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Virginia-based developer Hossain Kamyab agreed to pay $300,000 to settle allegations that he tried to illegally coerce a woman to sell her home on MacArthur Boulevard NW using racist “blockbusting” tactics.
The settlement with the D.C. Office of the Attorney General allowed Kamyab to avoid admitting fault. But in addition to the $300,000 fine (one of the largest sums the OAG’s Civil Division has secured since its inception in 2019), he and his company Polygon Holdings, LLC must also provide third-party training to employees; Kamyab must identify all properties he or any of his other companies own in D.C. and provide the list to OAG; for the next three years, Kamyab and Polygon must report to D.C. whenever he acquires a new property; he and Polygon also must submit on an annual basis a sworn statement identifying any complaints that he’s violated the Human Rights Act or the Consumer Protection Procedures Act.
In a tweet announcing the settlement, which was finalized Sept. 2, AG Karl Racine says Kamyab’s tactics “are outrageous, illegal, and have no place in the District or our country.
“Anyone who attempts to stoke prejudicial fears or encourage animosity in violation of the law toward a group of people must be called out and held accountable, as we are doing today,” Racine says.
OAG Chief Deputy Vikram Swaruup mentioned the settlement in testimony during a joint hearing of the D.C. Council’s judiciary and government operations committees Thursday. The committees are considering a bill that would clarify the OAG’s authority to bring civil action under D.C.’s Human Rights Act and give the office resources to pursue those cases. Swaruup cited the case as an example of the sort of action the attorney general’s civil division is uniquely positioned to take.
Efforts to reach Kamyab via email and through his attorneys were unsuccessful.
In July of 2021, Kamyab bought half of a duplex on MacArthur Boulevard NW for $1.1 million. His real estate agent offered the owner of the adjoining property $900,000 to buy her half of the duplex. She declined, but about a month later she put her property on the market. The next day, a sign appeared in Kamyab’s yard next door, reading: “SECTION 8& STUDENT ACCOMODATION [sic] COMING SOON.”
By invoking Section 8, the federal housing voucher program, OAG alleges that Kamyab sought to strong arm his neighbor into selling her house to his firm at a reduced price. The tactic, known as blockbusting, was popular with real estate professionals in the 1950s and ’60s, and played on the fears and prejudices of White homeowners, who would sell their property at reduced prices.
“The District alleges that [Kamyab] intended to stoke prejudice in prospective buyers against housing voucher holders and students,” the OAG settlement says.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D first brought the issue to light when Kamyab’s sign went up, and requested the OAG investigate. The ANC also discovered Kamyab did’t have an appropriate business license.
Notwithstanding the six-figure penalty, it appears that Kamyab will get what he originally wanted. Property records show that Polygon Holdings purchased the other half of the duplex in February 2022 for $1.3 million. And in May, Polygon received the Board of Zoning’s approval to turn the two single-family properties into a 17-unit apartment building.