New York, NY

Pushing Co-ops to Explain Why You Can’t Buy

April 21, 2007
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers live in the rough equivalent of private clubs — co-op apartment houses with rules that govern everything from admission to elevator-landing décor. In certain circles, the co-op-application-process horror story is as much a dinner-party cliché as the renovation-nightmare saga, the nursery-school-rejection narrative and indignation over excess packaging of food from Fresh Direct.
     Now nearly two-thirds of the members of the City Council are co-sponsoring a measure to shed a little light on the shadowy process by which co-op boards decide which apartment buyers to accept and which to reject. To the uninitiated, the council members’ aim may seem modest. What they want is for co-op boards to be required to give their reasons for rejecting an applicant, and to do it in writing within five days of rejection.

Housing discrimination bill is considered

April 11, 2007
Landlords would become legally restricted from turning away tenants who pay rent with housing vouchers or other public assistance under a bill being considered by the City Council.
     The bill would amend City Code to state that in addition to a potential tenant's race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and marital, parental, and citizenship status, landlords cannot discriminate based on the source of a tenant's income, so long as it is earned legally.

Groups call for foreclosure halt

April 04, 2007
Civil rights groups called Wednesday for a six-month moratorium on foreclosures resulting from high-risk loans given to people with shaky credit, arguing that lenders should help borrowers refinance their mortgages or face lawsuits.
     A coalition of advocacy groups said mortgage lenders should immediately halt foreclosures on so-called subprime mortgage loans made at high interest rates to people with weak credit histories.

A sweeping housing plan bedeviled by racial quotas

December 01, 2006
In a city of superlatives, Starrett City has more than its share.
     The 31-year-old housing development in eastern Brooklyn is the largest federally subsidized rental housing complex in the country. Originally modeled on Co-op City, in the Bronx, it is one of the largest developments in New York. It operated for years under one of the most extraordinary racial quota systems on record — until what has been called the most celebrated housing discrimination battle of the 1980s brought that system to a halt.

Home valuation web site accused of discrimination

October 31, 2006
A Home Valuation Web Site Is Accused of Discrimination By DAMON DARLIN
     Zillow.com, the Web site that provides free home valuations, has been accused by a coalition of community activist groups of undervaluing the homes in black and Latino neighborhoods.
     In a letter sent by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition to the Federal Trade Commission last Thursday, the group asserted that Zillow’s Web site misrepresented home values and placed residents in low-income neighborhoods “more at risk for discriminatory and predatory lending practices.”

Across nation, housing costs rise as burden

October 03, 2006
Across Nation, Housing Costs Rise as Burden By JANNY SCOTT and RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
     The burden of housing costs in nearly every part of the country grew sharply from 2000 to 2005, according to new Census Bureau data being made public today. The numbers vividly illustrate the impact, often distributed unevenly, of the crushing combination of escalating real estate prices and largely stagnant incomes.
     While many of the highest home values were on the coasts, in places like Southern California and Manhattan, many of the biggest jumps in the percentage of people paying a burdensome amount of their income for housing occurred in the Midwest and in suburbs nationwide, making it clear that the housing squeeze has reached deep into the middle class.
     In New York City, more than half of all renters now spend at least 30 percent of their gross income on housing, a percentage figure commonly seen as a limit of affordability. In Staten Island, the percentage paying at least 30 percent of income rose to nearly 60 percent, up from 40.

Some co-eds evicted for suicide attempts

September 01, 2006
A depressed Hunter College student who swallowed handfuls of Tylenol, then saved her own life by calling 911, was in for a surprise when she returned to her dorm room after the ordeal. The lock had been changed on the door.
     She was being expelled from the residence, the school informed her, because she violated her housing contract by attempting suicide. The 19-year-old was allowed to retrieve her belongings in the presence of a security guard.
     Policies barring potentially suicidal students from campus dorms have popped up across the country in recent years as colleges have struggled to decide how to best curb an estimated 1,100 suicides a year.
     But just as quickly, some of those rules have come under attack.
     Hunter College announced last week that it was abandoning its 3-year-old suicide policy as part of a legal settlement with the student, who sued claiming her 2004 ouster from the dorms violated federal law protecting disabled people from discrimination.
     The school, part of the City University of New York system, also agreed to pay her $65,000.

The way we live now: Childproof

August 13, 2006
There are places in America where most of the newly built housing cannot be occupied by families with children. These families won’t be living, for instance, in the 242-acre tract planned for Kissimmee, Fla., of which a city administrator boasted, “The beauty of that is: No impact on schools.” Such communities are, in real estate parlance, “age qualified.”
     The mighty fortress of anti-discrimination law and custom has an exception when it comes to satisfying the wishes of older people. And builders, residents and local governments are exploiting it. Gated communities, condo complexes and plain old suburban neighborhoods can, provided they meet certain criteria, legally bar children under 18 as residents — or even, in some cases, as visitors. According to Big Builder magazine, such communities are the hottest trend in the residential housing market. There are already thousands of age-qualified “lifestyle communities,” and their growth is accelerating.

Cuomo's HUD statistics disputed

August 04, 2006
In his campaign for state attorney general, Andrew Cuomo has suggested repeatedly that as federal housing secretary he dramatically increased anti-discrimination efforts and doubled fair housing "enforcement actions," but a 2001 report by a federal disability-rights panel contradicts that claim.
     Cuomo made the assertion in a July 12 policy paper on his commitment to environmental enforcement, which is posted on his Web site. His campaign repeated it Monday in a release on his commitment to civil rights. Cuomo "dramatically expanded ... fair housing enforcement actions, more than doubling the number of enforcement actions to over 2,000," the release said.
     But the report by the National Council on Disability, an agency that advises the president and Congress, found that under Cuomo the Department of Housing and Urban Development had manufactured the "doubling" claim by expanding the definition of an "enforcement action" and counting a variety of resolutions that hadn't been included in previous years.
     "HUD was not comparing apples to apples when it made its claim that it had exceeded its doubling objective," wrote the council. Without the change in definitions, the group found, HUD's fair-housing enforcement actions had actually dropped by 18 percent under Cuomo from 1997 to 2000.

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