Human Rights Initiative reveals coupon discrimination in Virginia

HRI Founder Aaron Carr and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (Facebook, Getty)

The advocacy group that slapped brokers and bigwigs in New York City and its suburbs with income discrimination lawsuits has hit the road.

An investigation by the New York-based Housing Rights Initiative found that 29 landlords and brokers in Virginia unlawfully discriminated against low-income tenants by refusing to accept their Section 8 vouchers.

The State Attorney General has filed 13 lawsuits against the offending parties. HRI, who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, may be entitled to compensatory damages as an injured party, said a spokesperson for the group, for “the frustration of its mission and the misappropriation of resources which occurred as a result of the discriminatory conduct.

HRI, a nationwide nonprofit, suffered a tear in 2021. This is the third successful lawsuit filed following a secret real estate investigation. In March, HRI hit 88 homeowners and residential brokerages, including Compass and Corcoran, with a section 8 discrimination lawsuit. In June, 36 defendants in Westchester received the same treatment.

The Virginia lawsuit is HRI’s largest action outside the Empire State to date, a spokesperson for the group said, and the first of its kind in Virginia.

In 2020, Virginia updated its Fair Housing Act to include four new protected classes – source of income, veteran status, gender identity, and sexual orientation – under the protection of the anti-discrimination law. housing.

Aaron Carr, founder and executive director of HRI, credited the legislative amendment with allowing the non-profit organization to “shed light” on illegal housing practices. HRI has been made aware of potential widespread discrimination by a fair housing ally, the HRI spokesperson said.

“We hope that our investigation, this trial, Virginia’s anti-discrimination laws and our partnership with the attorney general’s office will serve as a model of housing enforcement for the rest of the country,” Carr said.

New York added a source of income discrimination to state human rights law in 2019 after a coalition of more than 100 organizations lobbied for change.

However, the Fair Housing Act does not include the source of income as a class protected from discrimination at the federal level. The law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status or national origin.

“The findings of our investigation demonstrate why Virginia’s ban on housing voucher discrimination is desperately needed at the federal level,” said HRI deputy director Joshua Murillo.

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