Chicago, IL

Housing discrimination’s new main target? The disabled

May 29, 2012
Housing discrimination isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the days when such discrimination was blatant and easily detectable. Today, experts say housing discrimination is subtler – and overwhelmingly hurts those with disabilities.
     Housing discrimination against the disabled accounts for 44 percent of complaints filed in 2011, according to a report released late last month by the National Fair Housing Alliance.
     Consider two Northwest Side residents. Alice, 70, and her husband Nic, 76, suffer from arthritis. When they began having trouble making the three-floor trip on stairs to the building’s washer and dryer because of their health problems, they reached out to management seeking help. “When I moved into that building I didn’t expect to have the problems that I had after 20 years,” Alice said. “I always had good health.”

Interfaith housing center settles with Evanston landlords in housing discrimination lawsuit

January 31, 2012
A Chicago-based fair housing advocacy group reached a settlement with Bernsen Management after accusing local landlords of housing discrimination in a federal lawsuit.
     The Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs, which filed the suit in federal court last spring, said landlords Barry and Barbara Bernsen would only rent their Sherman Avenue properties to Northwestern students, discriminating against families and non-students.
     "With this settlement, the message to Evanston landlords is loud and clear: This town cannot tolerate two private rental markets, one for students and one for families," said Gail Schechter, the organization's executive director. Interfaith received a complaint from an NU student who wanted to sublet her unit but was told she could only sublet to students, Schechter said, ""so we decided that we wanted test it and check it out."

Partial settlement reached in Bridgeport housing discrimination case

November 21, 2011
Prudential Rubloff Properties and one of its prominent real estate agents, Jeffrey Lowe, have settled allegations that they broke federal fair housing laws involving the aborted sale of a multimillion-dollar home in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood.
     The civil lawsuit, filed in September 2010 by the Justice Department, alleged that housing discrimination was committed when radio personality George Willborn and his family tried, and failed, early last year to purchase an 8,000-square-foot home owned by Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia for $1.7 million. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development charged that the Sabbias, who are white, backed out of an oral agreement to sell their home to the Willborns, who are black.
     In the housing discrimination suit that was subsequently filed by the Justice Department in federal court in Chicago, the Sabbias were listed as defendants, as well as Lowe, who was acting as the Sabbias' agent, and his realty group and Midwest Realty Ventures, which does business as Prudential Rubloff Properties. The Willborns also filed their own suit and the cases have been treated as related.

Couple denies charges in Willborn race-bias case

December 29, 2010
The Bridgeport couple accused of violating fair housing law in the failed sale of their million-dollar home are refuting Justice Department charges that they refused to sell it to an African-American family.
     In separate responses filed this month with U.S. District Court in Chicago, Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia deny that they engaged in discriminatory housing practices in their dealings with George and Peytyn Willborn, who made several offers to purchase the Sabbia’s sprawling Bridgeport home.
     The Sabbias also deny that Daniel Sabbia told listing agent Jeffrey Lowe that Sabbia would prefer not to sell the home to an African-American but that he didn’t care who bought it if the price was right, and deny that Lowe forwarded a sales contract to the Sabbias for signature.

Government files lawsuit against couple who refused to sell to black couple

September 20, 2010
The government filed a lawsuit Monday claiming a white couple and two real estate businesses refused to sell a Bridgeport home to a black radio personality and his wife.
     Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia owned a five-bedroom, 8,000-square-foot home at 3300 S. Normal Ave. and were looking to sell in 2008, according to a suit filed in U.S. District Court. They hired Jeffrey Lowe and the Lowe Group Chicago Inc. to market and sell the property, which was listed by the brokerage firm Prudential Rubloff.
     George Willborn, co-hosts the syndicated “Michael Baisden Show” heard on WSRB-FM (106.3) and formerly worked at WVAZ-FM (102.7), put an offer in on the property. But the suit claims Daniel Sabbia advised Lowe he would prefer not to sell to an African American, though if the price was right he would sell to anybody.
     The single-family home was listed for $1.99 million in January 2008, according to the suit. The property was still available two years later and the price had dropped to $1.799 million.

