Hartford, CT

A mom's fight pays off in race case

November 18, 2013
A racial discrimination case involving housing in Winchester and 17 surrounding towns has ended in a $350,000 settlement with a payoff for a formerly homeless mother whose persistence was nothing short of remarkable.
     Crystal Carter brought the federal lawsuit in August, 2012 after she was spurned by the Winchester Housing Authority in her effort to secure a Section 8 housing voucher, Carter alleged. The Fair Housing Center, a Hartford-based advocacy and legal assistance group, took the case as part of its broader efforts to combat racial discrimination in housing — which takes many forms.
     At issue in the lawsuit was the Winchester agency's practice of giving preference to people who already lived in its 18-town area when it offered up the federal vouchers to help pay for housing. Carter, then living in a homeless shelter in Mystic with five children aged 2 to 11 and an older child age 22, came up against the policy as part of a search for housing that became more and more desperate in 2011.

Fair housing group sues property owner, manager

December 22, 2010
A fair housing advocate group has sued the owner and manager of several properties in Greater Hartford, alleging that they refused to rent to people who receive disability benefits or use state assistance programs.
     The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Hartford, charges that Paul Rosow, the owner of the properties, and Robert Kozikowski, the manager, discriminated against prospective tenants based on their source of income. Both men rejected people who tried to use Section 8 housing vouchers or Social Security benefits to pay their security deposits or rent, according to the suit. They also turned away those who couldn't prove they had been employed for at least six months.
     "By requiring all applicants to be working for a period of at least six months, the defendants intentionally discriminate against individuals with disabilities who are unable to work," the suit states.

Tenant Rights Case Settled

October 22, 2009
A settlement that stopped a landlord from requiring medical records to determine if a tenant could live independently might have far-reaching implications, especially for senior citizens seeking housing, housing advocates say.
     "As people age, they sometimes either appear to have or have difficulties," said Erin Kemple, executive director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, which was involved in the court case. "It doesn't mean they can't live where they want to live. The choice is in the hands of the people where they want to live, not the medical judgment of who owns or manages the housing."
     Kemple said it is not unusual for seniors to be asked for medical records when they apply for housing, which is not allowed under housing law. And even if they do have physical limitations, it doesn't mean they can't get assistance and live comfortably, she said.

5.3 percent of home loans in Connecticut in foreclosure or seriously delinquent

May 29, 2009
As the recession deepened in the first three months of this year, foreclosures and seriously delinquent home loans in Connecticut jumped above the rate of one mortgage of every 20 for the first time in at least 30 years.
     The state had 28,285 residential mortgages either in foreclosure or 90 days past due, or 5.3 percent of all home loans, as of March 31, a report released Thursday by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed.
     That's nearly double the rate the state had last summer, and it doesn't include foreclosures that were previously completed. The figure is lower than the 7.3 percent for the nation — which has also risen dramatically — but it leaves Connecticut in the middle among all states because the national average is pulled up by a few large, troubled states.

Conn. sues Countrywide over lending practices

August 07, 2008
Connecticut sued Countrywide Financial Corp. on Wednesday, becoming the latest state to take the mortgage lender to court over its lending practices.
     State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal alleges that Countrywide misled borrowers into taking on risky home loans they could not afford. California, Illinois, Florida and the city of San Diego have made similar claims in their own lawsuits against the company.
     Countrywide, once the nation's largest mortgage originator before a jump in bad loans ravished its business, has been blamed for helping to cause the nation's mortgage meltdown.
     The lawsuit was filed in Hartford Superior Court on Wednesday, and the company was served with the legal papers earlier in the day, Blumenthal said.

Commentary: Fair Housing issues more common than you think

June 20, 2007
When was the last fair housing or Public Accommodations Act issue you came across? Never, you say. Let's think about that.
     Ever have a landlord inquire as to how to reduce his or her risk for claims because a child living in the apartment was poisoned by lead-based paint? Ever have a client selling his or her home who wished to meet every potential purchaser personally to be sure they would "fit in with the neighbors?" Shouldn't the landlord be able to enforce a requirement that potential tenants have a credit score of at least X? Must the landlord allow a housing inspection because the potential tenant is receiving the Section 8 housing subsidy?

Federal budget cuts threaten Fair Housing program

March 18, 2007
A program that investigates accusations of housing discrimination could close unless the General Assembly comes up with money to replace threatened federal funding.
     State budget officials support the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, but have made no assurances to replace $350,000 funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Housing advocates riled over TV show

June 29, 2005
State and national fair housing advocates are joining forces against an ABC Television show, "Welcome to the Neighborhood," a reality series pitting seven diverse families against each other as they vie for a beautiful single-family home.
     In the show — set to debut July 10 — three white families living on a suburban cul-de-sac near Austin, Texas, get to decide who wins a 3,300-square-foot house with four bedrooms and 2½ bathrooms. ABC promotes the series as one in which "eventually some eyes and hearts open up, opinions change and a community is transformed."
     However, several state fair housing agencies, the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and the National Fair Housing Alliance contend the show promotes bigotry and violates provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act.

Is a Hartford real-estate company steering its apartments to white tenants?

August 05, 2004
In the mid-1980s, a group of University of Connecticut law students decided that racism was an institution that could be fought. They heard rumors that real-estate agents in Hartford's West End tended to segregate whites from minorities, so the group of students of varying races decided to test out the housing market for themselves.
     One black student, Cynthia Watts Elder, was denied an apartment by Plaza Realty & Management. She believed the denial was based on her race and filed a complaint against Plaza Realty with the state's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. She eventually won the case, and went on to head the Human Rights and Opportunities Commission.
     Twenty years later, another idealistic group, this one calling itself the "Undoing Racism Committee" has set its sights on housing discrimination in Hartford. They, too, decided to test the waters with Plaza Realty.

Inquirer celebrates 29 years of providing black news

June 08, 2004
On March 21, 1827, the Black Press in America was born with the founding of the first black published newspaper, Freedom’s Journal. With the simple printed message—”We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”—did its editor John B. Russwurm and the Rev. Samuel Cornish embark on their crusade to agitate ruthlessly against the inhumanity of slavery. Though Freedom’s Journal was only a four page tabloid, 10" x 15" in size, it was a giant of its time, establishing a tradition of hard hitting journalism that was to be emulated time and time again during the years that followed.
     That this black newspaper ever saw print in the first place is something of a miracle in and of itself, considering the great length that America took to keep the black masses illiterate and untrained in all but the most menial skills. It is a tribute to the tenacity and determination of those stout black souls, many of them freed slaves, who succeeded in securing for themselves sufficient education to become great orators, poets, and writers, capable of chronicling the moving accounts of their former lives under bondage. They were indeed a voice of conscience and courage for their down-trodden and powerless brothers and sisters who, under the threat of great bodily harm, were forced to endure untold miseries in silence.
     When Russworm left Freedom’s Journal in 1828 to undertake a career as editor and government official in Liberia, Cornish continued publishing the weekly under the name of Rights for All until late 1829, when it folded. As this pioneer journalistic effort disappeared from the scene, other black newspapers, spurred on by its brief success and huge impact, sprang to replace it. Among them were Appeal in 1829, published out of Boston by David Walker, who advocated eliminating slavery through violence, and Hope of Liberty published by George Moses Horton in Raleigh. In all, some 40 struggling black newspapers surfaced during the period between 1827 and 1865, each addressing the issue of slavery in its own unique style.


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