Suit alleges Dallas firm put black homeowners at higher risk of foreclosure

August 19, 2016
Dallas equity firm Lone Star Funds is being sued by a group of black homeowners in New York who allege the company pushed them toward foreclosure by misleading them about their mortgages.
     A 53-year-old plaintiff told a federal court that the company's mortgage servicer would call him almost every day -- sometimes two or three times a day -- threatening foreclosure and pressuring him to accept an unfavorable change to his loan.
     Lone Star's mortgage servicer, Caliber Home Loans, disputed the allegations and called the lawsuit "without merit."
     The federal suit filed last week also targets the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. At issue is the agency's sale of delinquent mortgages backed by the federal government to private investors like Lone Star.

Hawaii settles housing discrimination complaint

August 16, 2016
Hawaii's public housing agency has agreed to take steps to remove language barriers for tenants after a Micronesian family that speaks little English almost got evicted when they didn't understand the legal proceedings against them.
     The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii announced the agreement with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority last week, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2aQkwRS). By settling, the state agency does not admit guilt but has agreed to award Valantin Sirom, and his wife, Sasinta Seremea, $2,000 in damages and strengthen its language access efforts.
     Legal Aid had filed both state and federal complaints on behalf of the Chuukese couple and their family when they faced eviction after two hearings before the authority.

HOME settles housing discrimination complaint with Chesterfield firm for $33,000

August 03, 2016
Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia Inc. said Wednesday it had settled a discrimination complaint for $33,000 with two Richmond-area companies for alleged housing discrimination against a person who did not speak English.
     Richmond-based HOME filed the complaint against Executives Inc. Realty Group, a real estate brokerage in Chesterfield County, and CBP Properties LLC, a local property owner.
     The complaint alleged that a policy maintained by Executives Inc. requiring that at least one lease signer be able to sufficiently communicate in English constituted discrimination based on national origin.

Disabled residents sue Prince George's county housing authority

July 29, 2016
A group of disabled residents have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Housing Authority of Prince George's County because they say the county has refused to make their apartments handicap accessible.
     Residents in public housing told News4 that simple tasks like bathing, cooking and dressing have become huge challenges for them to perform in their own homes.
     Kenneth Galloway lost both of his legs a few years ago due to complications from diabetes.
     

Citizens bank reaches loan bias accord with HUD

July 29, 2016
Federal housing regulators July 29 said they approved an agreement that resolves allegations of lending bias by Philadelphia- and Rhode Island-based units of Citizens Bank.
     The Department of Housing and Urban Development said Citizens will pay a total of $115,000 to settle claims that it violated the Fair Housing Act by telling a female credit applicant that her application for a home equity line of credit would not be approved until she returned to work.
     The unnamed applicant alleged familial status discrimination, saying the bank held up her loan application because she was on maternity leave, even though she was still receiving her full pay.

Westchester Must Hire Consultant for Fair-Housing Study, Judge Rules

July 08, 2016
A federal judge on Friday ruled that Westchester County must hire a consultant to study barriers to fair housing in communities across one of the richest suburbs in the country.
     The decision came in response to a request by a federal monitor who has overseen the implementation of a 2009 consent decree signed by the county and the federal government. It required the county to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 overwhelmingly white municipalities.
     The decree was the result of a legal settlement between the county and the Anti-Discrimination Center, a nonprofit group. In 2006, the group sued the county, saying that the county had lied when, while applying for federal housing money, it claimed to have complied with fair housing mandates. A federal judge ruled that the county had “utterly failed” to meet its obligations.
     In addition to the 750 units of housing, which the county is on track to build, the decree stipulated that the county also ensure that its municipalities stop using exclusionary zoning practices. The agreement required the county to submit a so-called “analysis of impediments” to affordable housing, saying Westchester should sue towns and villages, if necessary.

Regency Square Elevator Still Broken; Fair Housing Center Investigating

July 06, 2016
Six months have come and gone and the elevator in Wendy Barton's building at Regency Square Apartments is still broken.
     Now, the landlord is trying to get an exemption from the state so he doesn't have to fix this broken elevator. The Newschannel3 I-Team is also learning that not fixing the elevator may be a form of discrimination. Either way, Wendy Barton is fed up.
     At 70 years old and with Multiple Sclerosis and living on the third floor, Wendy Barton needs her elevator.
     "My balance is not good, I have to hold onto the railing, I have to lean against the wall," says Barton who has lived at Regency Square Apartments for eight years.

For 45 years, fair housing activist Lee Porter has led North Jersey agency fighting discrimination

July 04, 2016
The stacks of boxes that fill Lee Porter’s office in Hackensack are just a small sampling of a storied 50-year career combating housing discrimination in North Jersey and beyond.
     Porter, who has served as the executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey for 45 years, didn’t plan to lead the non-profit corporation for so long when she began to volunteer there in 1965. But somehow, she said, the years went by and the work never finished. She is now 89 years old, a grandmother of four who drives to the Main Street office every day, she said, because there is still more work to do.
     “I almost feel like a failure,” she said as she sat at a conference table in her office where the walls are lined with awards bestowed on her through the years. “Twenty years ago, I used to tell the United Way that we are the only organization that you fund whose ultimate goal is to go out of business, and we do that when equal opportunity in housing becomes a reality. That hasn’t happened yet.”
     Housing advocates and Bergen County residents who have worked with Porter say she has been an influential figure in lobbying and receiving more funding nationally for fair housing, for bringing landmark discrimination cases to court, and for simply helping people move to where they want to live.

Bed-Stuy Realty Company Fined for Housing Discrimination Practices

June 24, 2016
A Brooklyn firm of realtors discriminated against prospective tenants who were using rental assistance vouchers, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Thursday.
     Undercover calls to Rapid Realty Bedford Stuyvesant found that it discriminated against potential applicants with Living In Communities (LINC) III rental assistance vouchers, according to the Attorney General’s office.
     The assistance program helps homeless victims of domestic violence obtain housing.

Fair Chance at Housing Act offers solutions for people with criminal records

June 24, 2016
Each year, more than 600,000 people are released from federal and state prisons, while roughly 11 million more cycle through local jails. But despite serving their time, many of these formerly incarcerated individuals find themselves continuously punished for their past mistakes. This is particularly true when they seek housing — a refuge, a place where they can get back on their feet.
     Resources, especially affordable housing, are already scarce in many of the communities where formerly incarcerated people return. Indeed, there is currently a shortage of 7.2 million affordable rental units that are available to extremely low income households. People with no interaction with the criminal justice system struggle to find affordable housing. Having a criminal record creates additional barriers that are often insurmountable.
     Too frequently, people with criminal records are refused housing or are precluded from rejoining their families, as most plan to do. That’s because housing providers have broad discretion in deciding who is permitted to live in their properties. As a result, formerly incarcerated individuals looking to make the most of their second chance instead find themselves at risk of becoming homeless or recidivating.

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