Chicago, IL

Lawsuit alleges Orland Park landlord discriminated

November 24, 2009
A federal lawsuit is alleging that a Chicago landlord discriminated against African-American tenant prospects.
     The government is seeking a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendant, unspecified monetary damages for those harmed by the defendant's conduct, and a civil penalty from Terence Flanagan, a Chicago area property owner and rental agent.
     The lawsuit alleges that in July, Flanagan refused to rent a single-family house he owns at 14412 South Highland, in south suburban Orland Park, to Kamal Alex Majeid, who is African-American, because of his race. Federal authorities say Flanagan asked a white tester employed by the Justice Department whether her husband was African-American and admitted to her that he did not want to rent to African Americans.
     

Jewish Tenants Win Housing Bias Ruling

November 17, 2009
The 7th Circuit reinstated the federal housing discrimination claims of Jewish tenants who claimed their condo association kept removing mezuzot, or boxes containing passages from the Torah, from their doorposts. The Chicago-based court reversed a ruling against Lynne, Helen and Nathan Bloch, who accused the Shoreline Towers Condominium Association and owner Edward Frischholz of enforcing a hallway rule in a way that discriminated against their religious beliefs.
     Observant Jews like the Blochs believe that God commands them to place a mezuzah (in plural form, mezuzot) on their exterior doorposts. A mezuzah is a small box containing a scroll with passages from the Torah. Many Jews touch and kiss the mezuzah and pray when entering the home.
     Since 2001, Shoreline Towers had rules barring "mats, boots, shoes, carts or objects of any sort" in the hallways. But it largely chose not to enforce the rule until mid-2004, when it began removing and confiscating mezuzot. The association also confiscated crucifixes, wreaths, Christmas ornaments, political posters and Chicago Bears pennants.

Federal judge denies bond for neo-Nazi White

August 04, 2009
One week after he was cleared of using the Internet to encourage violence, a neo-Nazi leader from Roanoke, Va., learned Friday he must remain in jail while facing additional charges.
     In the Roanoke case, prosecutors say White picked people to threaten from across the country: a bank employee in Kansas City, Mo.; a human rights lawyer in Canada; a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist in Maryland; a university administrator in Delaware; a small-town mayor in New Jersey; and a group of apartment complex tenants in Virginia Beach.
     White also is facing a lawsuit filed by the apartment complex tenants, whom he contacted after learning they had filed a housing discrimination case against their landlord.

Wells Fargo sued by Illinois for unfair lending

July 31, 2009
Wells Fargo & Co. was sued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for allegedly steering blacks and Hispanics into loans with less favorable terms then those offered to white borrowers at the same income levels.
     Wells Fargo engaged in illegal discrimination, Madigan said today at a Chicago press conference where she announced the filing of a consumer fraud lawsuit in state court.
     The subprime rate loans were made to Chicago-area residents from 2005 to 2007, the attorney general said. Madigan said she is seeking a court order ending the practices together with restitution for injured borrowers.

Housing commission holds first in series of hearings in Chicago

July 15, 2008
Calling Chicago "ground zero" in the debate over housing discrimination, state and federal officials Tuesday kicked off a set of nationwide hearings to address America's fair-housing issues.
     Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan welcomed the first regional hearing of the newly formed National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, which focused on equal housing access for minorities and the disabled.
     The hearings, scheduled 40 years after the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act, fall against the backdrop of the foreclosure crisis the attorney general's office has been investigating, Madigan said.
     "[The foreclosure crisis] isn't the natural result of a slumping economy, and it isn't the result of homeowners taking on more than they can handle," she said. "This crisis is the direct result of unfair, deceptive and discriminatory lending practices by the lending industry."

No right to Mezuzot at condos

July 11, 2008
Observant Jews have no right under federal law to install small scrolls known as mezuzot outside the doors of their condominiums, a federal appeals court declared yesterday.
     The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 2-1, that the condominium association at Shoreline Towers in Chicago did not run afoul of the Fair Housing Act when managers removed the religious items pursuant to a rule barring the placement of signs, shoes, mats, and any other sort of object outside residents' doors.
     "The hallway rule ... is neutral with respect to religion," Judge Frank Easterbrook, joined by Judge William Bauer, wrote. "It bans photos of family vacations, political placards, for-sale notices, and Chicago Bears pennants."
     Judge Easterbrook said the Fair Housing Act requires accommodation for the handicapped, but outlaws only discrimination with regard to other protected groups. "We cannot create an accommodation requirement for religion (race, sex, and so on). Our job is not to make the law the best it can be, but to enforce the law actually enacted," he wrote.

Fair Housing Act overshadowed by discrimination

June 18, 2008
A comprehensive housing report by the Chicago Area Housing Alliance, a non-profit organization, concluded that 40 years after the Fair Housing Act was first enacted, Blacks still face racial discrimination when renting or buying property.
     “Racial and ethnic segregation still dominates the housing market,” said Rob Breymaier, author of the report The 2008 State of Fair Housing in the Six-County Chicago Region: 40 Years After the Fair Housing Act and executive director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center. “So much more needs to be done to combat this problem.”
     In 2006, 310 housing discrimination complaints were filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Complaints filed in 2007 were not available at press time. The Chicago Commission on Human Relations, chaired by Dana Starks, former interim superintendent for the Chicago Police Department, reports only 54 housing discrimination complaints were filed in 2006 and 2007.
     “That’s what’s wrong now. Too many people are experiencing housing discrimination but not making a formal complaint with any agency,” Breymaier added. “If more people filed, the number of complaints would probably be twice as high.” Even with home buying at a stand still, first-time buyers are still experiencing discrimination. Those who have experienced housing discrimination said it is humiliating as well.

Fair housing advocates push for lending reform

April 23, 2008
Fair housing advocates are using the proposed merger between Bank of America and Countrywide Financial to push for reform in the loan industry. They made their arguments at a Chicago hearing before members of the Federal Reserve yesterday.
     Throughout the hearing, fair housing advocates criticized Countrywide's lending practices. But Maria Hibbs with Partnership for New Communities testified to Bank of America's solid record of corporate citizenship.

Housing discrimination lawsuit settled

March 20, 2008
A Realtor and the owners of a Homewood residence agreed Tuesday to pay $25,000 in damages after a black prospective homebuyer accused them of racial discrimination a year ago.
     "We're certainly happy to be able to resolve it," said John Petruszak, executive director of the South Suburban Housing Center.
     The Homewood-based agency assisted in filing the federal lawsuit that was settled out of court this week.
     The lawsuit alleged Jerome Hoskins, a black Homewood resident, made a purchase offer with Michele Beckers, a real estate agent from ReMax 10 in Homer Glen.
     Hoskins offered about $150,000 for a home in the 3000 block of Olive Road.

Backstretch workers with children sue Arlington Park

March 14, 2008
A year after the Arlington Park racetrack settled a federal discrimination lawsuit over housing for backstretch workers and their children, the track is facing new litigation alleging that families were unfairly evicted.
     Racetrack officials abruptly forced three employees to vacate their apartments last year without explanation or an opportunity to retrieve personal items, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by the HOPE Fair Housing Center in Wheaton and the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing in Chicago.
     "It's not just humiliating for families who are deprived of their homes, but as a result of being locked out ... they have lost virtually everything that they own," Bernard J. Kleina, HOPE's executive director, said Thursday.

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