Newsletter: Fighting Housing Discrimination
The District of Columbia has one the strongest civil rights laws in America. Under the Human Rights Act, residents and workers in the District are protected from discrimination based on 21 traits. That includes the use of housing vouchers to pay rent. Yet a recent study showed that 15 percent of D.C.-area landlords will turn away renters who rely on housing assistance—violating the law in the process. That’s why our office is on the lookout for source-of-income discrimination, and it’s why, in late July, we filed lawsuits against 16 real estate companies and professionals.
Our suit alleges these defendants all took a discriminatory approach to advertising their rental properties, disproportionately harming African American renters in the process. In online posts for rental units in Wards 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8, the defendants explicitly rejected applicants paying rent with housing assistance by noting the properties were “not approved for vouchers” or by plainly stating, “no Section 8.” Given the disproportionate number of African Americans using housing vouchers in the District, discrimination based on source of income is 71 times more likely to impact an African American renter rather than a white renter in the District. Refusing to accept voucher holders, then, is effectively discriminating against African Americans. OAG is seeking a court order to stop this illegal practice, as well as damages, civil penalties, and costs to the District.
With residents already struggling under an affordable housing crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, no one should have to face an additional barrier in the form of discrimination. Report discrimination of any kind to OAG at 202-727-3400 or OAGCivilRights@dc.gov. You can also file a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
Karl A. Racine
Suing NRA Foundation Over Support of Wasteful Spending by NRA
Charitable organizations operating in the District have a legal responsibility to use their funds towards a public benefit. After an OAG investigation uncovered that the NRA Foundation and the National Rifle Association (NRA) had misused millions in charitable funds to support wasteful spending by the NRA and its executives, AG Racine filed suit. OAG alleges the NRA Foundation placed the interests of the NRA above its own and violated DC law when it paid millions in fees to the NRA without oversight and issued millions more in risky loans to the NRA, including a $5 million loan that the NRA never repaid. OAG seeks to recover donated funds that the NRA Foundation wasted.
WIN: Protecting Access to Reproductive Healthcare
Last month, AG Racine helped score a win for access to safe and legal abortion care for individuals who buy health insurance through Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. The victory stems from a lawsuit AG Racine filed earlier this year with six other Attorneys General against the Department of Health and Human Services over a confusing rule that would have required ACA health plans to send separate bills for any part of the premiums that go toward abortion coverage. If a consumer didn’t pay both bills, they could lose all of their health care coverage. The burdens from this rule could have meant that insurance companies stop offering abortion care entirely—but on July 13, the Court struck the rule change down, delivering a big win for reproductive health.
Stopping Deceptive Billing Practices at Nursing Homes
OAG recently stopped deceptive billing practices at two local nursing homes: Washington Center for Aging Services and Stoddard Baptist Nursing Home. These facilities used misleading language in their contracts that suggested that non-resident family members were responsible for paying the senior’s expenses. On numerous occasions, these nursing facilities even filed suit against family members to collect on outstanding payments. Read OAG’s new blog to learn what to look out for in nursing home agreements and how to report unlawful or misleading language.
Cure the Streets Spotlight: Jovan Davis and Lorenzo Sanders
OAG’s “Cure the Streets Spotlight” series continues to highlight violence interrupters who are making their communities safer. Most recently, the series featured Jovan Davis, a Program Manager for the Washington Highlands site in Ward 8, and Lorenzo Sanders, a Violence Interruptor in Ward 7’s Marshall Heights and Benning Heights neighborhoods. Jovan opened up about his personal transformation since becoming a father, and how that informs his work and vision for enhancing safety in his community. Lorenzo shared insight into how he channels his dedication to his family into his work to engage youth in the community, becoming a father figure to many along the way. Don’t miss their stories.
Stopping Online Hate
Facebook has a responsibility to protect hundreds of thousands of District residents—and, indeed, millions of Americans—from hate and harassment while interacting on the company’s online platforms. Last week, AG Racine co-led a group of 20 AGs in calling on Facebook to aggressively enforce its own policies against hate speech, allow third-party audits of hate speech on the platform, and enhance real-time support for victims of harassment.
Fighting Voter Suppression
Formerly incarcerated citizens should regain their right to vote without burdensome voting requirements that effectively block them from the ballot box. Last week, AG Racine led a state coalition in opposing Florida’s pay-to-vote system that disproportionately harms African Americans, the Latinx community, and low-income returning citizens by conditioning voting on paying court-ordered financial obligations. This requirement prevents citizens from voting long after their release from incarceration. Studies show that expanding the right to vote helps returning citizens reintegrate into their communities and promotes public safety.