Baltimore, MD

Settlement to Increase Affordable Housing in Baltimore County

March 17, 2016
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in mid-March a settlement agreement with Maryland’s Baltimore County to expand affordable housing in high-opportunity areas.
     The settlement is a result of a complaint filed with HUD by the NAACP Baltimore Branch, Baltimore Neighborhoods, and three individuals in November 2011. The complaint claimed that the county had only developed in areas concentrated by race and poverty, focused on rental housing for seniors rather than families, provided an inadequate amount of accessible units for people with disabilities, and failed to affirmatively further fair housing.
     According to HUD, the settlement will be a catalyst to promoting housing mobility and will help the county and the surrounding areas develop affordable housing that addresses residential segregation.

Sex for repair lawsuit settlement reaches 7.9 million from Baltimore City housing

January 12, 2016
A multimillion federal lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department on alleged sex-for-repair scheme. Now the settlement has reached up to $7.9 million worth of charges to Baltimore female public housing tenants who were victimized by maintenance workers.
     The lawsuit, filed in September, stated that maintenance workers demanded sexual favors in exchange for making repairs. When the women did not comply, repairs were not made thus exposing the tenants in poor living conditions involving mold, pest infestations, lack of heat and risk of electrocution.
     Currently, 19 women have joined the suit. Cary Hansel, an attorney for the women, has called the pending settlement the largest Fair Housing Act case of its kind related to sexual harassment. To this the attorney has also filed for class action status, claiming there are many more victims to this case.
     

Foreclosed homes in non-white areas get fewer repairs, complaint says

July 23, 2014
A national housing advocacy group looking at vacant foreclosed homes being maintained by Fannie Mae contractor Cyprexx Services LLC say there are stark and systematic differences, comparing the company’s performance in white vs. non-white neighborhoods.
     “You rarely see a boarded-up window in a white neighborhood,” said Shanna L. Smith, of National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), which has filed a four-state complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against Florida-based Cyprexx. The properties may be vacant, she said, but they are well-kept.
     By contrast, in non-white areas, the group found not only boarded windows but weeds, dead shrubs and tall grass, unsecured doors, broken steps and railings, holes, vermin and piles of trash. The trend was most pronounced in Baltimore, although the group also looked at Kansas City, Orlando, Fla., and Richmond, Va.

Advocates in General Assembly push for transgender rights

February 04, 2014
Transgender people and their advocates urged a panel of senators Tuesday to help make Maryland the 18th state to protect them from discrimination in housing, at work and in public places.
     Lawmakers have considered expanding anti-discrimination laws to include transgender people every year since 2007. But advocates say changing attitudes and a groundswell of high-profile support make 2014's debate different.
     Without state protection, they argue, transgender people can face difficulty getting credit cards and renting apartments. They can be forced to reveal their birth identity to employers or face getting fired, and businesses can choose not to serve them because of how they look, advocates said.
     Four large Maryland jurisdictions, including Baltimore City, have laws barring discrimination against transgender people. But at least half of the state's population lives in areas that do not have such laws.

Group alleges racial disparities in Bank of America practices at foreclosed Baltimore homes

November 15, 2013
A vacant Baltimore home owned by Bank of America receives better upkeep if it is located in a largely white neighborhood, a discriminatory practice that hurts minority areas, the National Fair Housing Alliance alleged in a complaint filed Thursday.
     The complaint argues that there are "stark racial disparities" in Bank of America marketing or maintenance practices in 20 metropolitan areas, a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Baltimore was one of five cities added Thursday to the complaint, first filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2012.
     ank of America officials have repeatedly maintained that the corporation operates with a uniform maintenance policy and argued that the alliance fails to take into account factors such as the property's condition when the bank took possession of it. Bank of America did not respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

Baltimore city housing authority reaches settlement for not providing proper housing accommodation

