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Past offenders struggling to find Austin housing

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While high occupancy rates are making it hard for Austinites to find affordable places to rent, it’s become nearly impossible for one group for anywhere to live in this city.

Convicted felons who have paid their debt to society are welcome at only three percent of Austin’s apartment complex’s, according to a search performed by leasing agent Adam Seigel.

"Right now Austin's occupancy rate is sitting around 96 percent which definitely plays in favor of all landlords," Siegel said. "A felony in this city is kind of like a death wish.”

It’s a problem that Katherine Stark, of the Austin Tenants’ Council, said impacts the entire community.

"The problem is when people get out of prison and have a criminal background and they have a job, if they can't find stable housing, their chances of being a productive citizen are slight," Stark said.

Instead of shutting out all convicted felons, Stark says landlords should use common sense and have a reasonable policy when looking back at people's criminal past.

One woman who was convicted of a non-violent crime nearly 20 years ago came to Stark’s mind.

"She was getting shut out of housing. The felony was 17 years old, it happened when she was 17 or 18 years old and it had to do with food stamps," she said.

Siegel says that in Austin’s seller’s market, landlords can afford to be selective.

"You can have all the money in the world, but they can just rent their apartment out to the next person that walks through the door," he said.

The Austin Tenants‘ Council and the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable, a local group committed to help past offenders integrate into society, went before the Community Development Commission at their last meeting. The commission's next meeting is October 9.

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