Maryland landlord pays $900,000 for steering African-Americans to the back of his complex

African-American families who were steered to the back of a Maryland apartment complex sawa $900,000 settlement obtained by Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI) and its cooperatingattorneys. The August settlement came days before the federal lawsuit filed by BNI was setto go to trial.

In 1994 and 1995, BNI sent pairs of African-American andwhite testers to Kenilworth at Perring Park Apartments. White testers were directed to andoffered apartments in the front of the complex while African-American testers were shownapartments in the back of the complex. African-Americans were steered to the back of thecomplex even if there were units available in the front section.

Former employee reported discrimination to BNI
The alleged racial steering that took place at Kenilworth was originally reported to BNIby a former employee at the complex. According to Martin Dyer, BNI's Associate Director,the complaint against Kenilworth was one of more than 500 housing discriminationcomplaints that BNI handled in 1994.

According to data collected by BNI, more than 75 African-American families live in theback of the Kenilworth complex and very few live in the front. Attorneys for BNI said thatthis was a clear case of discrimination.

Andrew Freeman, an attorney representing BNI and the plaintiffs in thecase, expressed concern about the alleged racial discrimination taking place in Baltimore."It's sad," he said, "that 40 years after Rosa parks refused to sit in theback of the bus in Montgomery, a Baltimore County landlord would send African-Americans tothe back of its apartment development." Freeman later added, "We hope thissettlement sends a message to landlords that all forms of racial steering must end."

Maryland commission found there was "no probable cause" tobelieve discrimination was taking place
BNI's original complaint was investigated by the Maryland Commission on Human Relations.Surprisingly, that agency returned with a finding of "no probable cause." Thiswas in spite of the testing evidence that BNI presented.

"The situation at Kenilworth dramatically illustrates one of the new guises thathousing discrimination has assumed," Dyer said. "It is no longer common forrental applications to be summarily rejected. Instead, they are accepted, as in this case,but African-Americans are segregated within apartment developments. It is unlikely thatrental applicants would have the least idea that they are being steered."

According to Dyer, BNI still receives many complaints of racial discrimination inhousing. He added, however, that it has been joined by a rising number of complaints offamily status and disability discrimination in recent years.