Public Housing and Restrictions for those with a Criminal Background

There are over 2.3 million people in prison or jail in the United States on any given day. Locating housing for those returning to their community is a monumental task. Every community is going to need to be involved. This includes public housing.  While each individual public housing authority has to follow federal guidelines, there is considerable discretion within those guidelines as to who and when a person is:

  1. Eligible to be apply for public housing or a housing choice voucher

  2. Allowed to remain on the waiting list for housing opportunities

  3. Admitted to housing or receive a subsidy

  4. Allowed to remain in subsidized housing if the recipient or a family member is arrested or convicted

  5. Allowed to remain in subsidized housing if a family member returns from a correctional facility

  6. Allowed to access subsidies if a person completes and or remains in treatment for a substance abuse or mental health problem and continues to access support services.

For more information, read the paper on national restrictions and allowable discretion by housing authorities click here.

As part of the Statewide Collaborative on Reentry, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless worked closely with other advocates, their board members, the Chicago Housing Authority, and the Corporation for Supportive Housing to develop a comprehensive picture of the federal requirements for screening and the current policies of the largest Illinois Public Housing Authorities. Assessing the current plan is the first step in a comprehensive review of restrictions by advocates in an attempt to see if there can be changes and flexibility in allowing those with criminal backgrounds to return to public housing or be eligible for housing choice vouchers (formerly known as Section 8 Subsidies). Click here for the paper on Housing Choice Vouchers or click here to look at the relevant sections of the Comprehensive Plan (ACOP) to understand the relevant restrictions for housing owned by the Chicago Housing Authority.  If you are interested in becoming involved in this discussion, please contact Andrea Hall at