Finding housing for felons in California is no easy task and we want to assure you that we understand your struggle.
Every month we have dozens of people ask our organization for this information and as much as we wish we had a list of felon friendly apartments in California, this information is too difficult to gather as we don’t have enough staff on hand to handle the task.
With that being said, we’ve done the next best thing. Below is a list of organizations and resources in California that will help you in your pursuit of felon friendly housing.
Where to Find Housing for Felons in California
If you have just been released from prison in California and now need to obtain housing, you can get help by participating in re-entry programs or by going immediately to your local housing authority or HUD office. Craigslist is another venue where you can locate rental housing as well.
Just don’t bother with large apartment complexes as they usually are run by management companies that do strict background checks.
Again, you want to make your housing search positive. Therefore, try to stay focused on looking for rentals that won’t lead to your being turned down.
Knowing where to seek assistance is one way to better your chance of locating affordable housing. Your friends and family can also offer guidance and help after your prison release.
HUD is always a good source for certain felons, especially if your crime was non-violent or did not involve an offense that involved the selling and trafficking of drugs.
Also, ask lawyers, church leaders, and counselors for help in your housing search.
1. California Housing Authority
In California, the California Housing Authority is part of HUD or the Housing of Urban Development.
HUD in California offers apartments and housing that is affordable for felons and other Californians whose yearly salary falls below the median income for their community.
If HUD does not have any move-in apartments when you apply, you have to sign up on a waiting list. Therefore, it is essential that you sign up for HUD housing ASAP after a prison release to ensure you will be able to obtain a rental.
The HUD in California bases your monthly rent on the amount of money you make yearly.
The concept behind using a housing authority then is to rent a home or apartment that you can afford yourself. Most HUD offices maintain a listing of homes and apartment communities with whom they work who will provide housing to people whose income is insufficient.
HUD sets salary limitations for towns and cities too. As a result, the agency acts as a go-between for the applicant and landlord.
You can obtain further details by reading the housing authority guidelines for California on the HUD website.
2. California Apartment Listings on Craigslist
Again, Craigslist is a helpful resource for a felon seeking rental housing.
Landlords who list properties on Craigslist are less stringent than large rental companies. In fact, some of the advertisers featuring properties will not perform a background check.
Even if you talk to a landlord who does background searches, it is easier to explain your situation to him or her than try to convince a company to overlook your past.
When you visit Craigslist then, choose the state of California link before selecting a preferred city.
Include the rental range. Make sure you are not checking a unit that is part of an apartment complex. You can proceed with the process if you click on this link.
3. Reentry Programs in California
Reentry programs abound in California that allow a felon to get back into the mainstream once again.
If you would like to access the offerings, you can do so by looking at the listings that were documented by the Jobs for Felons Hub for California. All you need to do is view our California Reentry Program page.
4. The California Religious Community
Outside of re-entry programs, you can also obtain job and housing information from California faith-based programs or local churches.
In fact, if you become a member of a church, you may want to ask them about jobs or housing in the community.
5. Referrals From Friends and Family
Housing references can also be obtained from friends and family. If your family member, for instance, knows a rental agent, then you may be able to obtain housing this way.
You may also be able to use him or her as a reference. Ask the people close to you. It never hurts to find out how to find a home by networking in this way.
However, don’t allow a friend or family member to rent an apartment for you. Legally, you could be evicted and sued.
Always make sure your name is on the lease agreement, even if you are not fully paying for the apartment.
Things to Keep in Mind When Searching
California is a golden state of opportunity, even for a felon, as long as he or she stays positive.
Although searching for a job and housing can be a challenging task, it is not insurmountable as California is more lenient toward felons than some of the other states in the US.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when applying for housing in California:
2. Check Your Background First
Before you begin any housing search however, you will need to perform a background check on yourself.
You can obtain the background information you need by following this link. The company will charge you a small fee.
2. Remain Upbeat and Be on Time
Searching for a rental home can be a lengthy process, but it can be satisfying if you make up your mind to approach it positively.
When you are searching for housing then, remain upbeat and make it a point to be on time.
3. Dress Professionally
Dress professionally for your meeting. You want to establish good communications with the leasing agent or landlord as you want to build your credibility. Therefore, make sure you make a good impression.
4. Use Your Time Wisely
Again, don’t expend energy looking at apartments in apartment communities.
Stick to looking at single-occupancy homes or units. You want to deal with a rental manager or landlord that is not part of a big company.
Don’t set yourself up for a lot of disappointment. Stick to looking at housing that is easier to obtain.
5. Honesty is the Best Policy
Always be honest about your past.
While you don’t have to talk about it at length, you still need to address the subject if you want to build trust and move on with your life.
Neither get on the defensive about your crime. What is done is done. You are just working at making amends so you can get back into society.
Additional Information for Felons Looking for Housing in California
Why You Can Be Legally Turned Down for Housing
If you are a felon searching for housing in California or other states in the US, the process can, at first, be rather challenging.
That is because it is not illegal for a landlord to turn down a felon applicant. Therefore, in order to search for rental properties, you need to better understand your civil rights.
You also need to know which properties are easier to rent. Landlords can turn down applicants with a criminal history and are in their right to do so.
Unfortunately, lawmakers, so far, have not made any provisions against this practice anywhere in the US. According to NOLO online, only certain types of discrimination are against the law.
The activity, if illegal, must be classified as one that discriminates against one’s race, religion, family status, disability or ethnicity. Gender and sexual orientation may also be added to those categories.
However, according to NOLO, landlords can still be sued if they discriminate against a felon who was arrested and charged for taking drugs illegally, particularly if the abuse resulted from a mental impairment. That is because the denial falls under the protected class of a disability.
Nevertheless, the owner of a rental unit still can deny the application of a felon who sold or manufactured narcotic substances. Any crime of record that may affect the well-being or security of a rental community gives a landlord the right to turn down an application.
Discrimination that is Arbitrary
However, with that being said, a landlord still has to be careful about a practice known as arbitrary discrimination.
If a felon is turned down for housing, a fellow applicant, who is also a felon, should also be turned down – based on the fact he is a felon.
For example, if a landlord turns down a felon who is Islamic but permits a felon who is Protestant to rent a unit, he can be sued for discrimination.
Apparently, it appears the landlord discriminated against one of the applicants because of his religion. As a result, discrimination is deemed illegal when people under a certain classification are not treated alike.
In California and other states in the US, turning down housing to any felon is not considered unlawful as long as the landlord is not making any distinctions with respect to race, religion, family status, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
You can read more about arbitrary discrimination and “legal” discrimination by clicking on this link.
When seeking rentals in California or elsewhere in the US then, try to concentrate your search of single-occupancy housing versus apartments that are multi-plexes or are part of a large apartment community.
Large apartment companies will run a background check and will not lease to people who have criminal records. In some rare cases, you may be able to rent an apartment if your felony conviction is over a decade old and it was considered non-violent.
Therefore, when searching for housing in California, keep focused on re-entry programs, Craigslist or finding California rental companies that are known to be felon-friendly.
In California, the program, Families Forward offers housing for felons and others with minor-aged children.