Akron, OH

Fair housing group files complaint against property company

August 20, 2009
Fair Housing Contact Service (FHCS) of Akron recently filed a formal complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging Summit Management Services, a West Akron-based property management company, is violating Fair Housing Laws by failing to maintain its East Crown Apartments in Downtown Akron in a safe and habitable condition and for refusing to rent its empty units to families in need of housing. Summit Management Services declined to comment when contacted Aug. 17.
     FHCS said it has received complaints from residents at East Crown Apartments that the property is in disrepair and they have been told they have to move out. FHCS also alleges that Summit Management plans to convert the property to private rental housing for University of Akron students soon, despite being required by its federal contracts to provide affordable housing and maintain full occupancy at East Crown until August 2010.

Justice prevails in Zanesville water case

July 23, 2008
On July 10, 2008, a U.S. district court jury in Columbus, Ohio found the City of Zanesville and Muskingum County guilty of racial discrimination for denying public water service to persons who presently reside and/or have lived in the predominately African-American neighborhood of Coal Run Road and Langan Lane near the City of Zanesville. The jury found in favor of the 68 plaintiffs, including the Fair Housing Advocates Association (FHAA), which was awarded $80,000 as a part of the total $10.9 million damages award. The lawsuit was filed in 2003 with representation by the law firm of Relman & Dane.
     “Justice has prevailed,” said Vincent B. Curry, Executive Director of FHAA. “I am overjoyed that our clients have been vindicated and compensated for having been denied the simple right to access the same public water service that was being provided to their white neighbors.”
     In 2002, FHAA initiated an investigation after it received a complaint that public water service was being denied to the primarily African-American neighborhood of Coal Run Road and Langan Lane, while it was being provided to primarily Caucasian homes surrounding the area. FHAA’s investigation confirmed the allegation. “The best way to describe what the evidence showed would be to use a doughnut with the doughnut representing the white neighborhoods and the hole representing the Coal Run –Langan Lane area,” said Mr. Curry. “The doughnut had public water service and the hole did not. It is depressing to think that if we had not pursued this matter, they would still have no public water service.” Before the complaint was filed, residents had no public water service and had to drink, bathe, and wash in water that contained bugs and had an odor; haul in water to be placed in a cistern; and ration water by sharing bath water and limiting the number of times that a toilet was flushed.
     The jury examined the evidence and found that both the city and the county played a role in providing water service in ways that included, but not limited to, securing funding for water projects, determining what water projects were pursued, controlling who could tap into water lines and running water lines past Coal Run Road and Langan Lane in order to provide water to other cities, villages, or townships. According to Cindy Hairston, a plaintiff who lives on Coal Run, “When we saw Vince’s maps during a meeting at the public library, it became clear that the white folks had public water service and the blacks folks did not.” Said lead plaintiff, Jerry Kennedy, whose family lived in the area for over 50 years, “It was upsetting to look out my window and see my neighbor water his lawn and I had to haul my water in for all these years.”

Ohio high court rules housing authority not liable in racial disputes

July 08, 2008
In a unanimous decision today, the Supreme Court of Ohio sided with a Summit County Common Pleas Court judge who ruled that landlords in federally subsidized housing are not liable under Ohio's civil rights statutes for failing to intervene in racial disputes among tenants.
     The decision overturns a decision by the Ninth District Court of Appeals in a case that began in October 2001, when Fontella Harper filed a complaint with the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority about her neighbors in Van Buren Homes in Barberton.
     Harper, who is black, complained that her neighbors, Beverly Kaisk and her family, who are white, were harassing Harper and her family, using racial epithets and threats of violence.