July 08, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today a settlement agreement with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) after a resident complained the housing authority failed to make a reasonable accommodation for a family with a young son with special needs. HABC will pay $150,000 to the public housing resident as part of the Voluntary Compliance Agreement.
     The resident alleged that the housing authority failed to grant her request to be transferred to a larger unit that was closer to family support. The resident and her young son are persons with disabilities who needed a larger unit near family members who could assist in caring for them. The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations in their rules, policies, practices or services when needed to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling. In addition, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 makes it unlawful for any federally funded housing program to deny program benefits to an individual based on a disability.
     “Requests for reasonable accommodations that are needed by persons with disabilities must be taken seriously and receive timely responses,” said Jane C.W. Vincent, HUD’s Regional Administrator of the mid-Atlantic region. “HUD will continue to investigate the causes of delays in granting reasonable accommodation requests and take action when we determine that they were unnecessary.”
     

Md. women plead guilty to role in hanging animal in noose

June 27, 2012
A Maryland woman and her daughter have admitted to their roles in hanging a dead raccoon from a noose on the porch of an African family’s home.
     Dena Whedbee and her daughter, Brittany, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal charges of conspiracy and violating the Fair Housing Act.
     The Whedbees admitted conspiring with three other people in April 2010 to hang the raccoon from the family’s home in Middle River in an effort to scare them. Two of the other men, Billy Pratt and Joshua Wall, have already pleaded guilty.

A chance to right an old wrong

January 17, 2012
President Barack Obama's recess appointment to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, wasted no time in announcing the watchdog agency's "nonbank supervision program." Bringing nonbank mortgage lenders more fully and formally under federal supervision could represent a historic moment for fair housing enforcement more than four decades after the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
     But only if congressional Republicans get out of the way and let Mr. Cordray do his job.
     Primarily targeting discrimination by real estate brokers, the 1968 law made it illegal to refuse to rent or sell real estate on the basis of race, religion, or national origin — all common practices prior to its passage. The act also prohibited discriminatory lending, but it failed to spell out a clear enforcement mechanism for the provision. As a result, over its 44 years, the Fair Housing Act's effectiveness in curbing unfair lending has depended on the willingness and ability of federal regulators to monitor lenders, often with disappointing results.
     The CFPB's nonbank supervision initiative promises to give fair housing enforcement maximum coverage over the nation's mortgage lenders. But this historic advance could be turned back if Republicans continue to obstruct the new consumer protection agency.

Dispute over house in Catonsville for those recovering from addiction continues

January 13, 2012
More than two months after an administrative hearing to determine the legality of a home for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts was postponed in favor of private negotiations between Baltimore County lawyers and the home's owner, an agreement still hasn't been worked out, and the "issue is at a stalemate," according to Scott Alpert, the owner of the residence on Mellor Avenue in Catonsville.
     The dispute began years ago, when the county began slapping Alpert with fines for having three unrelated adult tenants living in the home. County code limits the number of unrelated adult tenants in a single residence in the county to two.
     Alpert, a licensed clinical counselor who owns and operates Central Maryland Addiction Counseling in Ellicott City, contended that his tenants – who are all clients of his trying to maintain sobriety and are receiving counseling – are exempt from the county's code under the federal Fair Housing Act, which requires that people with disabilities, including substance addictions, be provided reasonable accommodations. .

Baltimore group alleges housing discrimination at Carroll County complex

November 18, 2010
A Baltimore nonprofit organization that promotes equal housing opportunities filed a discrimination suit in federal court Wednesday claiming that a Carroll County apartment complex made fewer apartments available to black renters.
     According to the suit, two black "testers" for Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. were told that only one unit at the Middlebrooke Apartments and Town Homes complex in Westminster was available. Two white "testers" who inquired the same day last August were told of between 12 and 14 current or forthcoming vacancies.
     Housing discrimination has become rare in Baltimore City, said C. Christopher Brown, the attorney representing the nonprofit. "But when you look at the surrounding counties, you will see that there are more instances of discrimination in housing — not only racial discrimination, but discrimination with people with disabilities, family status discrimination," Brown said.

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