The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has approved an ordinance that is expected to curb homelessness in the county, according to racial justice and human rights groups.
The Wilma Chan Fair Chance Housing ordinance passed Dec. 20 with the support of four out of five supervisors. The ordinance prohibits public and private property owners from using a criminal background check when evaluating an applicant for rental housing in unincorporated parts of the county.
Seventy-three percent of residents of Oakland homeless encampments had a criminal record, according to a 2018 survey by the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, human rights group Just Cities and The Village, a group of unhoused leaders.
The ordinance must pass a second reading in January before it becomes law.
“Fair Chance Housing is a commonsense public policy solution,” Board of Supervisors president Keith Carson said in a statement.
Alameda County Supervisor Dave Brown said, “I am grateful that my colleagues voted for the Wilma Chan Fair Chance Housing ordinance. Wilma Chan and I have been strong supporters of removing discrimination and providing the support formerly incarcerated residents need for successful reentry.”
“We are facing structural discrimination on par with redlining, but instead of racist covenants and purchase agreements, now criminal background checks are the barrier,”Dorsey Nunn, All of Us or None co-founder
Brown took over for Chan on the Board of Supervisors following Chan’s untimely death in a collision in the city of Alameda last year.
Advocates of the ordinance said it is the nation’s first countywide Fair Chance Housing ordinance. Formerly incarcerated people will have the chance to get a place to live based on the strength of their housing applications.
“Fair Chance Housing removes the albatross of one’s past and allows people access to the housing we and our families need,” said Dorsey Nunn, co-founder of human rights group All of Us or None in a statement.
Nunn added that formerly incarcerated people return home and “can’t even live with family members” without putting them at risk.
“We are facing structural discrimination on par with redlining, but instead of racist covenants and purchase agreements, now criminal background checks are the barrier,” Nunn said.
Over 5,000 adults are on probation in Alameda County and 47 percent are Black, according to the county’s probation department. Only 10.7 percent of the county population is Black, according to the U.S. Census estimate for 2021.