WASHINGTON, DC (7News) — It’s being called the largest civil penalty in a housing discrimination case in U.S. history.
Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced Thursday a $10 million penalty against three real estate companies on the allegation of discriminating against people with housing vouchers.
“What a tremendous win for working families in this city," D.C. Councilperson Elissa Silverman said during a press conference announcing the settlement, which you can read here. The District's amended complaint, filed in May of 2022, can be found here.
Public officials and affordable housing advocates reacted following an unprecedented settlement against three real estate companies: DARO Management Services, DARO Realty, and Infinity Real Estate for illegally discriminating against renters with housing vouchers.
"This discrimination perpetuates Jim Crow era racism that pushes Black and Brown families out of certain parts of the District of Columbia," Racine said.
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Racine said his agency uncovered mountains of evidence showing these companies engaged in a deliberate, illegal, and unethical business model to prevent people who get housing assistance from renting from 15 buildings across Northwest D.C.
“Sixty percent of voucher holders are seniors, families with children or people with disabilities. 95 percent of voucher holders are Black. 79 percent of voucher holders are women," Racine added.
Racine said DARO refused to accept certain kinds of subsidies, illegally charged some voucher recipients extra fees, and established new standards for rental applications to prevent voucher holders from renting apartments. While it’s hard to measure the impact, Racine said the results have likely been devastating in displacing Black, Brown and low-income residents.
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"It’s unconscionable that the leadership of DARO was so brazen in their efforts to prevent people from accessing housing how really needed housing," ANC Commissioner Chelsea Allinger told us during a Zoom interview. Allinger lives in a DARO property in D.C.
“And so my hope in today’s historic settlement makes others who are also engaged in these tactics very nervous," Allinger added.
Racine also blasted the D.C. Housing Authority and called for the agencies executive director and board to resign immediately. We reached out to DCHA officials along with attorneys for DARO and Infinity for comment. At press time, they have not responded.