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Boston Landlords, Brokers Sued For Alleged Discrimination, Denying Vouchers

Written by on 02/22/2024

A New York City-based nonprofit took its fight against housing discrimination to Boston this week.

The Housing Rights Initiative sued 20 landlords and brokers in Boston on Wednesday, MassLive reported. The lawsuit alleges that brokers told prospective tenants that Section 8 and other housing vouchers would be denied, in violation of state law.

The nonprofit had people pose as prospective tenants and reach out to Boston real estate agents about renting a unit, according to its complaint. The texts shown in the lawsuit appear to show brokers eager to work with the potential tenants, only to back off after the prospective renters mentioned vouchers. Brokers explicitly said either the unit or landlord didn’t accept vouchers, according to the complaint.

None of the defendants could be reached for comment by the publication. Firms named in the complaint include Anzalone Realty, East Coast Realty, LAER Realty Partners and Zeus Living, Inc. Lawyers for Civil Rights is representing HRI.

The complaint noted how the alleged discrimination could reinforce racial disparities in the city, saying, “Widespread voucher discrimination perpetuates this segregation, and the accompanying disparity in opportunity for Black and Hispanic communities, by further limiting the housing options available to voucher holders outside poorer neighborhoods.”

HRI executive director Aaron Carr said the lawsuit was “the largest fair housing lawsuit by defendant size in Massachusetts history.” Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents rely on housing vouchers to help afford their homes.

Carr’s nonprofit has become well-known in New York for its flurry of discrimination lawsuits aimed at brokerages and landlords allegedly discriminating against voucher holders. HRI has targeted a wide range of firms, including big names like Compass.

Carr started deploying testers in 2019 to record landlord and broker reactions to rental inquiries. He gave an unequivocal “yes” when recently asked if the watchdog group’s cases has deterred explicit discrimination in New York City.