NYCHA to ease ban on ex-prisoner tenants

A handful of former inmates, long banned from living in New York City’s public housing, will be allowed to live in such developments starting next month.

The New York City Housing Authority, responding to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s urging to relax public housing admission policies and aiming to tackle the city’s growing homelessness, will be one of the nation’s first such agencies to dabble in easing restrictions.

Over two years, the pilot program will place 150 ex-prisoners in public housing, provide social services and help them find jobs. Inmates who have been released within the past 18 months or are about to be released will be eligible, and lifetime bans on registered sex offenders and individuals convicted of methamphetamine production on federally subsidized property will continue.

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An estimated 1,500 parolees already live in the city’s public housing projects without authorization, New York housing officials told the New York Times. The easing of such restrictions, according to NYCHA Chairman John Rhea, will enable such residents to come “out of the shadows.”

“As the largest provider of housing in New York, we feel it’s important to be part of the solution,” Rhea told the Times.

Only a few other American cities, including New Orleans, have experimented with changing the admission rules to public housing or Section 8 rental assistance. New York’s version, however, stands out for its inclusion of social services — a factor proponents hope will make it more effective. HUD, whose shelters have absorbed 484 adult former inmates in the last 18 months, will help defray the program’s cost of about $700,000, officials told the Times. [NYT]Julie Strickland