Boston, MA

Color-coded mortgage lending

August 25, 2006
WHILE THE CITY of Boston is becoming increasingly diverse, the population in its suburbs remains overwhelmingly white -- so much so that, of large US metropolitan regions, only Pittsburgh and Minneapolis have a lower proportion of residents of color. As the Harvard Civil Rights Project has documented, current trends are sustaining rather than diminishing this trend. Even as more people of color leave the city, the vast majority of Boston suburbs remain white enclaves.

For some, breathing is never easy

June 19, 2006
Linda Hillyer is in her mid- 50s, but she doesn't go out much anymore. She doesn't ride in cars often, and certainly doesn't take public transportation. She can handle the occasional walk around her Jamaica Plain neighborhood, but she brings a filtered mask in case she starts to have trouble breathing. The one place she feels truly comfortable, Hillyer said, is in her apartment. Even though that's where her troubles began.
     Eight years ago, said Hillyer, a freelance editor who works from the apartment, she began having breathing problems that she attributes to a leaky furnace in the basement.

Minorities put off by some agents

April 09, 2006
Newton housing officials are urging stepped-up efforts to battle discrimination following an investigation of real estate sales and rental practices in the city.
     The Newton Fair Housing Task Force commissioned the study as part of its effort to address the city's lack of diversity. Of 84,000 residents, 2 percent are black and 2.5 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2000 Census.
     The Fair Housing Center sent two testers separately to each real estate agent, one who served as a control, the other similar in qualifications but falling under one of four categories subject to possible bias: race, national origin, family status (having children), or source of income (paying rent with a housing voucher).

New rules raise question of family: What makes a family?

February 26, 2006
By legally redefining who makes up a ''family," the town of Milford has launched into a heated national debate over how towns and cities manage growing legal and illegal immigration.
     It began as an effort to curb overcrowding in houses and apartments in this suburb of 27,000 that is home to a small but fast-growing immigrant community. The town ruling, which came two weeks ago, has rankled fair housing and immigrant advocates. However, proponents say the ordinance will protect not only longtime residents but also newcomers vulnerable to exploitation by greedy landlords who look the other way from tenants living in crowded and unsafe conditions.
     ''To me, having 20 to 25 people living in a single-family house is deplorable, especially if you have children," said Dino DeBartolomeis, chairman of Milford's Board of Selectmen. ''There's only one bathroom. They're sleeping on the floor. They're sleeping in the cellar, all those things."

Study praises state’s ‘predatory-lending’ law

February 24, 2006
A new study lauds anti-predatory-lending laws in Massachusetts and other states as "clearly working to clean up the subprime mortgage market." "Strong state laws like those in place in (Massachusetts) can serve as successful models (for the nation)," the Center for Responsible Lending concluded in a study released yesterday. Subprime mortgages are high-cost loans that banks give to people with weak credit. Lenders can legally charge increased rates and fees on these mortgages to compensate for the higher default risks.
     But Massachusetts and other states ban so-called "predatory mortgages." Those are loans with rates and fees so high that borrowers will almost certainly miss payments - ultimately losing homes to foreclosure.

Housing authority to reform policies, pay $78K to tenant in settlement

August 09, 2005
The Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) is introducing new anti-discrimination and reasonable accommodation policies and will pay a disabled tenant $78,000 in damages as part of a multi-pronged settlement, Attorney General Tom Reilly announced today. The settlement resolves allegations that the agency discriminated against a longtime tenant with an anxiety disorder by attempting to evict her and her family because of her dog.
     The consent judgment, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, resolves a February 2003 lawsuit AG Reilly filed against the housing authority and executive director Michael McLaughlin after they refused tenant Dianna Stephenson permission to keep her German Shepard. The complaint also alleged that CHA and McLaughlin proceeded to retaliate against Stephenson when she complained to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).

Condo rules not kosher

March 03, 2005
That is the message in a little-known section of a pact to convert the former St. Aidan's church to a combination of luxury and affordable housing units.
     According to a purchase-and-sale agreement between the Archdiocese of Boston and the nonprofit Planning Office of Urban Affairs, three of the 50 planned affordable units must be reserved for members of St. Mary's Parish - members who will be chosen by the archdiocese.
     That means that Catholics are the only ones who can buy three of the units, even though an eclectic mix of public funding, including money from Brookline's Affordable Housing Trust, is being used by the POUA to finance the deal.

Agreement halts eviction mailings

April 28, 2004
An agreement reached late yesterday afternoon between state and federal housing officials halted the mailing of about 650 eviction notices to low-income tenants as officials worked to try to fill a $550,000 shortfall in funding the federal government provides to Massachusetts for a housing voucher program.
     "We know that the end result will not be termination of [housing] contracts," Beth Bresnian, spokeswoman for the state Department of Housing and Community Development, said yesterday.
     However, Bresnian and housing advocates offered few details as to how the shortfall would be filled as negotiations continued.

HUD threatens to withhold funds from Boston

March 09, 2004
The federal government is threatening to withhold $100,000 a year from the Boston Fair Housing Commission because it said the commission is doing such a poor job of investigating housing discrimination.
     The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent a letter to commission executive director Victoria Williams last month in which it said Boston "has failed to consistently meet (HUD's) performance standards."
     HUD complained, among other things, that the commission has no investigators on staff.

No kids, please

February 22, 2004
They don't appear to have much in common. Mike Crutcher plays bass in a Lowell band and teaches piano and guitar. Kathy Reboul is a social worker and, she reveals during dinner, allergic to peanuts. Lori Schneider is a former cop from Connecticut who's going back to school. Todd Larson of Allston writes about real estate for the Brookline Tab. They've gathered, along with 10 others, at Polcari's in Cambridge on a wintry Saturday night. They convene this way once a month, because that's what social clubs do. Except that while most clubs organize around something -- a model-train fixation, an interest in needlepoint, a love of good books or fine wines -- what this bunch has in common is what they don't have: kids.
     And here's the point: They don't want them.
     "Here, we know we don't have to listen to touching stories or about home schooling or what kind of diaper anyone is using," says Schneider, 40, a four-year member of the Boston chapter of No Kidding. She's here tonight with her husband, though he's still in the closet and declines to give his name. As a teacher in Framingham, he fears his anti-kid sentiment might cost him his job.
     This is life for the child-free. In a culture often defined by breeders, those who dare not have children feel they must band together. They need support to help fend off parents who are desperate for grandchildren, or friends and co-workers who wonder how these seemingly productive members of society could be so selfish. They're not interested in hearing about the latest family-tested flick from Pixar. They're tired of hearing: "But you'd be a great parent." They don't need tips on using a Chinese adoption agency. They can have kids, they just don't want them. And they're fighting back.

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