Sex Offenders Pursuing Healing In Adversity (SOPHIA Network)
September 2006 Apartment Hunting “Call Study:” Final Results
By: Derek W. Logue of OceFallen.com
IMPACT ON RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS ON AVAILABLE POST-RELEASE HOUSING: A practical analysis
In recent years, sex offender residency laws have come into vogue. As of 2006, 22 states had some form of residency restriction: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. (Marcus Nieto and David Jung, California Research Bureau, “The Impact of Residency Restrictions on Sex Offenders and Correctional Practices: A Literature Overview,” 2006, p.17). These laws have come under fire as studies have shown such laws to be ineffective (Minnesota Dept. of Corrections, “Level Three Sex Offenders- Treatment Placement Issues, 2003, p. 19; Minnesota Dept. of Corrections, “Residential Proximity and Sex Offense Recidivism in Minnesota, April 2007; Colorado Dept. of Public Safety, Sex Offender Management Board, March 2004). Residency laws have led to a number of negative consequences, including giving offenders ample incentive not to register or “go underground” (Monica Davey, “Iowa’s Residency Rules Drive Sex Offenders Underground,” New York Times, March 15, 2006) or into homelessness (Wendy Koch, “Many sex offenders are often homeless.” USA Today, Nov. 18, 2007).
It should go without saying residency laws restrict the number of available housing. After Cincinnati increased their residency restrictions in January 2007, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the number of “multi-family housing units” (I. e., apartments) off limits increased from 38,674 to 54,447; the actual percentage of housing now off limits jumped from 44% to 60%. (Jessica Brown, “Law Pushes Sex Offenders to Suburbs,” May 1, 2007, Cincinnati Enquirer). One deficiency in the aforementioned report is the true availability of those remaining “40%.”
In June 2005, I received my first notice that my apartment that had been pre-approved by the sheriff’s office was in fact within 1000 feet of a school. In anticipation of a forced eviction, I began hunting for a new residence beginning in October 2005. This is significant because Ohio’s residency laws only restrict Registered Sex Offenders (RSO) from residing within 1000 feet from a school. Cincinnati’s January 2007 ordinance added daycare facilities, recreation centers, city pools, and boys’/ girls’ clubs to the list of restrictions. This “study” was conducted mainly during the summer months of 2006; thus according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, 56%, rather than 40%, of the housing in the city limits is theoretically available to sex offenders. Of course, even had the ordinance been in place during the time this study was made, it only would have impacted only those residences within the city limits; county and suburb residences would not have been affected.
This exercise was not intended to be a “study” per se, but an actual job hunt. However, as the numbers began to pile up, I found it necessary to document and analyze the various responses I received from the many landlords I contacted.
This study involved calling prospective landlords and asking them if they would rent to an RSO. All of the prospects met the following criteria:
All of the residences were located in Ohio. All Kentucky and Indiana residences were excluded. Virtually all residences (maybe with one or two exceptions; I happened to find my new residence while jogging) were found in the Cincinnati Enquirer classified ads.
There was a $405 limit on rent (as I was on a limited budget, as most sex offenders share a common characteristic, namely poverty)
With few exceptions, all apartments were either studio or one-bedroom apartments.
One noticeable (but unsurprising) pattern is the location of the bulk of potential residences were in lower income neighborhoods such as Avondale or Price Hill, while apartments in more affluent neighborhoods such as Hyde Park were underrepresented in this study.
SOPHIA Sept. 2006 Research Study Script
“Hi, my name is ___________, and I am looking for an apartment under $400 a month for a friend of mine. But first I must ask if you are willing to rent to a registered sex offender?”
If no, ask why. If they do state a reason, mark it down. If they were particularly nasty or rude, note that as well. Reasons can vary; personal, too close to a school, fear of losing tenants or of the notification laws causing trouble are the most common responses.
If yes, ask for the address of the apartment. Verify the address with the local sheriff’s department in accordance with the state’s residency restriction laws, if applicable. If the apartment meets the residency requirements, write “verified” if not it must be listed as “no-too close”
If you get voice mail leave a message– use the same line as the first line on this script and add if they can rent to a sex offender to call back.
SAMPLE CALL LIST
Community: Norwood Community: Price Hill
Number: 513-555-5555 Number: 513-555-1234
Rent Price: $385 mo. 1bdrm Rent Price: $300 mo 1 bd, $400 mo. 2bdrm
Will rent: NO-Rude Will Rent: Yes, $15 app. Fee
Reason: None given Reason: NA
Address: NA Address: 1313 13th St.
Verified:NA Verified: Yes
The responses were categorized as follows:
No- just a no with no clear reason given
Rude no- consider marking a renter as such if s/he responds in a very ill manner to the question or uses crude or vulgar language in reply
No, but: put a renter here if they say they would if not for a variety of things, such as fear of losing tenants, community flyers, or because they are aware that their property is too close to a school or other restriction
Unavailable- already rented out
Yes- people who say they will rent to RSO. This includes people who say yes but do not know if their property meets the residency restrictions of their area.
