Chicago, IL

Illinois probes mortgage firms

March 07, 2008
Illinois's attorney general issued subpoenas yesterday to units of Countrywide Financial Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., for an investigation into whether lenders have improperly steered minority borrowers into high-cost or inappropriate loans.
     The subpoena joins a long list of investigations by state and federal officials examining the business practices of the nation's mortgage lenders. Critics say such companies played a major role in the housing and mortgage crisis, which has led to record levels of home foreclosures.
     In Florida, Attorney General Bill McCollum is looking to determine whether Countrywide put borrowers into loans they couldn't afford or loans with rates that weren't what the company was advertising or were misleading. The Securities and Exchange Commission is probing Countrywide's accounting practices. In January, the City of Baltimore sued Wells Fargo, alleging that it systematically targeted low-income minority homeowners for loans they couldn't afford, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Plaintiff receives highest-ever damage award after discriminatory statements

August 08, 2007
Sheila White, a Single Mother of two who has assiduously worked her way through HUD’s Administrative Adjudication Process for the past nine years, is now at the threshold of receiving compensation for her injuries. After having been told in August of 1998 that she couldn’t rent Respondent Gertie Wooten’s apartment because she has two “children but no husband” and working with HUD through its inadvertently-attentuated investigation which concluded with HUD’s April, 2001 Charge of Discrimination, Ms. White worked her way through two Hearings which were delayed and complicated by Respondent’s refusal to cooperate.
     After receiving now-retired HUD ALJ Andretta’s late-2004 Initial Decision finding that Respondent’s conduct did not violate the Fair Housing Act, Ms. White appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed that Decision on February 2, 2007. Now, Ms. White has received an Initial Order on Remand from HUD’s Office of Administrative Law Judges dated August 1, 2007 which awards her and her children $12,000 in damages, the largest such award to date.

Single mother tells ALJ and HUD Secretary: Do your job

May 29, 2007
In what is believed to be the first such case filed under the Fair Housing Act, a civil rights victim has filed suit in federal court, seeking issuance of the extraordinary Writ of Mandamus for HUD’s continuous failure of enforcement.
     Mandamus is an infrequently-utilized common-law remedy (now codified in several statutes, among them, 28 U.S.C. Chapter 85 [Action to Compel an Officer of the United States to perform his duty]).
     Complainant Sheila White first filed her fair housing complaint with HUD in the Fall of 1998, when a landlord explicitly refused to show her an apartment because she is a single mother. HUD took three years to investigate the case, finally issuing its Charge of Discrimination in May of 2001, but instead of promptly concluding the Administrative Hearing process within six months as the statute and regulations require, now-retired HUD Administrative Law Judge Robert A. Andretta presided over the case for 999 days before issuing his Initial Decision dismissing Ms. White’s claims of having been subjected to discriminatory statements and intimidation, harassment, and retaliation for having lawfully asserted her civil rights through the administrative process.

Federal housing case settled

May 25, 2007
Under a settlement unveiled Wednesday, former Lake County Economic Development Director Richard Hucker will receive $282,000 to settle claims that he was fired for not opposing an affordable housing project in Lake Station.
     Federal investigators spent seven years investigating and litigating the 1998 firings of Hucker and former Deputy Director Charles McInturf, whose estate will receive $67,000 in the settlement because McInturf did not live to see the end of the case.

Housing "nightmare" tarnishes the American dream

March 19, 2007
Jillayne Schlicke's father used to tell her that mortgage banking was the "highest calling of all" because it involved helping people live the American dream of homeownership.
     "I learned how to spell 'mortgage' when I was about 6 years old. It was on a flash card," said Schlicke, the daughter of two mortgage bankers and co-executive director of the Ethical Lending Foundation near Seattle.

Seventh Circuit reverses HUD ALJ

February 09, 2007
For the first time since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, a Complainant has successfully challenged HUD’s administrative dismissal of her claims after a hearing on the merits.
     In Sheila White v. HUD, Number 05-1252, the Seventh Circuit reversed HUD ALJ Robert A. Andretta’s finding that Ms. White was not discriminated against in her housing search.

Chicago should do more to expand affordable housing

November 27, 2006
A distressing consequence of Chicago's recent real estate boom is that the city has become less affordable for many citizens -- including some teaching in our schools, responding to life-threatening emergencies and working in many other city jobs. Mayor Daley has responded by proposing to expand a city program aimed at developing more affordable housing. But a coalition of neighborhood and housing groups argues that Daley's plan, while encouraging, doesn't go far enough.

Judge: Craigslist not liable for housing ads

November 15, 2006
The popular Craigslist Web site is not legally liable for allegedly discriminatory housing ads posted by its users, a federal judge in Chicago ruled in a case pitting landmark internet and fair housing laws against each other.
     The decision was a victory for online civil liberties supporters. It was a setback for housing civil rights advocates, though they still found some hope in the judge's ruling.

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