Cleveland, OH

What to do about mortgage brokers and lenders who don't play fair?

July 11, 2007
The line outside Ed Kramer's office seemed never-ending. Every day, more people filed into the Cleveland fair housing lawyer's office with tales of foreclosure. And there was an unmistakable pattern: Nearly all were poor people of color, and all had been locked into unaffordable loans, with high interest rates and exorbitant broker fees.
     For every foreclosure plight Kramer and his firm, Housing Advocates Inc., took on, he learned that 20 others, with claims just as good, had lost their homes because of a predatory loan. There was no way to represent everyone in need. Kramer's law practice had only a handful of attorneys; resources were stretched thin.

Housing bias up, study indicates: Disabled cases lead filings in NE Ohio

April 17, 2007
Housing discrimination complaints hit a 17-year high last year in Northeast Ohio, led by people with disabilities as well as blacks and other minorities, a new fair-housing study shows.
     Complaints filed with state and federal agencies jumped nearly 70 percent from 1990 to 2006, when they peaked at 214, the Housing Research & Advocacy Center in Cleveland reported Monday.

Study shows some landlords have bias against African immigrants

October 21, 2006
Testers posing as African immigrants seeking to rent apartments and other properties in northeastern Ohio were discriminated against more often than white, U.S.-born apartment seekers, a study found.
     Three of four immigrants from Africa were treated differently that their white counterparts, according to the study in Cuyahoga County by the nonprofit Housing Advocates Inc., which seeks to promote fair housing. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mentor parents face penalties in bias case; Suit for acts of teen could be 1st in Ohio

May 31, 2006
A Mentor teen and his parents face possible civil-rights penalties because the teen intimidated a black neighbor who moved into his mostly white neighborhood.
     It could be the first time in Ohio that parents are held liable for a civil-rights violation committed by their child, said Tony Delgado, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Disability, racial bias now equals

May 30, 2006
From 2000 through 2004, the percentage of fair housing complaints in Northeast Ohio charging discrimination based on disability equaled those based on race.
     According to a survey of complaints in Northeast Ohio conducted by the Housing Research & Advocacy Center in Cleveland, the number of disability-based complaints increased by more than 50 percent during that time and those based on family status doubled, compared to the previous five-year period. The level of race discrimination complaints remained about the same.

Study: Lake County landlords more likely to turn away disabled

March 16, 2006
A federally funded study found that more than a third of Lake County landlords sampled turned away people posing as disabled renters.
     The findings by the nonprofit Fair Housing Resource Center Inc. will be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which paid $206,000 for the study.
     The 18-month study, which began in 2004, concluded that landlords were three times more likely to discriminate against those with physical or mental disabilities than against minorities.
     "The knee-jerk reaction when you say 'housing discrimination' is 'black and white,' but that's not all it is," said Patricia Kidd, executive director of the center, based in Painesville, about 28 miles northeast of Cleveland.

Cleveland Hts. plans charm class for low-income renters

June 17, 2005
The city wants to send low-income renters to charm school.
     Mayor Ed Kelley plans to start mandatory classes, as soon as this fall, for new residents who receive federal assistance in paying their rent.
     Each tenant at the one-time, quarterly program would receive the city's "Good Neighbor Guide," a booklet that lays down the law on curfews, noise, dogs, overnight street parking and other potential areas of friction. With the advice would come a welcome, Kelley said, in the form of briefings on schools, recreation and other community perks.
     "We want to make this a fun thing," said Kelley, who cast the program as being in the tenants' best interests. "I want this to be positive for them, not something where they walk out and say, 'Gee, the mayor lectured to me for an hour and a half.' "
     The idea may have friendly touches, but it springs from concerns that some of Cleveland's older suburbs have about an influx of tenants from the federal housing choice voucher program, formerly known as Section 8.
     The weak Northeast Ohio rental market has allowed many subsidized renters to choose single-family homes and duplexes, raising anxiety in middle-class neighborhoods.
     Forcing voucher holders to go to the class may be discrimination, said attorney Peter Iskin, who oversees housing cases for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. It also may violate their privacy, he said.
     Iskin, who headed the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority board in the 1980s, said he had never heard of such a program. He questioned how the requirement could be imposed in one community and not another.
     Suburban officials worry about crime and other problems associated with poverty. They also say the tenants often come from Cleveland and don't realize the suburbs like things quieter.
     The cities and CMHA, which issues the vouchers, have begun meeting to discuss cooperation on housing inspection, law enforcement and other matters.
     Kelley wants CMHA to cut off rent payments if tenants refuse to attend the training program. He said he would ask his congresswoman, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, to apply pressure if the agency resists.

Insurance discrimination claim dismissed again

March 18, 2004
According to a statement from Housing Advocates Inc., city residents are the victims of a "greedy industry that has extracted a racial profit . . . of approximately $34 million in the last four years."
     A private fair housing organization, Housing Advocates in April filed charges of unlawful discrimination against several major insurance companies with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
     Last week, the commission ruled that Housing Advocates failed to make their point and unanimously dismissed the complaint for the second time. The dismissal seemed to leave little uncertainty as to the thoughts of commission members.

Landlords or warlords: It's a fight

March 09, 2004
While local Army Reserve Sgt. Ronald Gibson was in Kuwait most of last year, supporting the war in Iraq, his mother was waging her own battle on his behalf back home.
     Barbara Gibson of Cleveland Heights wanted to terminate her son's apartment lease, as legally sanctioned by the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and put his belongings in storage while he and his wife, Jackie, who serves in the same unit, were deployed.
     She said his landlord, however, refused and threatened bodily harm if she tried to remove her son's belongings.

Cleveland PHA tries to accommodate 772-pound tenant

November 17, 2003
Cleveland's public housing agency is trying to accommodate the needs of a 772-pound tenant immobilized by her weight. Forty-four-year-old Carmen Bowen has been involved in a tedious dispute with the housing agency over how much work must be done to accommodate her. Housing officials responded to a discrimination complaint over the issue saying they did not violate her rights. The agency is about to provide her with a handicapped-accessible apartment with extra space to allow an oversized wheelchair to turn. Bowen lives with her 19-year-old son and a caregiver. In August, 22 firefighters and EMS technicians worked for hours to move Bowen from her apartment so she could have dental work done.


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