SAVANNAH, GA- The City of Savannah is temporarily suspending its Crime Free Housing Program amid concerns of discrimination.
The program allows rental property managers to deny housing to people with criminal histories in an effort to protect residents.
City leaders put the program on pause after the ACLU of Georgia, Georgia Legal Services Program and Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council sent a letter to police. The stakeholders said they believe the housing policy prevents individuals who already paid their debts from finding a new place to live.
Advocacy groups also said that they believe the program is too broad, arguing that rental property owners can deny housing to an elderly person with a criminal history from his or her teenage years or block someone convicted of driving with an expired license.
Cindy Murphy Kelley, Executive Director of the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless, said that people with criminal histories who don’t have anything to lose are more likely to resort back to crime.
“They don’t have a place to live, they don’t have a job, they’re on the street and they’re more likely to return to crime. Most people who come from our community that go to prison come back to this community, and if we don’t ensure that they are allowed to integrate in our society, we’re going to pay the consequences of that,” said Kelley.
The city says they are working with advocates to examine the program. Kelley hopes this will create more affordable and workplace housing.