DC Abuse Victims Face Housing Discrimination

Jun 3, 2008

Domestic violence victims living in the nation’s capital are likely to face discrimination when looking for rental housing, despite a law prohibiting this bias.

In a test conducted by the Equal Rights Center, 65 percent of applicants seeking housing on behalf of a domestic violence survivor were either denied the housing or offered less advantageous terms and conditions than applicants not associated with domestic violence. In the investigation, nine percent of the potential tenants were denied housing outright or had the housing made unavailable to them – something that never happened to test applicants not associated with domestic violence. The remaining 56 percent were subjected to discriminatory treatment.

The Equal Rights Center tested 93 properties to learn whether victims of violence were being denied housing, outright or indirectly, or being offered less advantageous terms and conditions. The study used testers in matched-pairs – two women whose profiles were similar in respect to age and income, but differed in regards to their experience with domestic violence.

“The people who are most vulnerable in society should not be discriminated against,” Equal Rights Center Executive Director Rabbi Bruce Kahn told the Washington Post. “These people are victimized twice, once by the person who attacked them and then by the places where they’re trying to find a place to live.”

In 2006 the D.C. City Council and mayor approved the Protection from Discriminatory Eviction for Victims of Domestic Violence Amendment Act of 2006. The legislation was designed to reduce housing discrimination based on a person’s status as a domestic violence victim, and in doing so help prevent victims from being homeless. The District has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation, and domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women.

“We’re not only helping to educate landlords and advocates and housing attorneys, but we’re also working to educate survivors so they know what their rights are under this new D.C. law,” D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence Deputy Director Rena Pina told the Washington Post.

To read the report, visit

Related Programs