Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Carrie Rodriguez/staff photo

Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Carrie Rodriguez/staff photo

Attorney General fines 10 companies that refused vets with federal housing vouchers

Issaquah’s Rowley Properties, Inc. among the 10.

A recent probe conducted by The Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit — a team in the Washington state Attorney General’s office that investigates discrimination in housing, education and elsewhere — found that at least 10 property management companies throughout the state were turning away applicants who presented Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers that provide rental assistance for veterans with disabilities.

Created in 2008, VASH is a joint program between the U.S. Departments of Housing & Urban Development and Veterans Affairs, which offers housing assistance, case management, and clinical services for homeless veterans.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced last week that eight of those companies — including Issaquah’s Rowley Properties, Inc. — have entered into agreements to end discriminatory practices and to consider accepting VASH vouchers in the future. The companies will also pay Ferguson fines ranging from $5,000 to $6,500, which will partially be used for the monitoring and assurance of the agreement, in addition to customer restitution.

“We work very hard to ensure we are following the law and being ethical in our business. So, you might imagine that when we received notice we had allegedly discriminated against veterans, the news came as a complete surprise,” according to a statement from the company. “Rowley Properties supports local veterans organizations and has for decades. We are committed to hiring the best people, including veterans.”

Kristi Tripple, vice president for community development for Rowley Properties, told the Reporter that the situation was “an unfortunate incident on both sides.”

Two other companies that didn’t accept the VASH vouchers — Colorado-based Mission Rock Residential LLC and Utah-based Apartment Management Consultants LLC — have refused to enter into agreements with Ferguson. The Attorney General plans to file lawsuits against the two companies if House Bill 2578 doesn’t pass this legislative session. Under the proposed legislation, landlords would be banned from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income, including the use of VASH vouchers.

“Veterans are protected from discrimination by Washington law,” Ferguson said in a statement. “No veteran should be denied a roof over their head based on how they plan to pay their rent.”

The Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit had heard from fair housing advocates that veterans with VASH vouchers were being denied housing. Testing of properties throughout the state began in September 2016 and ended in February 2017 showed a “consistent message of thank you for your services, but no thanks on being a tenant on our property,” Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit Chief Colleen Melody said. “Given Washington law and the value that Washington’s anti-discrimination law places on veteran status and military service, that seemed really at odds with the legislative policy that we understand to have been in place in our state for many many years.”

Vouchers are especially needed in King County, where a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report released last December showed that the county had the second highest veteran homelessness rate in the country, behind only Los Angeles.

Spokane-based nonprofit Northwest Fair Housing Alliance worked with the unit on some of the veteran discrimination investigations. The alliance’s Executive Director Marley J. Hochendoner noted the importance of offering vouchers to marginalized communities in an increasingly unaffordable rental market. “The vacancy rate for rental units is very low in our region and rents are rising. I believe this is a trend in many communities in Washington, and across the nation,” Hochendoner said in an email to Seattle Weekly. “These market factors limit the options that renters, particularly people with disabilities or veterans on low fixed incomes, have for accessing rental housing. If an applicant has a subsidy or voucher, and a housing provider doesn’t accept it, then that applicant has an even greater challenge finding housing.”

Staff at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System’s Community Housing & Outreach Services program echoed the need for VASH vouchers and social services. The agency currently works with ten public housing authorities that serve patients throughout the region. Through their partnership, 1,709 veterans in the area are currently using the 1,849 available vouchers, a year to date utilization rate (92.4 percent) that surpasses the national average (90.88 percent).

And at least in Seattle, the VASH program seems to be working. Seattle Housing Authority Director of Communications Kerry Coughlin said that the housing authority hasn’t received any allegations of discrimination within the past few years. “Once in a pretty great while, we’ll hear … anecdotally of a landlord saying that they don’t accept a voucher for a rental listing, but there’s never been evidence submitted to us, and no VASH participant has specifically come forward and said, ‘I feel that I’ve experienced discrimination.’” She added that the Housing Authority would refer applicants who experienced discrimination to the Seattle Office for Civil Rights.

Although Coughlin was unaware of any instances of discrimination, she noted that some military veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder, which can lead to a recurring pattern of homelessness that could impede their ability to pursue career and educational opportunities. “But like any other population, that will vary person by person,” she noted. The Housing Authority currently administers 470 VASH vouchers, and 383 veterans are in housing using their vouchers. Coughlin added that a number of veterans have also been issued vouchers, but they’re still looking for housing.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

A train route that would shuttle people between Eastern and Western Washington could tie in with the proposed ultra-high-speed rail between B.C. and Portland. Photo courtesy RobertStafford/Pixabay.com
State receives King County to Spokane rail study

It would take about eight and a half hours to reach the Inland Empire from Puget Sound.

Bret Chiafalo. File photo
Supreme Court says state can punish WA faithless electors

Justices: Presidential electors, including Everett man, must keep pledge to back popular vote winner

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

Folks enjoy outdoor eating during the start of the Streatery Pilot in downtown Issaquah. Photo courtesy city of Issaquah.
Streatery Pilot on pause while COVID-19 cases rise

The city council will review the pilot program July 20 for possible reopening July 24

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

Most Read