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The District’s fair housing laws are some of the strongest in the country: Pretty much every minority demographic group counts as a protected class. One of those is the population of 10,596 families who receive rental assistance from the federal government in the form of a housing choice voucher, also known as a Section 8 voucher, which covers the difference between 30 percent of the family’s income (averaging around $30,000) and the market rent of an apartment.
In 2005, the Dupont Circle-based Equal Rights Center ran a test to see how many landlords discriminated against voucher holders, who suffer from stereotypes about the behavior of people on public assistance (there’s an element of racism, too; 77.9 percent of voucher holders in the District are non-white). Out of 100 properties where the ERC had an undercover tester attempt to rent an apartment with a voucher, 61 percent experienced some form of discrimination, which can be anything from outright refusal to accept a voucher to attempting to enforce income minimums for applicants.
Five years later, the results are a little better. In 2010, the ERC ran the same tests on 91 rental properties, over 42 management companies and 38 landlords. The discrimination rate went down to 45 percent, with 26 percent of “voucher holders” being met with complete refusal.
Of course, that’s still not ideal. But the ERC says it shows the effectiveness of education, outreach, and enforcement—landlords can be fined for this stuff.
Read the full report here.