HUD’s new guidance on criminal records in housing is a great step for second chances, Says CAP’s Carmel Martin

April 05, 2016
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, released guidance on Monday for landlords and sellers on consideration of criminal records in housing, making it clear that blanket bans on renting or selling to anyone with a criminal record constitute illegal discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
     This measure will go a long way toward giving returning citizens and all Americans with criminal records a fair shot at securing safe and stable housing for themselves and their families. Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement in response: We commend HUD Secretary Julián Castro for taking this important step to enable Americans with criminal records to have a second chance.
     As CAP has shown, having even a minor criminal record can present lifelong barriers to the basic building blocks of economic security and mobility—including housing, as four in five landlords use criminal background checks on potential tenants. This has broad implications—not only for the individuals who find themselves unable to find housing but also for their families, as nearly half of U.S. children now have a parent with a criminal record. Having a criminal record remains a major driver of poverty and racial inequality.
     Moreover, access to safe and stable housing is critical to successful re-entry—and is a powerful anti-recidivism tool. By ensuring that American families have a fair shot at securing housing, this measure has the potential to address housing discrimination, keep families together, and save taxpayer dollars in the form of reduced incarceration costs—all while increasing public safety.

HUD’s new guidance on criminal records in housing is a great step for Second Chances

April 05, 2016
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, released guidance on Monday for landlords and sellers on consideration of criminal records in housing, making it clear that blanket bans on renting or selling to anyone with a criminal record constitute illegal discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
     This measure will go a long way toward giving returning citizens and all Americans with criminal records a fair shot at securing safe and stable housing for themselves and their families. Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement in response: We commend HUD Secretary Julián Castro for taking this important step to enable Americans with criminal records to have a second chance.
     As CAP has shown, having even a minor criminal record can present lifelong barriers to the basic building blocks of economic security and mobility—including housing, as four in five landlords use criminal background checks on potential tenants.
     This has broad implications—not only for the individuals who find themselves unable to find housing but also for their families, as nearly half of U.S. children now have a parent with a criminal record. Having a criminal record remains a major driver of poverty and racial inequality. Moreover, access to safe and stable housing is critical to successful re-entry—and is a powerful anti-recidivism tool. By ensuring that American families have a fair shot at securing housing, this measure has the potential to address housing discrimination, keep families together, and save taxpayer dollars in the form of reduced incarceration costs—all while increasing public safety.

Coed sues after landlord banishes assistance dog

April 04, 2016
A Grand Valley State University student is suing Meadow Crossing Apartments after its managers denied her request to have Izzy, her medically prescribed assistance dog, live with her.
     Marissa Biesbrock, a second-year chemistry major, claims Izzy, a 4-year-old miniature Chihuahua, has helped reduce her symptoms of depression and anxiety disorder.
     She and the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan are suing Silveri Management Company after she was denied a request to keep the dog in an apartment she planned to lease with three roommates near Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus.

Coed sues after landlord banishes assistance dog

April 04, 2016
A Grand Valley State University student is suing Meadow Crossing Apartments after its managers denied her request to have Izzy, her medically prescribed assistance dog, live with her.
     Marissa Biesbrock, a second-year chemistry major, claims Izzy, a 4-year-old miniature Chihuahua, has helped reduce her symptoms of depression and anxiety disorder.
     She and the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan are suing Silveri Management Company after she was denied a request to keep the dog in an apartment she planned to lease with three roommates near Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus.

HUD reaches agreement with California landlords resolving claims of discrimination against Mexican applicants

March 24, 2016
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today an agreement with a Cupertino, California-based property management company, its agents and the owners of a Santa Clara apartment complex to resolve allegations they discriminated against applicants based upon their national origin. HUD alleged that the Salwasser Group, Inc. (doing business as Income Property Specialists) and property owners Gary and Mary Drieger discriminated against prospective renters by refusing to accept Mexican forms of identification, while encouraging a Canadian passport holder to apply for an apartment.
     The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in rental, sales or home lending transactions based on a person’s national origin. This includes discrimination based on a person’s ancestry or country of birth outside the United States.
     “Where a person is from should not influence the housing options that are available to them,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The Fair Housing Act requires property owners to treat everyone equally and HUD will continue to take action when they fail to meet that obligation.” The case came to HUD’s attention when Project Sentinel, a fair housing organization based in Santa Clara, filed a complaint after performing fair housing testing that allegedly showed that the owners, through the management company, discriminated on the basis of national origin by refusing to rent, and imposing different terms and conditions regarding government-issued forms of identification.