Willborn race-bias case heads to Justice Dept.

August 26, 2010
The U.S. Justice Department has been asked to take up the case of Chicago radio personality George Willborn, who allegedly was the victim of racial discrimination because of his family’s failed efforts to buy a home in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.
     The Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a federal housing discrimination complaint this month against Bridgeport homeowners Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia, Prudential Rubloff Properties and real estate agent Jeffrey Lowe. HUD said they violated the Fair Housing Act when the Sabbias backed out of a verbal agreement to sell the $1.799 million home to the Willborns, who are African-American. The matter could have been handled as an administrative case by HUD or in the federal court system by the Justice Department. The Willborns elected to transfer the matter to Justice, which will decide within 30 days whether to file a suit. If it does, the Willborns could be eligible to receive punitive damages as well as compensatory damages from a jury.
     Separately, the Willborns filed their own civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago Thursday against the Sabbias, Prudential Rubloff Properties and Lowe’s The Lowe Group. Any Justice case could be consolidated with the Willborn’s suit in federal court.

HUD charges discrimination in derailed sale

August 10, 2010
Federal housing regulators have filed discrimination charges on behalf of a Chicago-area radio personality and comedian who thought he'd found a dream home for his family, only to have the sellers pull it off the market in the midst of negotiations.
     George Willborn -- a comedian whose resume includes appearances on Black Entertainment Television's "Showtime at the Apollo" and HBO's "Def Comedy Jam" -- and his wife Peytyn had a $1.7 million offer on the table to purchase an 8,000-square-foot, five-bedroom mansion in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood.
     Sellers Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia -- and their listing agent and broker, Prudential Rubloff Properties -- ran afoul of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) when the Sabbias wrapped up several days of negotiations by pulling their home off the market rather than responding with a counteroffer.
     In an interview under oath, the Sabbias' listing agent, Jeffrey Lowe, "admitted that while he was representing the Sabbias, Daniel Sabbia told Lowe that he would prefer not to sell his home to an African-American," HUD said in a complaint filed Monday against the Sabbias, Lowe and Prudential Rubloff.

City wants fed action on racist 'Yard Art'

March 30, 2010
The City of Chicago is urging federal authorities to take action against a man at the center of a racially charged housing incident earlier this month in the Beverly neighborhood.
     Through a freedom of information request, FOX Chicago News obtained a copy of the letter sent to the United State's Attorney General Eric Holder by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.
     Commissioner Dana Starks asked the feds to investigate the man who hung a noose from his garage next to a sign advocating white power.
     Monday night, all traces of the racist display were gone.
     On March 9, when the story first came to the attention of Fox Chicago News, the owner of the house, Michael Corrigan called his display "yard art."

City commission wants feds to investigate racist Beverly signs

March 16, 2010
The West Beverly homeowner who posted racially charged messages in his back yard didn't violate any local laws, but a Chicago civil rights commission is urging federal and state authorities to take a look and possibly charge him with crimes of intimidation.
     "We recognize that people have First Amendment rights to express their opinions even if they are repugnant to others," Chicago Human Relations Commission chairman Dana Starks said in a statement, adding that the display "may have crossed the line into violations of federal and state fair housing laws that prohibit interference with the purchase and sale of housing based on race."
     Beverly man relents, covers racist signs Michael Corrigan, 62, of the 9900 block of Fairfield Avenue, posted the messages in sight of the back yard of a neighboring home that's for sale, ostensibly to prevent black families from becoming his neighbors.

HUD seeks help with anti-gay discrimination study

February 24, 2010
When federal officials studied housing discrimination based on race, the setup was simple: They sent in testers of different backgrounds and gauged how landlords and real estate agents treated people of color compared with whites.
     As the government prepares a first-ever study of housing discrimination against gays, however, the issue is more complex. How do you design a study to make an applicant's sexual orientation or gender identity as obvious as race and color?
     Starting Thursday, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department will enlist residents in three cities with large gay populations - Chicago, New York and San Francisco - to offer ideas on how such a study should be conducted.


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