FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 11, 2023
Equal Rights Center Files Suit Against District Housing Provider Who Only Accepts “students and young professionals between the ages of 18-35”
Complaint Alleges Harrington Housing Discriminates Against Those Most in Need of the Affordable Housing it Offers
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Today, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court alleging that Harrington Housing violates the D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA) by refusing to lease rental units on the basis of age, familial status, disability, and sex. The complaint also alleges that by violating the DCHRA in the context of a consumer transaction, Harrington also violates the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act (DC CPPA). The ERC seeks declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and monetary damages through the lawsuit.
Harrington Housing advertises the apartments it rents as being in “luxurious highrise buildings with high-end amenities” and as affordable to interns, students, and young professionals. It describes its apartments as “beautifully furnished rooms less than the market rent”. A graphic on Harrington’s website claims that market rate units in DC run at $1485/month, other co-living costs $1850/month, and student housing is $1780/month. Harrington Housing’s shared rooms, in comparison, rent for $880/month.
However, the results of a civil rights testing investigation conducted by the ERC indicate that District residents who may be most in need of the affordable housing Harrington offers – including families with children, people with disabilities, and people older than 35 – cannot access it due to the company’s discriminatory policies.
For example, when a civil rights tester posing as a college student with a baby inquired about housing options with Harrington, she was told that she could only rent a non-shared and thus more expensive studio apartment, because her baby “makes things difficult in shared housing.” When the tester emailed Harrington to follow up, the company responded, “We only accept students and young professionals between the ages of 18-35.” During another test, a Harrington representative said that a tenant with a visual impairment who had a service dog would have to rent a non-shared unit because of their service animal.
Over 85 percent of seniors in D.C. and nearly 35 percent of adults with disabilities have incomes at or below the federal poverty level. Of families living below the federal poverty level, over 70 percent have children. Harrington offers some of the most affordable housing in the District, yet is preventing some of the people who most need affordable housing from living there.
The complaint alleges that the ERC investigation revealed Harrington Housing has a policy or practice of refusing to people who are over 35 years old, people with children, and people with disabilities, and maintains a policy of refusing to rent certain units to applicants based on their sex.
ERC Executive Director Kate Scott states, “Today marks the 55th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act and it is appalling that such blatant housing discrimination continues to exist. People in our communities have multi-faceted identities that are protected by law. College students have babies but need affordable housing, people older than 35 are interested in shared housing opportunities, and people with disabilities can thrive in shared living arrangements that accommodate them. By investigating discrimination at Harrington and taking this action today, the ERC is fighting to defend the fair housing rights of our neighbors, who are legally guaranteed a fair shot at a home that meets their needs.”
ERC is represented in this matter by Handley Farah & Anderson. Partner Matthew Handley added, “The D.C. human rights and consumer protection laws prohibit housing providers like Harrington Housing from engaging in the discriminatory practices alleged in the complaint we filed today. Failure to follow these laws denies housing to the people in the District most in need of such housing: families, older people and members of the disability community. This lawsuit aims to stop this practice.”
The full complaint is available here.
Kate Scott, Executive Director
Equal Rights Center
firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 370-3220
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 HANDLEY FARAH & ANDERSON: Handley Farah & Anderson are lawyers who seek to improve the world. Based in Washington, D.C., they fight for: workers deprived of wages, consumers deceived about products, tenants denied access to housing, farmers mistreated by processors, parents deprived of adequate parental leave, investors who were defrauded, small businesses harmed by antitrust violations, persons with disabilities denied access, whistleblowers who uncover fraud, and women and communities of color subject to discrimination.