Baltimore, MD

FHA must not abandon its mission

June 28, 2006
By Stella Adams Originally published June 28, 2006 For more than 70 years, the Federal Housing Administration and its programs have been a very important means of extending mortgage financing to low- and moderate-income and minority families. Today, it continues to be a vital part of the national effort to increase and expand homeownership to these populations. When the FHA was created in 1934, the housing industry was facing dire straits: Millions of construction workers had lost their jobs, down-payment requirements were upward of 50 percent, and America was primarily a nation of renters. The times have changed, fortunately, but there is still much that needs to be done to put minority families into homes.

Housing segregation case enters remedy stage

March 28, 2006
Creating thousands of new opportunities for Baltimore public housing families to live in well-off suburbs was necessary to make "real progress" in overcoming decades of government policies that segregated residents in poor, minority areas of the city, a lawyer for the tenants told a federal judge yesterday.
     In his opening statement in the remedy phase of a public housing desegregation case, attorney Peter Buscemi said a proposal requiring the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide 6,750 special housing vouchers and new and rehabilitated units over 10 years would give public housing families a "better chance at life."

Race bias alleged in loans of AIG unit

December 16, 2005
A national fair housing group has filed a federal complaint against American International Group Inc., accusing one of the nation's largest lenders of discriminating against African-American homeowners in metropolitan Baltimore.
     The National Community Reinvestment Coalition, in its complaint to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Justice Department this week, said AIG and its American General Finance subsidiary have a policy of denying home-equity loans on houses worth less than $70,000.
     The coalition alleges that such a policy amounts to discrimination in Baltimore, where more than 65 percent of homes in that price range are owned by black residents.
     AIG, a global insurance company that also provides financial services, denies setting minimum home values as a requirement for loans.

Organization settles advertising case for $100K

June 09, 2005
Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI), a statewide fair housing advocacy organization and two African American home seekers have agreed to settle a complaint filed with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations against Menno Haven, Inc., a Chambersburg, Pennsylvania based senior housing facility, alleging racial bias in advertising. The complaint, filed on March 21, 2005, alleged that Menno Haven discouraged minority applicants by using only white models in published advertisements, contrary to federal and state fair housing laws.
     The complaint was based on a two-part study by BNI of advertising for 131 senior housing facilities in 21 local and regional publications over a period of one and one-half (1½) years. Ads portraying only whites, BNI alleged, "convey an offensive and discouraging message to many blacks." Dickens Warfield, a BNI Board Member who helped lead the study, called many of the ads "modern versions" of ads used before the creation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. "They send a message of discrimination," she said. "We think it has a discouraging effect on minorities looking for senior housing."
     In agreeing to settle the complaint, Menno Haven, Inc. denied any intent to discriminate and offered a contribution of $100,000.00 to BNI to further its fair housing work. The $100,000.00 amount included $3,000.00 to each of the two other complainants. In addition, Menno Haven agreed to use a racial mix of models in future advertising and to advertise in publications directed to minorities. The respondents also agreed to train present and future employees in fair housing marketing practices, to use the Equal Housing Opportunity logo in all required advertisements, and to publish their commitment to equal housing in brochures.

Talks unravel in public housing discrimination settlement

April 07, 2005
Settlement talks have broken down over ways to fix the federal government's discrimination against black public housing residents in Baltimore, a judge said Wednesday.
     The breakdown could mean a second trial in the 10-year-old case to decide on court-ordered remedies that could involve providing more chances for black public housing residents to move to the suburbs.
     In January, U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis ruled said officials should desegregate Baltimore's public housing by spreading the poor across the region, but he didn't say how that would be done. He urged attorneys to reach an out-of-court settlement.

Disabled residents file complaint

January 13, 2005
Eight disabled residents filed a discrimination complaint against the owner of their Northwest Baltimore apartment complex yesterday, alleging that employees threw away a woman's wheelchair, refused to let tenants use a ground-floor bathroom and committed other acts of harassment in violation of state law.
     The complaint, lodged with the state Commission on Human Relations, asks for an investigation and court order to stop the actions at the Louis W. Foxwell Sr. Memorial Apartments.
     One of the eight residents, Geraldine McCaskill, 45, said her wheelchair was thrown into a Dumpster by employees in October while she was attending church.
     She was later told that wheelchairs were not allowed in the lobby where she left it, a rule that was never previously enforced, according to McCaskill.
     "I just started to cry when I heard," said McCaskill, a 20-year resident who spoke outside her Foxwell home at 3700 Greenspring Ave. yesterday morning. "It's like someone taking away your car. I need it to do the things I need to do."

Judge orders public housing desegregation

January 06, 2005
The city's public housing should be desegregated by spreading its residents across the region, a federal judge ruled Thursday in a 10-year-old civil rights case that challenged a half-century of government policy.
     Baltimore "should not be viewed as an island reservation for use as a container" for the region's poor, U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis said.
     The American Civil Liberties Union had sued the Baltimore Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1995, arguing that government policies had created "black ghettos" in Baltimore.

Maryland trailer park sued, accused of race discrimination

October 13, 2004
Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. and three black testers filed a lawsuit in federal court in Baltimore alleging that Todd Village violated the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968.
     The suit claims that the discrimination occurred on several occasions.
     The defendant, Todd Village, is a limited liability corporation affiliated with Sinclair Broadcasting.
     In April 2004, a white tester and a black tester arrived within 30 minutes of each other and made identical inquiries at Todd Village in Finksburg about the availability of trailers for sale or rent, and about slabs, upon which to place a new trailer. Another white tester arrived almost 5 hours after the black tester and made the exact same inquiry.
     The suit said both white testers were told of three specific available trailers and given applications. The black tester was offered none and told nothing was available for sale, rent, nor were there any available slabs.

Baltimore settles federal housing disability discrimination suit

September 29, 2004
Federal and city officials announced the settlement Wednesday of a suit alleging that the Housing Authority of Baltimore City refused to admit some disabled people to public housing and did not make private units accessible for others.
     Under the agreement, the authority will provide 830 accessible public housing units and create 1,850 new housing opportunities for non-elderly disabled people. It must establish a $1 million fund for victims of discrimination, change policies to eliminate barriers for disabled residents and provide fair housing training for staff.
     Graziano said that the authority has already begun to make changes and discrimination against the disabled is just one of many inherited problems the authority is working to correct.

City needs a new approach to addiction

July 13, 2004
BALTIMORE'S ZONING BOARD sought in 1959 to close two homes for alcoholics operated by the Flynn Christian Fellowship Houses on grounds that rehabilitation homes did not belong in residential areas. This sparked a controversy that the City Council resolved three years later by requiring that such homes receive council approval before opening in residential areas.
     Baltimore is wrestling with this issue again, but in a very different context. The region's substance abuse addiction problem now includes heroin and cocaine as well as alcohol, and drug treatment is widely recognized as effective and essential to the future of the Baltimore region.
     And the legal landscape has changed fundamentally. Court rulings on the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act make clear that Baltimore's 1962 solution is now illegal. These laws state that people recovering from drug addiction are protected from discrimination because of their disability. Yet Baltimore's ordinance process specifically singles out this group.


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