February 2, 2024
A civil rights organization claims two Washington, D.C., apartment complex owners discriminate against Black people by unlawfully creating boundaries for applicants with eviction or criminal backgrounds or who qualify for Section 8.
Civil rights organization Equal Rights Center said the owners of upscale apartment complexes Latrobe Apartment Homes and Vaughan Place created unlawful barriers for people who have criminal records more than seven years old and evictions more than three years old. The complexes also refused to accept applicants receiving housing vouchers, 95% of whom are Black residents, even though the complexes can, according to the complaint filed Thursday in Washington, D.C. superior court.
Brian Corman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, counsel for ERC, told Law360 on Wednesday that this case emphasizes the importance of vouchers and the legal protections for voucher holders.
“Vouchers remove a lot of the barriers that would otherwise restrict low-income families from the ability to obtain housing outside of areas of poverty,” Corman said. “When there is voucher discrimination, voucher holders, a lot of the time, have to accept subpar housing in segregated neighborhoods or risk losing their voucher.”
Under Section 8, voucher holders are free to choose any housing in the rental market if it doesn’t exceed the monthly rent set by the D.C. Housing Authority. In February 2023, Latrobe Apartment Homes had one-bedroom units starting at $2,359 and Vaughn had one-bedroom units for $2,195 and the authority’s maximum rent was $2,467.
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ERC is represented by Brian Corman, Madhuri Belkale of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and Joanna K. Wasik of Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.