Racially biased code words used in NY housing case

March 24, 2016
Officials in an affluent suburban New York village acquiesced to race-based opposition to a housing project and changed zoning codes to discriminate against minorities, a federal appeals court said this week as it also opened the door to one of America's most affluent counties facing claims it steered affordable housing to its lowest-income communities.
     
     The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a judge's finding that the village of Garden City on Long Island discriminated against minorities in a zoning decision made after Nassau County decided to sell some land. The court noted village residents used racially biased code words to convince public officials to exclude minorities by changing the land's zoning to mostly exclude multi-family dwellings.
     
     The appeals court said that Garden City residents at public hearings, for instance, claimed multi-family housing would change the "flavor" and "character" of the village and that any construction should involve "upscale" units. It also highlighted residents' claims that their community might become like Brooklyn and Queens, New York City boroughs where minorities are the majority.

DOJ obtains $130,000 settlement in lawsuit against Indiana Mobile Home Park for discriminating against families with children

March 24, 2016
The Justice Department announced that the corporate owner and agent of Gentle Manor Estates have agreed to pay $130,000 to settle a Justice Department lawsuit alleging familial status discrimination. The settlement must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.
     The lawsuit, filed in May 2015, alleged that Gentle Manor Estates LLC and John Townsend violated the Fair Housing Act by maintaining and enforcing a discriminatory policy of refusing to allow families with children to live at Gentle Manor Estates, a 173-lot mobile home park in Crown Point, Indiana. The allegations were based on evidence generated by the department’s Fair Housing Testing Program, in which individuals pose as renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices.
     “The Fair Housing Act guarantees families with children the right to choose a home without facing unlawful barriers of discrimination,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act to ensure that equal access to housing – a bedrock of the American dream – remains a reality for all families in our country.”

Long Island Housing Bias Ruling Affirmed by 2nd Circ.

March 23, 2016
After a federal judge found intentional discrimination behind its rezoning plan, Nassau County may face new liabilities for "steering" affordable housing to low-income communities of color, the Second Circuit ruled on Wednesday. In 2002, Nassau faced a budgetary and infrastructure crisis when its then-executive Thomas Suozzi came up with a plan that included selling the 25-acre site of the county's former social services building to a developer for $30 million.
     At first, Garden City trustees proposed "multi-family residential" housing that would have created 311 units - or 75 single-family homes - on the site, but the village selected a different developer under pressure from residents following multiple public hearings.
     A study commissioned by Acorn, a now-defunct civil rights group, found that the revised plan would not have altered the racial composition of the largely white village.

Grandmother sues Navajo Housing Authority

March 19, 2016
DNA People's Legal Services is suing Navajo Housing Authority over allegations the tribal agency's eviction policies discriminate against domestic violence victims.
     Attorneys state in the lawsuit filed March 7 in Navajo Nation District Court that the tribal agency's policies require that all members of a household involved in a domestic violence incident be evicted, which the legal clinic argues is unfair to the victims of the violence, who are often women.
     Attorneys argue that those women are guaranteed equal protection under the law by the Navajo Nation Bill of Rights and Navajo traditional law, and the policy violates that right.

Sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Morgantown landlord

March 17, 2016
A lawsuit has been filed against a Morgantown landlord after complaints of sexual harassment.
     The United States Attorney's Office said the lawsuit alleges Gary Walden sexually harassed multiple female tenants, who were staying in rental properties owned and managed by him.
     The U.S. Attorney said this violates the Fair Housing Act.
     The alleged harassment included engaging in unwanted and unwelcome sex acts with the female tenants, engaging in unwanted sexual touching and groping, making unwelcome sexual comments and verbal advances, conditioning or offering tangible housing benefits to female tenants in exchange for performance of sex acts on him or his maintenance workers, entering the apartments of female tenants without permission or notice to harass them sexually and taking adverse actions against female tenants when they refused or objected to his sexual advances or objected to continue to grant sexual favors.

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