Investigation Finds Decline in Discrimination Against Individuals Using Housing Choice Vouchers

Investigation Finds Decline in Discrimination Against Individuals Using Housing Choice Vouchers

28 percent of voucher holders encounter housing discrimination, down from 45 percent in 2010 investigation and 65 percent in 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 29, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — In an ongoing effort to investigate the extent to which individuals attempting to use Housing Choice Vouchers face discrimination in the District of Columbia, today the Equal Rights Center released a report highlighting a 28% rate of discrimination against voucher holders. The report, Will You Take my Voucher?, follows up on 2005 and 2010 reports that documented overwhelming, but improving, rates of discrimination against voucher holders in the District.

“The fact that the rate of source of income discrimination in the District has decreased by more than 50 percent in less than 10 years confirms that continued education, outreach and monitoring is improving many families’ ability to use their vouchers,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center. “Despite this progress, more than one in four voucher holders continue to face discrimination. These kinds of barriers to equal housing opportunity simply cannot continue to be tolerated in the nations’ capital.”

Currently assisting more than two million families, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is the nation’s largest federal housing subsidy program. Under the D.C. Human Rights Act, District landlords and property managers are prohibited from discriminating against an individual who chooses to pay rent with a government subsidy, such as a Housing Choice Voucher, or any other lawful source of income.

Discrimination against voucher holders can sometimes be viewed as race discrimination because of the disproportionate adverse impact that discrimination against voucher holders has on African Americans. In the District, while African-Americans represent only 50.7 percent of the total population, more than 90 percent of voucher holders are designated as racial minorities, with the vast majority identifying as African American. As a result, discrimination against voucher holders, especially in the District, results in a significantly disproportionate adverse impact on African-Americans

For nearly a decade, the ERC has monitored landlords and rental management agents in the nation’s capital to determine their compliance with source of income protections, and has worked to end discrimination against voucher holders. In 2003, the ERC began a groundbreaking testing investigation, which culminated in a 2005 report documenting a staggering 61 percent rate of discrimination against voucher holders in the District. In 2010, after five years of targeted education, outreach, and advocacy, the ERC conducted a second testing investigation, which showed that, although compliance with source of income protections had improved dramatically, 45 percent of people seeking to rent housing in the District with a Housing Choice Voucher continued to face some type of discrimination.

In the most current investigation, the ERC conducted 90 phone tests of housing providers in all four quadrants of the District. This testing investigation included rental properties ranging from large and small apartment complexes to basement apartments in row houses. In 28 percent of the tests, a caller inquiring about renting an apartment with a voucher was subjected to some form of discriminatory treatment—including outright refusal to accept the voucher, limiting the use of the voucher, imposing different terms or conditions for a voucher holder, or imposing limitations that would effectively bar a voucher holder from obtaining the housing. The highest rate of discrimination (36 percent) occurred in the Northeast quadrant of the District.

Since the ERC’s 2010 report was released, the voucher system in D.C. has reached a critical point. As of January 2013, the D.C. Housing Authority reported nearly 70,000 families and individuals on the current wait list for the approximately 11,000 vouchers available. With an average wait time of 22 years for a two-bedroom apartment, and 43 years for a studio apartment, in January 2013, the D.C. Housing Authority issued an official notice advising that the District’s wait list will close on April 12, 2013.

To download a PDF of the report, visit www.equalrightscenter.org/willyoutakemyvoucher

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About the Equal Rights Center (www.equalrightscenter.org)
Originally formed in 1983, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) is a national non-profit civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C. With members located in every state and the District of Columbia, the ERC works nationally to promote equal opportunity in housing, employment, disability rights, immigrant rights, and access to public accommodations and government services for all protected classes under federal, state, and local laws.

Contact:
Ashley White, Equal Rights Center, 202.370.3204

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