Article from Reason by Christian Britschgi.

Good intentions often lead to bad policy. Consider a new Seattle law that bars landlords from screening prospective tenants for any criminal history.

Passed Monday, the Fair Chance Housing ordinance prohibits landlords from excluding prospective tenants because of their criminal history, from requiring or conducting criminal background checks of those prospective tenants, or from charging them higher rents and security deposits.

“You’ve paid your debt to society if you’ve served your time,” wrote the bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Lisa Herbold, in an August 11 blog post. “Blocking formerly incarcerated people from accessing stable housing is an extrajudicial punishment not consistent with the rule of law.”

It’s true that our current criminal justice system unnecessarily tars citizens with arrest records and criminal histories, and that those criminal histories make it more difficult to find jobs and housing. But attempting to mitigate the effects of a broken criminal justice system by foisting extra costs onto landlords—who have quite understandable reasons to wants to know about tenants’ criminal histories—is not the answer.

Read the entire article at Reason.

Image Credit: By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons