It all started with an online ad. In April 2017, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) discovered that an online advertisement for rental housing in Washington, D.C., stated very clearly, “No Section 8.” Following this, the NFHA conducted an investigation that concluded that the residential developer behind the ad was in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977 and the federal Fair Housing Act, alleging that it both systematically and directly discriminated against people with Housing Choice Vouchers. The NFHA has now filed a fair housing complaint with the Washington, D.C., Office of Human Rights against Evolve, a property development company based in the District since 1997.
In order to deter those with Housing Choice Vouchers, Evolve’s website requires prospective tenants to indicate if they use a “Section 8” voucher to pay rent. Those who selected “yes” in NFHA’s investigation were not allowed to schedule a viewing. When inquiring about apartments, NFHA’s investigation also found that the company’s owners consistently indicated that they did not accept Housing Choice Vouchers. Some of Evolve’s multi-family projects include Pierce School Lofts and Barbara 203 among others.
In a report published in 2013 by non-profit Equal Rights Center (ERC), it was revealed that voucher holders in Washington, D.C., were subject to housing discrimination 28 percent of the time between July 2011 and January 2013. This number improved from 2005 when the ERC found that there was a 61 percent rate of discrimination. In 2010, that number reduced to 45 percent.
In 2013, the Housing Voucher Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), assisted more than 2 million families in the U.S. By January of that year, the D.C. Housing Authority reported that nearly 70,000 families and individuals were on the wait list for the approximately 11,000 vouchers available. According to a press release from the NFHA, a person renting an apartment in D.C. with a voucher is 92 times more likely to be black than white.
“Black D.C. residents and families with children are already being pushed out of the city in droves due to gentrification, unaffordability, and the lack of living wages,” said NFHA President and CEO Lisa Rice in a statement. “Even when provided with support, families still have difficulty securing housing because companies like Evolve find them unworthy of living in their properties. It’s not only illegal but immoral. Evolve does not get to determine who lives in D.C. Families with children and black residents have a right to live here too. Their source of income shouldn’t matter.”
• Complaint Narrative [National Fair Housing Alliance]
• Will You Take My Voucher?: An Update on Housing Choice Voucher Discrimination in the District of Columbia [Equal Rights Center]