Public Housing Applicants with a Criminal Record: MMLA and SMRLS Offer Advocacy Guide for Service Providers

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This spring, with the support of a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) and Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) released “Public Housing Applicants with a Criminal Record: Advocacy Tips for Service Providers.” 


This valuable guide provides strategies and advocacy insights for providers whose clients are struggling to find affordable housing because of a challenging background or criminal record. While the guide is primarily focused on a public housing search, many of the same principles apply to other types of affordable housing. The guide also considers data on the demographics of Minnesota public housing participants, and how this data is utilized in the admissions policies of various public housing authorities. 

The guide was co-authored by Colleen Walbran, supervising attorney with MMLA, and Laura Jelinek, senior leadership attorney with SMRLS. Jelinek and Walbran, along with many staff attorneys, feel it is critical to challenge unfair, overly-broad screening practices. Unfortunately, both organizations see many cases in which landlords go too far. Walbran recently reviewed a landlord's policy stating that any applicant with a harassment conviction would be banned from applying for life.  Blanket policies are being litigated across the country under fair housing law, including the theory that these practices have a disparate impact based on race.

Read or download the guide on