In June, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the FHA Reform Act
of 2010. The bill passed overwhelmingly and is up for debate in the Senate.
The stated purpose of the act is to "improve the financial safety
and soundness of the FHA mortgage insurance program."
However, an amendment added by Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas has some wondering
if the bill goes too far. The Edwards amendment specifically states that
the FHA may not insure any mortgage unless the person obtaining the mortgage
"certifies, under penalty of perjury, that the mortgagor has not
been convicted of a
sex offense against a minor."
This restriction would add to a current federal prohibition against sex
offenders living in Section 8 public housing who are subject to a lifetime
reporting requirement for any state. Additionally, there are other state
specific restrictions concerning how close sex offenders can live to schools
and other locations. While the public deserves some measure of protection,
some groups are asking if the legislative actions of federal and state
governments need to be scaled back.
A 2007 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that some of these restrictions
can do more harm than good. In some cases, the registration requirements
designed to protect the public subjected some past offenders to harassment
and violence. It also prevents the offender from being integrated back
into society and encourages recidivism, making jobs and housing difficult to find.
According to HRW, juvenile and nonviolent, minor offenders should be kept
off the registry. HRW also favors individual assessment of offenders,
as well as reassessment. Blanket bans on sex offenders living in certain
areas should be prohibited; in the most dangerous and serious cases, HRW
advocates for strict, tailored conditions of parole.