DC attorney general puts an end to one housing developer’s discriminatory tactics

A real estate developer allegedly used discriminatory tactics to force a landlord to sell her home in northwest DC

The Attorney General is working to end this illegal business practice called “blockbusting”.

Nearly two years ago, a sign reading “Section 8 and Student Housing Coming Soon” was put up in front of the address 4457 Macarthur Blvd NW. The sign said the property would be used for social housing.

The community suspected something was off, so they got to work.

“It was a little incredulous,” said Ben Bergmann, chairman of the 3D Neighborhood Advisory Board.

Bergmann said the home owner tried to buy the neighboring property.

“They made him an offer much lower than the price they paid for the other neighboring property,” he explained. “She rejected like we would, and they tried to coerce her using this tactic that worked too well in this town 50 years ago.”

Alocoa Lendon is the head of the Civil Rights Division in Attorney General Karl Racine’s office. She explained that when a blockbuster happens, a real estate developer or profiteer tries to prey on the prejudices people have about members of protected classes in an effort to reduce property values.

There is a long history of blockbusting being used to stoke fears against black DC residents who sought to live in integrated neighborhoods after segregation.

Lendon says developer Polygon Holdings – bought the right half of the duplex in July 2020, and the sign was posted a month later when the owner next door refused to sell. The developer wanted to convert the entire land into condominiums.

“Theoretically what he was trying to do was the idea that people don’t want to live next to voucher holders or don’t want to live next to students,” Lendon explained.

Once Bergmann and the rest of the neighborhood commission realized what was happening, they sent a letter to Attorney General Racine. And in February 2021, the investigation began.

“This is outrageous and illegal and has no place in the District of Columbia or our country,” AG Racine said in a statement. “Anyone who tries to stir up harmful fears or encourage animosity against a group of people in violation of the law must be challenged and held accountable, as we are doing today.”

“That’s not how you do business in the District of Columbia,” Bergmann said.

The developer, Hossain Kamyab, currently owes the city $300,000 in penalties and must complete fair housing training.

“This settlement will prohibit this developer, Polygon Holdings, from engaging in other discriminatory and unlawful behavior in the district,” Lendon said.

The AG’s office told FOX 5 that Polygon Holdings was ultimately able to purchase the property at a competitive price and to better standards.

FOX 5 has attempted to contact Polygon Holdings and its attorney for comment, but we have heard nothing from them.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can report it to the OAG Civil Rights Section by calling (202) 727-3400 or emailing OAGCivilRights@dc.gov.

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