FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2, 2020
Contact: Izzy Woodruff | 202-898-1661 | IWoodruff@nationalfairhousing.org
National Fair Housing Alliance Settles Housing Discrimination Case with Evolve, LLC
The D.C. landlord was accused of discriminating against people with Housing Choice Vouchers
Washington, D.C. — Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) announced a settlement agreement with Evolve, LLC (“Evolve”), a privately-owned development company that owns and manages multi-family properties in Washington, D.C. The terms of the agreement, which include adopting an affirmative non-discrimination policy, will help expand housing options for Black, Latinx, and female-headed households with children throughout the District.
“Housing in the District is already out of reach for many residents of color and families with children due to gentrification and stagnant wages. On top of that, we’re now grappling with a coronavirus pandemic that hits those in need the hardest,” said Lisa Rice, NFHA’s President and CEO. “It’s so important, particularly now, that we remove any and all barriers to fair housing, which includes curbing the widespread practice of denying housing to those with Housing Choice Vouchers. This settlement with Evolve is an important step in the right direction, and I hope other housing providers take heed.”
Over the course of an investigation that started in 2017, NFHA found that Evolve used its website to deter prospective tenants who intended to use Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers. When prospective tenants visited the company’s website and attempted to schedule an apartment viewing, they were required to identify whether or not they intended to use a “Section 8” voucher to pay rent. If they selected “yes,” the system prevented them from scheduling a viewing. NFHA’s investigation also found that when testers called Evolve to inquire about viewing an apartment, the company’s owners consistently indicated they did not accept Housing Choice Vouchers.
NFHA filed a complaint against Evolve with the District’s Office of Human Rights in 2018, and, along with the Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic, filed a federal lawsuit against the company in 2019. In both cases, NFHA alleged that Evolve discriminated against people with Housing Choice Vouchers and that the company’s practices perpetuated residential segregation and had a disparate impact based on race, color, national origin, sex, and familial status in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
The Housing Choice Voucher program allows participants to choose where they live; landlords that engage in unlawful discrimination against voucher holders deprive these individuals of their right to housing choice. They also perpetuate segregation by excluding voucher holders from low-poverty neighborhoods with high-performing schools, such as Capitol Hill, where the property that was investigated is located.
Evolve’s anti-voucher policy was four times as likely to result in a Black prospective renter being turned away than a White prospective renter, more than three times as likely to result in a Latinx prospective renter being turned away than a White prospective renter, and twice as likely to result in families with children being turned away than those without children.
“The settlement with Evolve signals an important step toward stopping the displacement of long-time D.C. residents and preserving the city’s economic diversity amid ongoing gentrification,” said Walda Yon, Chief Housing Programs Officer at the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC). “The agreement is an example of what can be accomplished when tenants, and those working on their behalf, hold housing providers accountable.”
As part of the agreement announced today, Evolve will end policies and practices that discriminate on the basis of source of income, mandate fair housing training for all staff, and run ads and display signage (in both English and Spanish) stating that the company accepts housing vouchers.
“Discrimination against voucher holders is illegal and must not be tolerated,” said Parisa Norouzi, Executive Director of Empower DC. “This practice creates undue hardship on thousands of low-income D.C. residents, including many who receive a voucher when they are displaced from public housing communities undergoing redevelopment. We are grateful for NFHA’s work to hold companies like Evolve accountable.”
NFHA’s work was made possible in part through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
About The National Fair Housing Alliance
Founded in 1988, NFHA is a consortium of more than 200 private, nonprofit fair housing organizations, state and local civil rights agencies, and individuals from throughout the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., NFHA works to eliminate housing discrimination and ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through leadership, education, outreach, membership services, public policy initiatives, community development, advocacy, and enforcement.