OPINION: Housing Apartheid, American Style

May 17, 2015
The riots that erupted in Baltimore last month were reminiscent of those that consumed cities all over the country during the 1960s. This rage and unrest was thoroughly explained five decades ago by President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission. The commission’s report was released in 1968 — the year that the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. touched off riots in 125 cities — and contains the most candid indictment of racism and segregation seen in such a document, before or since.
     The commission told white Americans what black citizens already knew: that the country was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.” It linked the devastating riots that consumed Detroit and Newark in 1967 to residential segregation that had been sustained and made worse by federal policies that concentrated poor black citizens in ghettos. It also said that discrimination and segregation had become a threat to “the future of every American.”

Medina Metropolitan Housing Authority settles discrimination case with HUD

May 14, 2015
The Medina Metropolitan Housing Authority must devote $35,000 to assist low-income people moving into Medina County to settle a housing discrimination case brought by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
     The "voluntary compliance agreement" resolves the allegation that "the housing authority discriminated against African Americans in the administration of its Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, a violation of Title VI of the Civil Right Act of 1964 (Title VI) and the Fair Housing Act," HUD said in a news release.
     The Medina Housing Authority had a "residency preference point system that effectively imposed a residency requirement, thus putting African Americans who did not live or work in Medina County at a disadvantage," HUD said.

Retirement Home to Pay $390K to Settle Lawsuit

May 14, 2015
A Norfolk, Va., retirement home will pay $390,000 to settle federal claims it violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to afford all of its disabled residents equal access to facilities, sponsored events and motorized wheelchair usage.
     In a complaint filed May 11 in the Norfolk Federal Court, the Justice Department said the Fort Norfolk Retirement Community, also known as Harbor's Edge, instituted policies that effectively segregated its resident population into distinct groups based on their level of disability and well-being.
     A consent order filed at the same time as the complaint, and still awaiting the approval of U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan Jr., says that Harbor's Edge will pay $350,000 to residents harmed by the policies, and $40,000 to the federal government.
     The agreement also requires Harbor's Edge to appoint a Fair Housing Act compliance officer and implement a new dining and events policy, a new reasonable accommodation policy and a new motorized wheelchair policy.

Settlement over Spanish translators costs housing authority $18K

May 14, 2015
Hazleton Housing Authority agreed to pay $18,000 to settle allegations leveled by six Latino families who say the authority violated their civil rights by denying limited English proficiency services to Spanish-speaking individuals, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Wednesday.
     HUD officials said they reached a “conciliation agreement” with the local authority that settles allegations Hazleton Housing Authority violated housing rights of Spanish-speaking applicants and tenants by requiring them to supply their own interpreters to communicate with housing authority staff, according to a news release issued by HUD.
     Community Justice Project, a nonprofit public interest law firm, represented the families.

Fannie Mae accused of racial discrimination in maintenance of REOs

May 14, 2015
In a complaint filed this week with federal housing officials, Fannie Mae was accused of showing a pattern of racial discrimination by allowing its stock of foreclosed properties to deteriorate in non-white neighborhoods, while doing a better job of maintaining and marketing properties in largely white areas.
     The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), a consortium of more than 200 private nonprofit housing organizations, filed the complaint Wednesday on behalf of itself and 19 other fair-housing groups with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
     NFHA said Fannie violated the Fair Housing Act through unequal treatment. Rundown real-estate owned (REOs) properties in non-white neighborhoods are contributing to blight, health and safety hazards and placing a burden on neighbors and the local governments, the complaint says.

Anchorage to change zoning restrictions said to discriminate against disabled

May 14, 2015
The Municipality of Anchorage has agreed to change zoning requirements that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development says discriminated against people with disabilities, including those suffering from alcoholism, as part of an agreement reached between the city and agency.
     The deal stems from a complaint brought by the federal agency last year, asserting that municipal code in some cases put unfair and excessive restrictions on housing for people with disabilities.
     If group homes are allowed in certain neighborhoods, there has to be a level playing field for all groups, whether it’s a home for families of domestic violence, for ex-cons, or recovering alcoholics, said Leland Jones, a spokesperson for the department based in Seattle.

Massachusetts lawyer accused of targeting Latinos in loan modification scam

May 11, 2015
The Boston Herald is reporting today about a Massachusetts lawyer named David Yak who is accused by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination for targeting Latinos in an alleged loan modification fraud ring. He is said to have conned struggling homeowners like Marlon Hernandez, 39, a father of three who works two jobs to support his family out of $5,600.
     The Herald reported that the "Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has ordered a Revere attorney to pay $233,600, saying he discriminated against 17 Latino homeowners by targeting them with predatory and deceptive mortgage modification advertising.
     David Zak denies the charges and said he is appealing. But he could face another $557,000 in civil penalties and restitution for about 65 consumers who filed complaints with Attorney General Maura Healey, alleging similar business practices.

HUD announces fair housing charge and settlement with landlords in Nevada and Hawaii

May 11, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 11, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — As the nation prepares to celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced two fair housing actions involving allegations of housing discrimination involving families with children.
     In Carson City, Nevada, HUD charged the owners of a rental property for allegedly refusing to rent a home to parents because they have children. In the second action, HUD reached a settlement agreement with the owners of an apartment complex in Kihei, Hawaii to resolve allegations they barred families from living in certain buildings designated as “adult friendly.”
     The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to deny housing because a family has children under the age of 18 and to make statements that discriminate against families with children. Similarly, “adult-only” housing violates the Fair Housing Act unless it qualifies as housing for older persons.

Ruston, Lousiana, Housing Authority agrees to pay $175,000 and stop filling vacancies based on race to settle Justice Department lawsuit

May 11, 2015
The Justice Department announced today that the Housing Authority of the city of Ruston, Louisiana, has agreed to pay $175,000 and adopt comprehensive new policies to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the department. The settlement must still be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Robert G. James of the Western District of Louisiana.
     The department’s lawsuit, filed in September 2013, alleged that the Ruston Housing Authority (RHA) had long segregated the 300 apartments in its five public housing developments by assigning vacancies to applicants based on their race, rather than on their place on the waiting list. Specifically, the department alleged that the RHA disproportionately assigned white applicants to its two developments that were located in the predominantly white neighborhoods of Ruston—Louise Homes and Maryland Plaza Homes. At the same time, the department alleged, RHA primarily assigned African-American applicants to the complexes located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods—Eastwood Homes, Greenwood Homes and Truman Homes. When it originally began developing housing in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the RHA explicitly reserved Louise Homes and Maryland Plaza for “white” persons, while reserving Greenwood and Truman for what it termed “colored” persons.

Among favored renters, whites preferred

May 07, 2015
Although most renters in Tippecanoe and surrounding counties receive similar treatment when inquiring about a property, some housing providers show racial preference, according to results from a statewide fair housing testing program released last month.
     The Indiana Civil Rights Commission, the state's enforcement agency, conducted tests from February through December last year to gauge preferential treatment and fair housing law compliance. The commission said this is the first test of statewide breadth in the nation.
     "The goal and our hope would be that (renters) would not receive any sort of negative treatment or favoritism but be treated the same as everyone else," said Akia Haynes, deputy director and general counsel for the commission.

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