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Does a criminal background make you a worse tenant? Lawmakers look for answers

Delaware Public Media

Delaware lawmakers debated new protections for renters in the state Monday.


The state’s African American Task Force approved a couple recommendations focused on access to fair housing for Delawareans.


One recommendation commissions a study looking at the relation between a tenant’s criminal background and their housing outcomes.


The other creates a bill of rights for Delawareans experiencing homelessness  — something lawmakers also introduced last session.


Adria Buchanan sits on the Delaware Fair Housing Task Force, and says these proposals are a critical piece of the fair housing puzzle


“I would like to see more of the conversation going towards how do we work together to find the language and find the process where people who need housing are able to get it and they’re not having something that they did in the past that really is not presenting any danger to people or to property — making sure that doesn’t impact their ability to attain housing,” Buchanan says.


Members of the Task Force raised concerns about the third proposal to ban municipal crime-free housing and nuisance ordinances statewide.

Policy Staffer Caitlin Delcollo says that proposal is closely tied to another, which calls for a study looking at the relationship between crime and housing outcomes.


“The reason we would like to do this study is to find out what extent criminal records do impact housing so that landlords are not denying applicants on the basis of having a record when that record is not likely to actually negatively impact their tenancy,” Delcollo says.


Both sides agreed the language of the proposal needs to be changed.

State Rep. Frank Cooke says getting rid of nuisance ordinances would mean littering, loud music and abandoned cars would run rampant in the state.


But the intent of the proposal is not to ban nuisance laws, but to ban city ordinances empowering landlords to evict tenants for minor infractions.


That recommendation was pulled to re-work its language.


Other subcommittees are also making progress, with hopes to present recommendations by the end of the year, in time for the next legislative session.


Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.