banning landlords from automatically rejecting all would-be tenants with criminal records.
The Rental Housing Association criticized the proposal, arguing people in Seattle “want to know they’re safe” and therefore want their landlords to be allowed to screen out tenants with criminal records.
A task force on reducing barriers to housing for people with criminal records was among recommendations made last year by Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory (HALA) Committee.
The U.S. Department of Justice has estimated that 33 percent of adults in the country have criminal records, according to the mayor’s office.
“This is about addressing the aftermath of mass incarceration. We hear every day from clients, community groups and advocates that criminal records are a major barrier to housing,” Merf Ehman of Columbia Legal Services said in a statement.
The members of the task force will be:
Billie Abers, Capitol Hill Housing; Afamefuna Ayika, BlackOut WA; Marcel Baugh, Seattle Human Rights Commission; Derrick Belgarde, Chief Seattle Club; Rod Brandon, Seattle Housing Authority; Cameron Carl, Seattle Goodwill; Augustine Cita, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle; Merf Ehman, Columbia Legal Services; Eric Ellman, Consumer Data Industry Association; Mahnaz Eshetu, Refugee Women’s Alliance; Liz Etta, Tenants Union; Sean Flynn, Rental Housing Association of Washington; Andrew Kashyap, Racial Disparity Project; Mario Paredes, Consejo Counseling and Referral Service; Joe Puckett, Washington Multifamily Housing Association; Pastor Lawrence Willis, United Black Clergy; Clinton Wilson, FareStart; Kira Zylstra, AllHome.