FHA@50 Symposium Highlights the Continued Need for Housing Equity Efforts in D.C. and Nationally

Prior to Symposium, Co-sponsoring Organizations Filed Fair Housing Complaint

For media inquiries, contact: Erin Looney, Public Outreach Coordinator, UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, Erin.looney@udc.edu, 202-274-5257

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2018 — Today, the Equal Rights Center (ERC), University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law), UDC Law Review and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (WLC) hosted FHA@50: Renewing our Commitment to Housing Equity, a symposium to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act and explore the present-day challenges to achieving the Fair Housing Act’s promise. The program brought together leading practitioners, academics, attorneys and students from around the country.

“In planning FHA@50, we realized that those of us who care about fair housing need to work more collaboratively to achieve the housing equity that the Fair Housing Act promised,” said Professor Norrinda Hayat, Housing and Consumer Law Clinic Director at UDC Law.

In a demonstration of how such collaborations might work, the WLC and UDC Law Housing and Consumer Law Clinic, representing the ERC, filed a fair housing complaint in D.C. Superior Court in the days leading up to the FHA@50 symposium. The complaint alleges that a pair of local property owners/managers violated the District’s prohibition on source of income discrimination in housing when they posted online ads in 2017 stating that “vouchers or certificates” weren’t accepted at their properties.

Kate Scott, Deputy Director of the ERC, stated, “The source of income discrimination that we uncovered in the investigation that led to this complaint leads to ongoing racial segregation in D.C. By filing the complaint so close to the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, we hope to send a message that housing providers large and small will be held accountable for illegal discrimination.”

The FHA@50 event program further contributed to the evolving conversation about how to effectively address D.C.’s persistent racial and housing inequities by directing attention to complex, intersecting social contributors that to date have not been widely understood or embraced as part of the problem. One such issue is housing providers’ use of criminal record screening policies which too often serve as a modern-day segregation mechanism that disproportionately affects access to safe, affordable housing for people of color in D.C. and across the country.

Catherine Cone, Staff Attorney at the WLC, moderated a panel about the intersection of the collateral consequences of a criminal record and fair housing. “By highlighting how fair housing intersects with other pressing social concerns, like mass incarceration, school segregation and gentrification, we hope to be able to take the comprehensive approach necessary to achieve the promise of the Fair Housing Act,” she said.

The program concluded with a series of forward looking sessions designed to develop an agenda for achieving housing equity in D.C. For example, local policymakers, fair housing advocates, a tenant and attorneys shared the stage for a robust conversation about the future of fair housing in D.C.

Cassandra Simon, Special Symposium Editor of the UDC Law Review, noted, “As students, planning the symposium made it very clear that while the Fair Housing Act has allowed a certain amount of progress in achieving housing equity over the last 50 years, much work remains. We are excited to join the efforts that will continue even after the symposium ends.”

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ABOUT THE EQUAL RIGHTS CENTER: The Equal Rights Center 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 Equal Rights Center’s core strategy for identifying unlawful and unfair discrimination is civil rights testing. When the Equal Rights Center 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 FOR CIVIL RIGHTS AND URBAN AFFAIRS: 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 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DAVID A. CLARKE SCHOOL OF LAW: The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law is committed to the public interest, providing more than 100,000 hours of legal services to over 1,000 D.C. residents through our nine legal clinics. With the largest clinical requirement of any U.S. law school, our top-ranked clinical program provides our students the opportunity to gain both direct client legal service and experience in effective community activism and policymaking. Our flexible day and evening programs offer more students access to an affordable quality legal education and real world experience while continuing to work and meet other responsibilities. For more information, please visit www.law.udc.edu.

ABOUT THE UDC LAW REVIEW: The UDC Law Review is a student-run periodical that publishes articles of topical legal interest. Our aspiration is to serve the community by raising awareness of important legal issues of social concern. Due to its unique position as the journal for the only public law school in the District of Columbia, the UDC Law Review strives to address legal issues that actively affect the lives of District residents. In doing so, the UDC Law Review attempts to embody the theme of community activism and service that resonates in the law school’s mandatory clinical programs.

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