Summersgill: Proposed Rules for the DC Housing Authority Ignore Mayor's Order
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
August 22, 2001
Office of the General Counsel
D.C. Housing Authority
1133 North Capitol Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002-7599
We are writing to comment on the "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" published in the August 10 edition of the D.C. Register for the Administrative Plan for DCHA's Section 8 program.
We are focusing our attention on the anti-discrimination provisions included in the proposed regulations, an area in which we have demonstrated expertise for more than a quarter-century.
Near the outset, under the heading "Fair Housing Policy," Section 7204.2 states: "The DCHA shall not deny any family or individual the opportunity to apply for or receive assistance under the Section 8 Program on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, age, familial status, handicap, disability, or sexual orientation."
This language violates Executive Order 2000-131 issued by Mayor Williams just one year ago on August 21, 2000, requiring all nondiscrimination policy statements to list all categories protected under the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977.
Section 7204.1 omits any reference to the following protected classes: marital status, personal appearance, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, and place of residence or business. It also includes two redundancies: "religion" and "creed," and "handicap" and "disability."
Ironically, to find a good example of a nondiscrimination policy, you need look no further than the language of Section 7308.1, which requires owners of rental properties accepting Section 8 housing vouchers not to discriminate against applicants for tenancy. All protected categories are listed. (One technical point for this section. It refers to "Title 1, Chapter 25" of the D.C. Code for the D.C. Human Rights Act. The Code has recently been recodified. The Human Rights Law, as recodified, is now Title 2, Chapter 14.) Clearly, the right hand knoweth not what the left hand doeth.
The Mayor's Executive Order requires that all proposed nondiscrimination policy statements must be cleared by the Office of Human Rights. Obviously this has not been done. We understand all proposed regulations are routinely vetted by the Office of the Corporation Counsel, which should have referred the nondiscrimination portions of your proposed regulations to OHR. We have found several other cases where individual agencies and the Corporation Counsel's office have ignored the requirements of the Mayor's Executive Order, a situation we find unacceptable.
We also urge several related corrections.
Section 7309.1 states: "DCHA shall provide each family with a copy of HUD's housing discrimination complaint form at the time a subsidy is issued and will advise families how to file a Fair Housing complaint or report the owner to HUD (Fair Housing/Equal Opportunity) or the District of Columbia's fair housing office." The last phrase should be "the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights." More substantively, this section should be expanded to require DCHA to provide each participating family with a brochure explaining that the coverage of the D.C. Human Rights Act is far broader than the federal fair housing laws. This expanded requirement should also be reflected in Subsection 7901.2(m), dealing with the "Briefing Packet" provided to participating families, and Section 7903.2.
Section 9107 is entitled "Assurances of Nondiscrimination." Subsection 9107.1 states: "To assure nondiscrimination by owners, DCHA will require owners to enter into HUD-approved contracts which include necessary assurances of nondiscrimination." HUD is responsible for enforcing only federal fair housing laws, not the D.C. Human Rights Act. Accordingly, some D.C. government agency, whether OHR or DCHA, must inspect even the HUD-approved contracts for compliance with our fair housing law.
Thank you for your speedy attention to our concerns.
Robert J. Summersgill
cc: The Honorable Anthony Williams
Robert Rigsby, Corporation Counsel
Charles Holman III, Director, Office of Human Rights