News Stories

Off-site news items.

City of Oakland sues Wells Fargo over allegations of predatory lending

September 22, 2015
The city of Oakland said Tuesday that it sued Wells Fargo over allegations of predatory lending.
     The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that Wells Fargo targeted Oakland's African-American and Hispanic residents, along with minority churches and congregations, for loans that were more expensive and higher risk than those regularly made to white borrowers.
     “Wells Fargo’s discriminatory conduct devastated individuals and communities, increasing poverty and wiping out or drastically reducing wealth for minority communities while bankers prospered,” said Barbara Parker, the city attorney for Oakland. “Wells Fargo and other banks knew when they issued predatory loans that many of them would result in foreclosure.

Mississippi real estate firm accused of discrimination

September 16, 2015
A complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development alleges a Brandon real estate company discriminated against black customers and encouraged white homebuyers to purchase houses in predominantly white areas.
     On Sept. 10, The Clarion-Ledger reports the National Fair Housing Alliance filed a complaint with HUD’s fair housing office in Atlanta against Re/Max Alliance following a yearlong investigation in which people of both races posed as prospective buyers with similar qualifications and housing preferences.
     As of Tuesday, Lee Garland, a real estate agent and director of the office, said he had not received a copy of the complaint from HUD or the housing alliance.

Proposed HUD rule could help rising Housing Authority rents

September 15, 2015
A proposed rule change in the way flat rents are calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could help ease the costs for residents of the Housing Authority of Bowling Green.
     Calculating flat rents in comparison to rents in the Bowling Green area has meant high-percentage rent increases for authority residents.
     HUD has required since last year that public housing rents be increased to within 80 percent of a city’s market value monthly rents. A 35 percent capped increase is slated over three years and the first monthly rent increase was levied in October. The monthly increases range from $86 to $229, depending on the number of bedrooms, not only in Bowling Green but also in public housing across Kentucky.
     Formal comments on the new proposal are being submitted to HUD until Nov. 9 on an option for public housing authorities to submit market studies to show how the federal calculation of their rent needs to be adjusted.

Weeks after Miami-Dade honor, Milton family is again sued for discrimination

September 14, 2015
Earlier this month, when Miami-Dade Commissioners named a street after real estate developer José Milton, they brushed aside the fact that Milton’s company had been previously accused in court of racial discrimination, saying the allegations had been settled decades ago.
     Milton had donated money to county parks and other charitable causes since the days of the allegations, commissioners said.
     “He was a great man, helped this community…Sometimes we’ve got to be very cautious as to what happened in the past,” said Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who co-sponsored the name change.

Fair Housing’s unfinished business

September 14, 2015
In early September, public policy experts, housing advocates, civil rights leaders, academicians and others came together for three days to listen, learn and craft a way forward to advance housing rights and opportunities. Convened by HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, the conference held September 1-3 celebrated major milestones in the fight for fair housing, recalled noteworthy achievements and itemized all that still remains to be accomplished.
     As co-sponsor of the 1968 Fair Housing Act (FHA), Walter Mondale, former vice president and Minnesota Senator, termed the Act’s passage as “one of the great miracles in modern history.” His opening keynote address also spoke to contemporary challenges to dismantle residential segregation and governmental policies that deny equal housing.
     “The Fair Housing Act has unfinished business,” noted Mondale. “When high-income Black families cannot qualify for applied loans and are steered away from White suburbs, the goals of the Fair Housing Act are not fulfilled.”
     “When the federal and state governments will pay to build new suburban highways, streets, sewers, school and parks but then allow these communities to exclude affordable housing, the goals of the Fair Housing Act are not fulfilled,” continued Mondale. “When we build most new subsidized housing in poor Black and Latino neighborhoods, the goals of the Fair Housing Act are not fulfilled.”

Ann Arbor gives citizen board new powers to review discrimination complaints

September 14, 2015
Ann Arborites who feel they've been discriminated against in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations now have a new channel through which to air grievances and seek remedy.
     The city's citizen-led Human Rights Commission now has the authority to review individual discrimination complaints brought forth by residents.
     The City Council last week unanimously approved ordinance changes, deleting old language that prohibited the commission from addressing specific instances of discrimination and adding new language granting the commission such powers.

M&T reaches settlement in NYC mortgage probe

September 02, 2015
M&T Bank Corp. has reached a settlement in U.S. District Court, agreeing to pay $485,000 to end a probe of the company's mortgage lending policies. In addition, Buffalo-based M&T (NYSE: MTB) said it will stop using neighborhood racial demographics as part of its residential mortgage lending programs.
     The settlement was announced Aug. 31. According to a release, the bank will adopt a company-wide policy that prohibits influencing customers' real estate decisions, post a revised fair lending policy to its website and hire a consultant to revise fair lending training for loan offices and other bank employees. The bank will also enhance the loan information it provides in the greater New York City area.

DOJ settles race and familial status FHA discrimination case for $75,000

September 01, 2015
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced yet another Fair Housing Act (FHA) case settlement yesterday. In this case, the DOJ alleged that the owners and managers of a mobile home park in Illinois had discriminated against families with children and African Americans. To resolve the complaint, among other relief, the defendants agreed to pay a total $75,000 to settle allegations that they violated the FHA.
     The agreement concluded a lawsuit asserting that the mobile home park violated the FHA by refusing to rent homes to African Americans and families with children. The factual allegations which made up the complaint were based on the results of testing conducted by DOJ’s fair housing testing program. Testing, of course, is a simulation of a housing transaction that compares responses given by housing providers to different types of applicants to probe whether discrimination may be taking place.
     Now, I am not a fan of testing such as this because the tester is being paid not to tell the truth and sometimes make assertions not backed up by the facts.

ACLU of Arizona sues city of surprise over an ordinance that's pretty terrible to domestic violence victims

August 28, 2015
The City of Surprise has this ordinance in place that allows a landlord to evict tenants who place calls to the police more than four times in 30 days, and there are no exceptions if the tenant is the victim of said crime. Well, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona have decided to challenge that rule on behalf of a domestic violence survivor.
     Nancy Markham was a victim of "repeated domestic violence" who "needed to contact and rely on the Surprise police for protection and assistance at her rental home. In response, Defendants sought Ms. Markham’s eviction," the lawsuit, filed Thursday, says. Markham is a single mother of two children.
     Between March and September of last year, Markham’s ex-boyfriend choked her, punched her, and threatened her with weapons. A Surprise police officer then enforced the nuisance ordinance by notifying her landlord about the police calls and encouraged her eviction, the ACLU argues. "In September 2014, the property manager of Markham’s apartment notified her that she would be evicted for having violated the law, even though the police never mentioned the law to Markham during any of her calls," the press release says.

HUD offers 9 Million to provide stable housing to low-income victims of domestic violence living with HIV/AIDS

August 24, 2015
To help prevent victims of domestic violence living with HIV/AIDS from falling into homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is making more than $9 million available to state, local governments and non-profits through the VAWA/HOPWA Project Demonstration – a collaborative effort between HUD’s Office of HIVAIDS Housing (OHH) and the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW). More than half of women living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. do not have access to stable housing and are at higher risk of experiencing domestic violence. Read HUD’s Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).
     Through this demonstration program, HUD will provide funding for transitional and other temporary rental housing assistance and supportive services to low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. Grantees will be required to partner with local domestic violence and sexual assault service providers for client outreach and engagement and for comprehensive supportive services to ensure client success in the program.
     “Every American deserves to live in a safe and stable environment,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “This funding will help vulnerable populations with HIV/AIDS to break the cycle of domestic violence and get the help they need.”


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