EHOC, city sue Gundaker for Housing Discrimination

St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council
1027 South Vandeventer Fourth Floor
St. Louis, MO 63110

PRESS RELEASE
Thursday, May 14, 1998

Contact:
Executive Director
(314) 534-5800

A suit was filed today against the Gordon Gundaker Real Estate Company, Inc. in the US District Court and with the US Department of Housing & Urban Development by the Metropolitan St.Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council (EHOC) and the City of Florissant. As outlined in the complaint, the Gundaker Company has engaged in sales practices that constitute housing discrimination on the basis of race in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The complaint arose from a two-year investigation into real estate sales practices in the City of Florissant. The investigation showed that the Gundaker Company was steering African American homeseekers to certain areas of Florissant and north St. Louis County because of their race. The study was conducted by EHOC at the request of the City of Florissant in 1996 and 1997.

“By steering African American homeseekers, Gundaker agents have denied them the information about all options, making housing unavailable to them based on their race,” explained Ms. Bronwen Zwirner, Executive Director of the fair housing agency. “Homeseekers should be given information about all homes available that fit their price range and size requirements, so that they can make a decision about where they want to live. It is not up to the agent to decide where someone should live, especially if that decision is based on their race.”

In 1995 and 1996, the City of Florissant received complaints from residents that homeseekers were being directed to certain areas of the city because of their race. The city arranged for EHOC to obtain information on real estate sales practices in order to confirm or deny these concerns. EHOC conducted a series of tests that showed that real estate agencies were in fact steering blacks only to certain neighborhoods.

“The City of Florissant is committed to furthering fair housing in the community,” stated City Attorney John Hessel. “Steering is not only against the law. It is also against the interest of a healthy, diverse and prosperous Florissant.”

The City of Florissant and EHOC met with real estate agents and brokers following the initial series of tests in 1996 and discussed with them at length the results of the tests and ways in which steering could be avoided in the future. “We were amazed,” explained Zwirner, “when we went back in ‘97 to find that the patterns of steering were still evident. We told them we were going to re-test and they continued to do it anyway “

The law suit seeks an end to these illegal practices through injunctive relief as well as actual and punitive damages.