New York, NY

Westchester in HUD Squeeze

July 16, 2011
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is starting to play hardball with Westchester County over its plans for affordable housing units.
     HUD is withholding federal money that is due Westchester because, the agency has said, the county's plans for adding "affordable housing" units within its borders don't adequately satisfy fair-housing laws.
     Local officials said Friday that HUD is overreaching its mandate and infringing upon local zoning rules.
     County Executive Rob Astorino plans to go to Washington later this month to ask HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to intervene in a standoff between the county and his agency over the implementation of a 2009 agreement that required Westchester to buy or develop affordable homes.
     That $63 million agreement required the county to allocate nearly $52 million for more than 750 homes, most in areas with few minorities.

Anti-discrimination center fights Westchester's allegedly unfair housing policies

June 02, 2011
The Anti-Discrimination Center, a New York City non-profit housing group, has asked a Manhattan district court to enforce a 2009 consent decree that settled a lawsuit over Westchester County's alleged failure to follow federal fair-housing laws, according to the Wall Street Journal.
     The center, which was awarded $7.5 million in the settlement, claims that the county is skirting its obligations to enforce the laws, citing missed deadlines and failure to provide sufficient planning documents. The center also complained that the federal government and court-appointed monitor aren't doing enough to ensure compliance.
     A representative for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the department is taking the case seriously. It is currently withholding $7.3 million in yearly federal housing funds for Westchester until the county meets requirements.

Mortgage company settles maternity leave case

May 31, 2011
A mortgage company has agreed to settle a federal complaint that accused it of discriminating against women on maternity leave. The company will set aside $750,000 to compensate any women who may have been affected, while paying at least one woman $15,000.
     U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development John D. Trasviña, the Department of Housing and Urban Development assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The complaint, brought by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, says Cornerstone Mortgage, a Houston-based lender that has offices in 14 states, may have violated the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discriminatory lending based on sex, disability and family status, including pregnancy or simply having children, among other things.
     The department said it was investigating similar complaints from prospective borrowers involving other lenders.

OPINION: Friedland Properties' UWS building discriminates against handicapped

May 26, 2011
New York-based landlord Friedland Properties is in settlement negotiations with the federal government for allegedly failing to comply with housing discrimination laws that protect the disabled, the Wall Street Journal reported.
     The building in question is the 22-story, 143-unit Melar, a rental building at 250 West 93rd Street on the Upper West Side, which the U.S. Attorney's office believes Friedland did not make accessible enough for wheelchair users. Friedland initially agreed to set aside $180,000 to cover discrimination claims, pay a $40,000 fine and spend $288,300 to remedy the situation.
     But in April, the landlord filed a motion seeking to withdraw from the settlement.

AG: Developer must provide disabled housing access

April 18, 2011
The Attorney General’s office has secured an agreement with one of the nation’s largest housing developers, Trammell Crow Residential, ensuring equal access to housing for people with disabilities.
     The settlement agreement requires the developer to make significant retrofits to Suffolk County’s Atlantic Point Apartments, a 795-unit apartment complex, to ensure that people with disabilities have full use of the facilities.
     Trammell Crow Residential must also pay $75,000 to compensate individuals who are harmed by the inaccessible housing, and work with an independent expert to certify that future construction of apartment complexes are in compliance with New York State and federal accessibility laws.
     Tenants who were harmed as a result of the developers’ failure to construct the property as legally required will be eligible to receive restitution by submitting a claim to the Attorney General. The Attorney General will then evaluate the claims for compensation and distribute the funds.

Housing advocates want fairness in foreclosure sales

April 11, 2011
Groups that promote fair and equitable housing practices have identified what they called a civil rights challenge in the way that foreclosed homes are prepared for resale.
     The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), and other groups, released a report, “Here Comes the Bank, There Goes Our Neighborhood,” which found the curb appeal of bank owned homes in predominantly African-American and Latino homes to be significantly worse than those in white neighborhoods in three out of four areas studied.
     The report documented a higher prevalence of issues like overgrown shrubbery, mail accumulation, graffiti, and unsecured doors or windows, in foreclosed homes in neighborhoods with predominantly African-American or Latino populations when compared with white neighborhoods.

Tests show more is needed to promote fair housing

January 30, 2011
At Westchester Residential Opportunities we work to eradicate housing discrimination by educating, investigating and enforcing the federal, state and local fair-housing laws. These laws were enacted to give all Americans — and certainly all residents of the Lower Hudson Valley — equal access to shelter and equal opportunity to choose where to live.
     Is there housing discrimination in the Lower Hudson Valley? In 2008, we received a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine the extent, if any, of discrimination in our communities. We sought to answer this question by conducting fair-housing testing over an 18-month period.
     Testing is a U.S. Supreme Court-accepted method of uncovering housing discrimination. We conducted paired testing, in which we sent a pair of individuals, a "control tester" and a "protected tester," with similar financial backgrounds and housing goals to the same site at slightly different times in a simulated housing transaction. Our protected testers were black or Hispanic and our control testers were white. We compared their verbal and written reports of their experiences to determine whether or not they were treated equally.

Feds file suit against 'Super' pervert and landlord

April 21, 2010
It turns out being sleazy is a violation of federal housing law. Manhattan's US Attorney has filed a civil lawsuit claiming a sex-offender building superintendent went afoul of the Fair Housing Act by propositioning his female tenants.
     High-risk pedophile, William Barnason is the target of the suit. The civil action accuses Barnason, 57, of demanding sexual favors in return for promises of reduced rent, and apartment upgrades.
     According to the complaint, the sex-hungry super systematically harassed and threatened women in three Upper West Side buildings since at least 2007. Building owner, Stanley Katz, has since fired the "super" pervert, but Katz is also named in the lawsuit.

Wappingers Falls complex to adapt for disabled

April 06, 2010
The owner of a 124-unit apartment complex in Wappingers Falls has reached an agreement with the state Attorney General's Office to make the complex more accessible to people with disabilities, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said.
     River Bend at Wappingers Falls was one of seven large apartment complexes in the state cited for alleged violations of state and federal laws requiring access of housing units to the disabled.
     Under the agreements, the developers of the apartment complexes must make changes in the apartments and common areas to ensure people with disabilities can use them.

Cuomo secures agreement with developers to provide accessible housing

April 05, 2010
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced agreements with six large real estate developers of rental apartment complexes to ensure equal access to housing for people with disabilities.
     Under the agreements, the developers - Port Jefferson Town Properties, LLC; Fairfield Pinewoods, LLC; Hudson Park Investors, LLC and Collins Yonkers II, LLC; Regency Club at Wallkill, LLC; Riverbend at Wappingers Falls, LLC; and Main Street Lofts, LLC - must make or offer to make retrofits to apartments and common areas to ensure that people with disabilities have the full use and enjoyment of the facilities. The developers must also collectively pay $145,000 to compensate individuals who were harmed by the inaccessible housing. They will also work with an independent expert to certify that future construction of apartment complexes is in compliance with New York State and federal accessibility laws.
     “Equal access to housing is a right guaranteed by law and no one should have problems living in their own home because they are disabled,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “My office is committed to enforcing fair housing and removing barriers for all New Yorkers.”

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