Apartment owners agree to $100,000 settlement in race case

Elizabeth Albert of the Fair Housing Council of Montgomery County at 215-576-7711 or Arthur Haywood of Lord & Haywood P.C. Attorneys At Law at 215-592-4600.

(PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 1, 2002) -- Westrum Partners LTD and owner Lee Balten of Barry Court Apartments in Ambler Pa. have agreed to settle a fair housing discrimination case filed by the Fair Housing Council of Montgomery County with the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development for $10,000.00.

The Council filed a complaint with HUD in February 2002 alleging that African American callers to Barry Court were given different information than white callers when inquiring about renting a unit at Barry Court. The complaint was based upon evidence gathered over 3 years by the Council. In one piece of evidence, Lee Balten told an African American caller that there were no vacancies at Barry Court but encouraged a white caller to apply for an available unit on the very same day.

“Racial discrimination has become subtle”, according to Elizabeth Albert, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Council of Montgomery County. “ In this case African Americans were denied the opportunity to rent apartments because they sounded African American over the phone. When we analyzed the information we had collected there was no other way to explain the different treatment between whites and blacks except discrimination based upon the sound of someone’s voice”.

The Council called upon the expertise of Dr. John Baugh, a professor of Education and Linguistics from Stanford University. Dr. Baugh, a nationally known expert in racial linguistics, provided an analysis of the voices and reported on the likelihood that a caller’s race could be identified by the sound of their voice. Dr. Baugh has provided linguistic analysis in other fair housing discrimination cases.

Terms of the settlement include development and implementation of non-discriminatory polices, fair housing training and Cultural Proficiency Training. The goal of Cultural Proficiency training is to provide skills that individuals and organizations need in understanding differences in people. Kirk P. Perucca, President/CEO, Project Equality, is pleased partner with the Fair Housing Council. “Providing training in Cultural Proficiency as a part of a Fair Housing settlement is a valuable step in helping to end discrimination in housing.”

Other discrimination found by HUD during their investigation included discrimination against families with children and people with disabilities.

Arthur Haywood, Esq. of Lord & Haywood, represented the Council.