Listen to this article

CHAMPAIGN — Picking up where they left off six months ago, city council members are ready to discuss changes to the ordinance that allows Champaign landlords to deny renting to most people with felony convictions.

Up for review at tonight’s study session: a proposal that would limit the amount of time landlords can hold felonies against potential tenants, from five years to two.

When council members last debated the topic in June, they opted not to fully repeal language in the city code that had come under criticism for discriminating against the formerly incarcerated and led to more than 700 Champaign residents signing a petition urging the rule be scrapped altogether.

No formal vote was held but another study session was scheduled.

The proposed ordinance they’ll review tonight would also make it clear that the two-year rule refers to convictions in which someone is sentenced to prison, not cases where they’re given probation. It also lists the types of felonies that can be considered by landlords, such as murder, robbery and arson.

The council will also discuss expanding to five the number of recently incarcerated individuals who can live together in supportive group housing.

Right now, up to four non-related individuals can live together in Champaign — with a few exceptions, such as for substance-abuse recovery or transitional housing.

But groups like First Followers who aim to help the recently incarcerated re-enter society could benefit from working with more people at a time.

“They see value in having groups live together,” said Ben LeRoy, an associate planner for Champaign. “They can be supported by each other and potentially by live-in staff.”

LeRoy said he’s asking the council for direction on parameters for supportive group housing.

That could include raising the cap above five, limiting what sort of residential zoning districts they would be allowed in, and deciding whether individuals with certain prior convictions should be excluded.