The Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania has sued a Mount Laurel-based landlord, accusing the company of discriminating against Philadelphia tenants who use government subsidies to help pay rent, most of whom are Black.
ProManaged Inc., which owns or manages at least 77 rental properties throughout Philadelphia, accepts /www.hud.gov/topics/housing_choice_voucher_program_section_8#hcv05">federal housing vouchers for a limited number of rentals in predominately Black neighborhoods and doesn’t accept vouchers in predominately white areas, where most of its rentals are, according to the lawsuit that the nonprofit fair housing agency filed in federal court Thursday night.
The nonprofit, which serves residents in the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley regions, said the company is violating the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race.
ProManaged didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments.
The vast majority of people with housing vouchers — more than four in five — are Black, so refusing to accept vouchers results in discrimination against Black renters, the complaint said.
And with ProManaged limiting its acceptance of vouchers to majority-Black neighborhoods, “it starts to look a lot like modern-day redlining,” Sari Bernstein, a staff attorney at the Philadelphia-based Public Interest Law Center, said in an interview. The law center is representing the nonprofit, along with pro bono counsel from Dechert LLP.
Households that need housing vouchers face several challenges in using them. There aren’t enough federal funds to ensure everyone who needs and qualifies for vouchers gets them. In Philadelphia, thousands of households are on a yearslong waiting list. Voucher holders also face a limited supply of available homes they can afford.
And /www.inquirer.com/real-estate/housing/rent-assistance-housing-voucher-pha-landlord-philadelphia-20220322.html">landlords’ reluctance to accept housing vouchers when they have their pick of tenants is an ongoing problem throughout the region and country. In a 2018 study, the Urban Institute found that more than /www.inquirer.com/philly/news/housing-vouchers-section-8-affordable-urban-institute-study-20180827.html">two-thirds of the city’s landlords refused to accept vouchers and that landlords often reject voucher holders even when they can afford to pay, especially in wealthier neighborhoods.
“The widespread discrimination against voucher holders in Philadelphia makes it difficult for thousands of families to find a place to live, pushing them out of neighborhoods of their choice or into those that have faced disinvestment and neglect for decades,” Bernstein said in a statement.
Roughly 19,350 Philadelphia households have housing vouchers, according to the complaint. Of those households, 70% earn less than $20,000 per year and would /www.inquirer.com/real-estate/housing/fair-market-rent-housing-voucher-hud-philadelphia-metro-20220912.html">struggle to afford housing without subsidies.
The law center has brought forth /www.inquirer.com/news/section-8-vouchers-affordable-housing-philly-tenants-landlords-public-interest-law-center-20190815.html">claims of discrimination based on source of income since 2019, according to the firm. In July, /pubintlaw.org/cases-and-projects/our-joint-statements-following-the-settlement-of-our-clients-source-of-income-discrimination-case/">the law center reached a settlement on behalf of a Philadelphia woman who said real estate companies turned her away because she asked whether they accepted vouchers.
The properties where ProManaged advertised that it accepted housing vouchers were in census tracks in Southwest Philadelphia where more than 80% of the population was Black, according to 2019 census data cited in the complaint.
Most of the company’s rental properties are in majority-white communities in Northeast Philadelphia, and more than half are in census tracks where at least 70% of the population was white, according to the complaint.
Over a period of six months last year, the Housing Equality Center sent people posing as prospective tenants to ask about renting Northeast Philadelphia properties for which ProManaged advertised it did not accept vouchers. Those who said they used vouchers were denied or ignored, the center said.
In September, the Housing Equality Center /pubintlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/22.09.27-HEC-PCHR-Verified-Complaint-FINAL.pdf">filed a separate complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations against ProManaged, accusing the company of violating the city’s ordinance prohibiting landlords from /codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/philadelphia/latest/philadelphia_pa/0-0-0-278660#JD_9-1108">refusing to rent to tenants based on the source of their income.