Garden Grove landlords charged by HUD with housing discrimination

 (Garden Grove, California, Nov. 17, 2006)

U.S. Department of HUD Charges Garden Grove Landlords With Refusing to Rent to Hispanics

Hispanic Tenants Were Evicted and Replaced With Vietnamese Families

The Fair Housing Council of Orange County announced today that seven complaints it filed with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) have resulted in HUD issuing charges of housing discrimination. The complaints, filed in May and June of this year, were made against Gary Luke and Mary Ngo and alleged that they evicted families, refused to rent and made discriminatory statements based on national origin. Following an extensive investigation, HUD agreed that there was sufficient evidence to issue charges of discrimination in connection with all seven complaints. 

HUD’s charges allege that Mary Ngo and Gary Luke, who between them own a two building complex in Garden Grove, Calif., refused to allow Rafaela Alonso, Norberto Barranco, Graciela Barrera, Laura Castaneda, and Maria Castaneda and their families to move back into their old apartments after they were given termination of tenancy’s so renovations could be made to their apartments. After the renovations were completed, no Hispanic families were given an opportunity to reapply or move back into their apartments. The charge further alleges that the owners refused to allow a prospective new Hispanic tenant, Maria del Carmen Maldonado, to rent a vacant apartment at the complex, because the units were only made available to Vietnamese families.

The five tenants first contacted the Fair Housing Council in December 2005 after Luke and Ngo issued tenants a 60-day notice to vacate in order to repair and remodel the apartments. When the Hispanic families inquired about moving back into the remodeled apartments, all of them were either told that they could not return or were promised rental applications that were never provided. The tenants allege that they were being evicted because they were Hispanic. When Laura Castaneda and her family inquired about moving back into the complex, Luke allegedly told her that he already had his people and rented her and Barrera’s units to Vietnamese Americans.

The Fair Housing Council also received a complaint from an applicant for tenancy alleging she was denied tenancy at the same complex because she is Hispanic. After Maria del Carmen Maldonado asked about the status of her application for a vacant apartment, Luke allegedly told her that his partner wanted to rent to only Vietnamese families. Luke’s partner, Mary Ngo, is Vietnamese.

The Fair Housing Council conducted an investigation, researched the property ownership records and subsequently filed complaints of discrimination with HUD. In March 2006, in response to one of the complaints, Fair Housing Council staff visited the complex and surveyed all the tenants. The survey indicated that all of the former Hispanic tenants had been evicted and were replaced by Vietnamese tenants.

"The Fair Housing Council received numerous complaints and after a thorough investigation of the property found that there was evidence of discriminatory housing practices,” said Elizabeth Pierson, president/CEO and general counsel for the Fair Housing Council of Orange County. “The next step is to try to resolve the dispute, if possible, to insure that this practice ends,” Pierson said. “It is also very important to make clear that no discrimination in housing will be excused in Orange County, including minority on minority abusive practices.”

Housing discrimination charges heard before an administrative law judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for each violation for a first offense, in addition to actual damages for each complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorneys’ fees. Sanctions can be more severe if a respondent has a history of housing discrimination. Parties also have the right to elect to have their cases heard in federal district court.

The federal Fair Housing Act, became law in 1968 and initially outlawed housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The Act’s protections have been expanded twice. In 1974, discrimination based on sex was outlawed. In 1988, with the support of President Reagan, Congress widened the protections and made it illegal to discriminate against families with children or on the basis of handicap or disability.

The Fair Housing Council of Orange County is a private, nonprofit organization formed in 1965 in the wake of the civil rights movement that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The agency incorporated in 1968, the same year that Congress extended civil rights protections to cover housing with the adoption of the Fair Housing Act. Under the direction of a 16 member volunteer board of directors and with a paid staff of 16, the agency works to fulfill a mission of fostering diversity and eliminating housing discrimination in Orange County. Contracting with local governments to provide fair housing services to all Orange County residents, the agency provides comprehensive community and industry education, individual counseling, mediation, low-cost advocacy and handles more than 550 issues concerning housing discrimination each year. The Fair Housing Council also recently expanded it programs to include comprehensive education programs for housing providers, property managers, lenders and real estate professionals. For more information, call 800/698-FAIR or 714/569-0823 or visit www.fairhousingoc.org
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