Verified- Many renters still do not know if they meet the residency restrictions of their state if applicable, thus the address must be verified with the local sheriff’s office. The residence is ‘verified” if you, the surveyor, affirm with the sheriff that the property meets the requirements of the state’s residency restrictions.
NCB- This is unreturned messages or numbers that are disconnected or wrong.
76 people responded NO (54% of all calls). Of the 71, seven of them would rent to an RSO if not for the residency restrictions or community notification; nine were particularly rude and vulgar to the caller; and the rest gave no particular reason for denial.
6 apartments were unavailable, specifically because they were filled (4% of all calls)
7 people stated they will consider it (5% of all calls). Of the seven, 3 addresses are confirmed (1.5% of all calls), one unconfirmed by the caller but allegedly confirmed by the renter (noting this renter will only rent to those deemed “sexually oriented offender,” the low risk category in Ohio’s three-tiered registry), and the other three are not available at the moment and was told to call back at a later date. Only one renter is not charging an application fee for credit checking purposes; the average application fee noted is $25.
37 calls are regarded as No Call Backs (NCB, 28% of all calls), mainly because these were calls where voice mail was left and subsequently never returned the call. Also included in this statistic were calls in which the listed numbers were wrong numbers, possibly the result of number changes or errors on behalf of the source of the ad, but is statistically insignificant. However, in the case of left messages, it can be assumed the NCB to imply a no response, though unverified.
If you eliminate the NCB from the study (leaving 94 residences), the percentages are 80% No, 6% unavailable, 7% yes, and 3% confirmed yes.
The number of actual available housing (1.5% with NCBs, 3% without) was far below the 56% availability stat offered up in the newspaper analysis, which reportedly came from the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. Even if you added the number of those willing to rent to an RSO and the landlord who stated he would rent to a Tier 1 offender, this number would still be far below the listed number. Of those who refused rental, it is worthy to note the number of landlords openly hostile to the prospect of renting to an RSO slightly exceeded the number who otherwise would be willing to rent to an RSO if not for the law. Also of great importance was the number of landlords who would not return the calls; please note that the caller identified himself as a sex offender, or, in the case of a female assistant, was calling on behalf of an RSO.
The impact of residency laws on available housing is statistically significant. If not for the laws, a total of 14 residences would be available to n RSO (11% with NCBs, 15% w/o NCBs). Still significantly below the projected 56%, but the law negatively impacts 78% of potential housing for an RSO. This is important because, “Although these laws were passed as a means to decrease recidivism and promote public safety, the resulting stigmatization of sex offenders is likely to result in disruption of their relationships, loss of or difficulties finding jobs, difficulties finding housing, and decreased psychological well-being, all factors that could increase their risk of recidivism” (Hollida Wakefield, “The vilification of sex offenders: Do laws targeting sex offenders increase recidivism and sexual violence?” Journal of Sexual Offender Civil Commitment: Science and the Law, 2006, p. 141).
Being more a study derived from a necessity rather than from a controlled environment, there was little initial planning regarding methodology and only during the course of this exercise did a certain need for data become evident. As such there were a few deficiencies in reviewing the available data collected during this exercise. Firstly, this study was limited to the Cincinnati metropolitan area in accordance with a residency rule which has since been expanded to include more restrictive areas. Also, those fortunate enough to have sufficient income would be assumed to have more housing options available; it is worth noting the aforementioned Enquirer report also states “78% of convicted sex offenders live in areas where the average household income is below the county median.” Of the list of the 10 communities with the most sex offenders, eight of the ten communities are considered “ghettoes” or low-income and rather notoriously high-crime areas.
Certainly I would love to see this study replicated under other conditions. In particular, a study should be conducted in states that have not passed residency laws, along with states with stricter residency laws. Indeed, other states have stricter residency laws than Ohio or even the city of Cincinnati. My theory, based on the available data I have collected from this exercise, obviously states the more restrictive the law, the more negative the impact on the RSO. And that is a lose-lose situation for everyone.
Derek W Logue of OnceFallen.com
Project Completed: September 26, 2006
First Report: December 6, 2006
Current version: January 14, 2008
ADDENDUM: In October 2014, I was required to move to a different address as the result of community gentrification, not as the result of residency restriction laws. In 2011, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that residency restrictions are punitive and cannot be applied retroactively (to anyone convicted before . Since my conviction was in 2001, residency restrictions no longer applied to me.
In searching for a new apartment, it took me a month and 34 property contacts before settling on a new residence (three of the 34 had stated they would rent to me, but I liked one apartment the best). My better results in my October 2014 residence search compared to my 2006 residence search could be attributed to a combination of not having to deal with residence restrictions and having more experience with finding housing as the result of my ongoing activism and running the OnceFallen.com website.
It was considerably easier searching for housing when not having to find a potential housing lead then taking the address to the Sheriff’s Office to verify the residence met the residency restriction requirements.