EQUAL RIGHTS CENTER SECURES PROTECTIONS FOR TEMPORARY SUBSIDY HOLDERS AS IT RESOLVES SOURCE OF INCOME DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT AGAINST DC HOUSING PROVIDER
Washington, D.C.—December 20th, 2018—The Equal Rights Center (“ERC”) has resolved its claims against Belmont Crossing Apartments, LLC and Oakmont Management Group, LLC (collectively, “Defendants”) following an October 2018 D.C. Superior Court ruling that found that Defendants’ refusal to rent housing units to applicants who wished to pay for all or a portion of their housing costs using short-term subsidies constituted source of income discrimination under the DC Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”). To resolve the lawsuit, the parties entered into a consent agreement and injunction that applies to all of Defendants’ properties in DC and requires them to (1) cease discriminatory practices against prospective tenants on the basis of source of income; (2) display signage at their rental properties that states that the properties accept short-term or temporary housing subsidies or Housing Choice Vouchers (“Vouchers”) as payment for all or a portion of a tenant’s rent; and (3) provide a monetary payment of $310,000 to the ERC to cover its damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Temporary housing assistance programs are often referred to as “rapid re-housing” subsidies. These subsidies provide time-limited financial assistance to individuals and families who are living on the street or in emergency shelters and are meant to move people from homelessness into housing as quickly as possible.
ERC Executive Director Melvina Ford comments: “Especially during the holiday season, it is important to remember the numerous homeless individuals and families in D.C. for whom temporary housing subsidies could be a lifeline. We applaud Belmont Crossing and Oakmont Management Group for committing to stop turning away potential tenants who use housing subsidies.”
In its May 2017 complaint available here, the ERC alleged that Defendants violated the DCHRA by refusing to rent to potential tenants who wished to pay for a portion of their housing costs using short-term or temporary subsidies and by making discriminatory statements—which the ERC discovered via civil rights testing—when telling prospective tenants that Defendants would not accept short-term or temporary subsidies. On October 22, 2018, DC Superior Court Judge John Campbell granted the ERC’s Motion for Summary Judgement and ruled that temporary subsidies are included in the DCHRA’s prohibition against source of income discrimination. Along with the consent agreement and injunction, this ruling could have a major impact on the enforcement of source of income protections as it applies to short-term subsidies and other types of vouchers in the District. A copy of Judge Campbell’s order can be found here, and a copy of the consent agreement and injunction can be found here.
The ERC was represented in this matter by Morrison & Foerster LLP and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the WLC, comments: “In a rapidly gentrifying city, temporary subsidies are essential to ensuring that all District residents have housing opportunities. These subsidies, like Housing Choice Vouchers, are a critical source of stability for families at risk of homelessness. This case establishes that no landlord can discriminate against voucher holders – regardless of the type or duration of the voucher.”
Brian Busey, Morrison & Foerster Senior Counsel, states: “Morrison & Foerster is proud to have worked with the Equal Rights Center and Washington Lawyers’ Committee to help ensure that source of income protections in D.C. are effectively enforced for various types of housing subsidies—an important facet of safeguarding the human rights of homeless and low-income D.C. residents.”
Kate Scott, Deputy Director, Equal Rights Center
Gregg A. Kelley, Director of Development & Communications, Washington Lawyers’ Committee
Timothy Gallivan, Associate, Morrison & Foerster LLP
Michele Trichler, Associate, Morrison & Foerster LLP
Brian Busey, Senior Counsel, Morrison & Foerster LLP
ABOUT THE EQUAL RIGHTS CENTER: The ERC is a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington DC and nationwide. The ERC’s core strategy for identifying unlawful and unfair discrimination is civil rights testing. When the ERC identifies discrimination, it seeks to eliminate it through the use of testing data to educate the public and business community, support policy advocacy, conduct compliance testing and training, and, if necessary, take enforcement action. For more information, please visit www.equalrightscenter.org.
ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs was established in 1968 to provide pro bono legal services to address issues of discrimination and entrenched poverty. Since then, it has successfully handled thousands of civil rights cases on behalf of individuals and groups in the areas of fair housing, equal employment opportunity, public accommodations, immigrant rights, disability rights, public education, and prisoners’ rights. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org.
ABOUT MORRISON & FOERSTER LLP: Morrison & Foerster is a global firm of exceptional credentials. Our clients include some of the largest financial institutions, investment banks, and Fortune 100 technology and life sciences companies. The Financial Times has named the firm to its lists of most innovative law firms in Northern America and Asia every year that it has published its Innovative Lawyers Reports in those regions. In the past few years, Chambers USA has honored MoFo’s Bankruptcy and IP teams with Firm of the Year awards, the Corporate/M&A team with a client service award, and the firm as a whole with the Global USA Firm of the Year award. Our lawyers are committed to achieving innovative and business-minded results for our clients, while preserving the differences that make us stronger.