African-Americans and Illinois housing group win $114,000 in racial discrimination case

In June, the owners and managers of three apartment complexes in Oak Lawn, Illinois agreedto pay $144,000 to an African-American couple whom they denied a sublease, a white couplewho tried to sublet their apartment, the South Suburban Housing Center (SSHC), and severalAfrican-American testers who investigated complaints of discrimination at the complexes.The settlement is a series of Consent Orders approved by Federal District Court JudgeJames Holderman and includes both cash payments and rent credits.

The African-Americancouple at the center of the original complaint will receive a free apartment for one yearat the complex where managers originally turned them away. The managers of all threecomplexes will submit to monitoring by the South Suburban Housing Center and the Centerwill provide fair housing training to the agents at all of the complexes owned or managedby the defendants.

The SSHC began investigating the defendants' apartment complexes after receiving acomplaint from a white couple who wanted to sublet their apartment to an African-Americancouple in October 1997. The on-site manager told the white residents that she would notlive in the same building with African-Americans and denied them the opportunity to sublettheir apartment.

The SSHC sent both African-American and white testers to the complex to investigate.The tests revealed that the on-site manager refused to allow African-Americans to subletthe white residents' apartment.

The SSHC then investigated two other apartment buildings owned by the defendants thathad vacancies. At these other complexes, multiple messages left by African-Americantesters went unanswered.

African-Americans could not get appointments

White testers, on the other hand, had no problem getting in touch with a rental agentand had no problems getting appointments to see units. African-Americans could not easilyget appointments at the complexes. Rental agents at the complexes told white testers thatapartments were available and told African-American testers that they were not.

The South Suburban Housing Center receives funds from HUD's Fair Housing InitiativesProgram to conduct its enforcement activities. Jeffrey Taren, a civil rights attorney anda partner in the Chicago law firm of Kinoy, Taren, Geraghty and Potter, represented theCenter and the other plaintiffs in their federal lawsuit.

John Petruszak, the executive director of SSHC, said that the settlement in this caseshould show landlords that "discriminatory activity will not be tolerated in thiscommunity and Oak Lawn is a viable market for other African-Americans seeking housing inthis region."

HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said that HUD would continue to fight racial discrimination."Unfortunately," Cuomo said, "this type of discrimination is not just apart of our past. It is a harsh reality that hurts far too many Americans today."