HANO change to require landlords, vendors to accept convicted felons

HANO votes to relax criminal background policy
Published: Mar. 30, 2016 at 1:30 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2016 at 1:55 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A sweeping new policy on background checks won approval from HANO administrators Tuesday night. During a meeting, the housing authority opened the door for convicted felons to move into public housing.

Before the policy change, HANO only recommended third party vendors abide by its policy and the vendors were not required to follow it. The amendment makes the policy a requirement.

"Throughout this process, there are some things that have never changed. Y'all have to consider that, and it has a lot to do with the third party," Commissioner Donna Johnigan told the standing-room-only crowd.

Johnigan was the only commissioner who voted against the amendment because she said the policy change did not go far enough.

The commissioners came to their agreement after nearly two hours of testimony from public housing residents.

All who spoke during the hearing were in favor of the change. No vendor spoke out publicly against it.

But even with this amendment, landlords and housing managers who have signed previous agreements with HANO can still legally challenge a person's eligibility based on past criminal history.

HANO president Dwayne Bernal welcomed those challenges.

"It is there obligation to explain to us in legal writing why not," Bernal said. "Then, we will take further remedy to make sure that globally this policy is applied. There is no desire to have exceptions to this policy."

The amendment does not include anyone who has to register as a lifetime sex offender nor anyone convicted of producing a meth lab.

The policy change still needs the approval of Housing and Urban Development. HUD is expected to make its decision within 75 days.

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