The Utah House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday that would ban cities from rewarding landlords who refuse to rent to people newly released from prison or jail.
Good landlord programs were created to educate landlords on ways to prevent code violations and criminal activity on their properties. Landlords who participate receive steep discounts on licensing fees.
But House Minority Leader Brian King says there’s one provision in the program that’s making it more difficult than it already is to get ex-convicts into housing.
“For those cities that have good landlord programs, there are about a dozen of them that say to their landlords who are in the good landlord program, if you rent to someone who has been released from prison or jail in the last four years, we’re either going to throw you out of the good landlord program or we’re going to impose monetary penalties on you that are significant,” King said. “I think that’s wrong.”
King’s Bill HB 178 passed handily on the House Floor, but not before Ogden Republican Jeremy Peterson amended the bill to exclude cities with halfway houses. Peterson says the felony provision of the Good Landlord Program was intended to prevent a concentration of ex-convicts in certain neighborhoods. He says Ogden, in particular experienced an influx of ex-prisoners moving into the city when the largest halfway house in the state was built there in the 1990’s.
“As much as we want to house felons and provide a way for them to reintegrate, that geographic concentration prevented them from being successful,” Peterson said. “And in fact, the neighborhoods began to become very unsafe.”
Opponents of the amendment, including Representative King argued there is little evidence to show that halfway houses are a public safety risk.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.