Three real estate firms that allegedly denied voucher-holder access to rentals or imposed illegal requirements on low-income applications have been ordered to pay a $10 million settlement, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced Thursday.
DARO Management Services, DARO Realty, and Infinity Real Estate also have received a lifetime ban from managing property in the District.
The agreement, announced at a noon news conference, counts as the most significant civil penalty in a housing discrimination case in American history.
“When landlords break the law and refuse to accept vouchers, it’s reminiscent of Jim Crow-era housing discrimination policies intended to restrain opportunities for Black residents,” Racine said. “We’re sending a message to all landlords: If you follow this playbook, you will face the consequences.”
The suit was in response to the trio of firms and several of their executives violating civil rights and consumer protection laws in 2020.
Racine said those laws protect low-income renters who receive government assistance.
He noted that investigators found discriminatory practices at 15 buildings owned or operated by the companies in Wards 1, 2 and 3.
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said she’s relied on voucher programs to get homeless families and individuals out of shelters and off the streets.
Reportedly, approximately 11,500 low-income households receive aid through the Section 8 voucher program.
The District’s Rapid rehousing voucher program provides subsidized rent for four months to a year and serves as an emergency that prevents families from losing their housing.
It also helps to keep families out of homelessness and places them into stable homes.
Racine said discrimination makes it more difficult for the city’s most vulnerable residents to find safe, stable homes.
According to the attorney general’s office, 60% of HUD housing voucher recipients are seniors, families with children, or people with disabilities.
Ninety-five percent are African Americans, 70% are women, and 32% are single mothers.
“Housing vouchers help our most vulnerable residents keep roofs over their heads, including seniors, people with disabilities, and single mothers,” Racine asserted. “Every District resident deserves safe, stable housing, including the 11,500-plus District households who rely on vouchers.”