FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 12, 2003
Contact person: Anne Huiner, Community Education Specialist, 854-1400
Nearly 13 years ago, Properties Unlimited was enjoined by a federal administrative law judge from discriminating in the rental of their housing units. Since then, ongoing monitoring led a local civil rights organization to file additional charges with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging racial discrimination. Two of these were recently settled with the respondent agreeing to make payments totaling $13,000 and to undertake extensive affirmative action.
Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the elimination of discrimination in housing. Under government contract, HOME is responsible for periodically monitoring area apartment complexes to insure compliance with fair housing laws.
According to sworn affidavits, in two such tests at developments owned by Properties Unlimited, African-American investigators were shown units that were dirty and damaged. They were told that cleaning, painting, and all but major repairs to the property were the tenant's responsibility. In contrast, White investigators were given the option of renting a unit in good repair. Alleging disparate treatment to African-American applicants, HOME filed a case with HUD in 1999.
In 2002, while the earlier case was under negotiation, HOME received a call from an African-American woman who felt she had been discriminated against at another apartment complex owned by Properties Unlimited. She had been told that no apartments were available to people who received rental assistance. A White employee of HOME called and was told the complex had apartments available and that they did accept rental assistance.
According to sworn affidavits, when HOME investigated the client's claim, the African American investigator was offered an unclean apartment in deplorable condition and told it was the only one available. A White investigator was taken to see three apartments and offered a choice among them. Once again, it appeared that properties were only unlimited if the applicant was White.
HOME then joined its client in filing a second case with HUD and the NYS Division of Human Rights charging Properties Unlimited with racial discrimination in their rental practices. Although the Division of Human Rights dismissed the claim filed by HOME's client, HOME's case received a finding of probable cause.
Both cases were settled before trial without any admission of wrongdoing by the respondent. Properties Unlimited has agreed to undertake extensive affirmative action, to pay the government $2,000 in civil penalties and to pay the Buffalo-based civil rights organization a total of $11 ,000.
Equal opportunity in housing is the law, noted HOME executive director Scott W. Gehl. We are hopeful that these latest cases will help Properties Unlimited better appreciate that fact.