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D.C. nonprofit offers online fair housing course designed to prevent discrimination

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A recent study found 15 percent of local landlords said they did not accept vouchers

Rowhouses in D.C.

It is against the law for District landlords to refuse to rent to families who have government-subsidized housing vouchers, including through the federally funded “Section 8” program. But such “source-of-income” discrimination still happens often enough, with a 2018 study finding that 15 percent of local housing providers said they did not accept rental vouchers.

A new online course from the D.C.-based Equal Rights Center (ERC) aims to change that. “In response to the frequent discriminatory ads, the ERC decided to develop this course about fair housing laws in the District,” explains a recent release. “The District is unique in that it has 11 fair housing-related laws and protected classes, many of which beyond the federal Fair Housing Act’s scope. Many housing providers operating locally are unaware of the specific laws and best practices for complying with them.” The 1.5-hour course costs $55 per person.

Although the D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits source-of-income discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and educational institutions, some landlords continue to market units using language like “no Section 8” and “vouchers not accepted.” A pending bill by At-Large D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman would raise the penalties for advertising one’s intent to discriminate in this way. The legislation received preliminary support from most of the councilmembers when it was introduced this past March but has yet to receive a hearing.