Area landlords have own complaints

December 16, 2007
The private room at Lindsay's Amber Restaurant in Lakemore is packed for a weekly breakfast meeting of the Akron/Canton Real Estate Investors' Association.
     It's normally not this crowded. But more than 50 property owners have come to talk with a Beacon Journal reporter about fair housing — or as some call it, the unfair fair housing law.
     The process is stacked against them, they said, even as they try their best to comply with the law.
     Anyone can file a complaint — whether it's warranted or not. And an allegation of wrongdoing costs the accuser nothing.
     For landlords, it's a different story. They can end up spending thousands on lawyers to defend themselves. And sometimes, a tenant is just interested in settling to make a little extra money, they said.

Suit filed against insurer for churchgoing Christians

November 27, 2007
Two fair-housing groups have sued an insurance company that pays policyholders' church tithes of up to $750 if an injury at home leads to lost income.
     The insurance company also doubles medical limits if someone is hurt while involved in a church-related activity at the insured person's home.
     The National Fair Housing Alliance Inc. of Washington, D.C., and Fair Housing Associates Association of Akron filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court against GuideOne Mutual Insurance Co. of West Des Moines, Iowa. The insurer denied any discrimination.

Mother complains toddler's civil rights are violated by condo association

July 31, 2007
An Akron mother and the Fair Housing Advocates Association have filed civil rights complaints against her condo association, saying the group is prohibiting infants and toddlers from the swimming pool because of fears over unwanted pee and poop.
     The complaints were filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission this month after Suzanne Malcom was told twice this year that she wasn't allowed to bring her 1-year-old son Lucas to the outdoor pool at the Seven Stories East Condominiums on East Market Street.

Suburbs lure more high-earning blacks

December 08, 2003
Pam and Randy Cole are building a new home in Copley. The new family home is under construction by Ryan homes. The Coles are shown standing in front of a model home in Creekside Development.
     Virtually every American dreams of owning a safe, comfortable home in a good school district.
     In pursuing that dream, more African-American families have considered a move from the city to the suburbs. Census records show that an increasing number of blacks are moving to the suburbs, mostly into the inner ring -- the areas that touch the city.
     Randy Cole moved his family from West Akron to a $300,000 Fairlawn home in 1995. He and his wife, Pam, are building a house in the Copley-Fairlawn district, where Bethany, 19, Charity, 17, John Morgan, 15, and Adrianne, 13, attend school.

County executive considers drafting legislation

April 10, 2003
After hearing that Summit County ranks 11th in the state in the number of home foreclosure filings, Summit County Executive James McCarthy said he will draft legislation to ask the state legislature to adopt laws to help alleviate this problem.
     "I'll introduce legislation on Monday [April 14], and if council jumps in and passes it, then great," said McCarthy. "I feel we should tell the governor and state legislature that the issue of predatory lending needs to be addressed. Our first step is to encourage the state legislature to pass a law to deal with this on a state level."
     During County Council's April 7 Planning Committee meeting, representatives from Policy Matters Ohio, Fair Housing Contact Service of Akron and others told committee members that predatory lending is just one reason the number of foreclosures filed against owner-occupied homes in Summit County has increased 307 percent from 1994 to 2001. According to Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, the annual number of filings soared from 621 in 1994 to 2,325 in 2001.

Religious landlord denies housing in Ohio

February 27, 2002
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission has found fault with an Akron landlord who denied housing to an unmarried couple on religious grounds.
     The civil rights agency said that Dave Grey should not have used his beliefs to deny housing to Danielle Levingston, her fiance Todd Roberts, their child and three children of Levingston's.
     Landlords may deny housing to unmarried applicants on the grounds that a rift between them could be bad for business.  But it is illegal to deny housing because the landlord has different values than the applicants, said Vincent Curry, executive director of the Fair Housing Advocates Association of Akron, which handled Levingston's complaint. 

Predatory lenders prowl area for victims

October 24, 2001
Need a new roof? Heard of a good deal to refinance your home and pay for it?
     Don't be too quick to sign on the bottom line, warns the Fair Housing Contact Service. Beware the predatory lender because your home could be at stake, the agency says.
     Any lender who uses deceptive practices to entice you into taking out a loan you cannot repay is a predator. Predators often swipe the equity in your home while lending you money. 

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