Louisville residents weigh in on housing discrimination, desires

December 18, 2015
A new report sheds light on how housing discrimination endures in Louisville, and how residents would like the issue to be addressed.
     The federally funded report was released Friday by the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission. It looks at focus groups with more than 60 Louisville residents from protected classes as outlined by the federal 1968 Fair Housing Act and local anti-discrimination laws.
     Participants were asked to discuss what they like and dislike about their neighborhood, what they would change, and where they would live if affordable housing was available across the city.

Discrimination by Airbnb hosts is widespread, report says

December 14, 2015
Airbnb likes to refer to itself as less a company than a "community." To that end, it has made trust between real people a cornerstone of its business strategy in short-term home rentals.
     But new research suggests that when users get real, racism can result.
     A working paper by three Harvard researchers found "widespread discrimination" by hosts against people with black-sounding names seeking rentals. Fictional guests set up by the researchers with names like Lakisha or Rasheed were roughly 16 per cent less likely to be accepted than identical guests with names like Brent or Kristen.
     "Clearly, the manager of a Holiday Inn cannot examine names of potential guests and reject them based on race," the authors wrote. "Yet, this is commonplace on Airbnb." Airbnb, valued by investors at roughly $24 billion and based in San Francisco, said in a statement that it was "committed to making Airbnb one of the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent communities in the world." It added, "We recognise that bias and discrimination are significant challenges, and we welcome the opportunity to work with anyone that can help us reduce potential discrimination in the Airbnb community."

Schneiderman subpoenas Long Island German housing group

December 14, 2015
Here is the expanded lead item from my "Albany Insider" column from Monday's editions:
     State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office issued a subpoena to a Long Island organization that only allows individuals of primarily German descent to live on its land.
     "The fair housing laws were passed to help promote racial integration and not promote racial segregation, which is a big concern here," a source familiar with the situation said.

NE Attorney General files Fair Housing lawsuit against Lexington landlords

December 11, 2015
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson’s office filed a suit against Cottonwood Apartments in Dawson County District Court.
     The suit alleges multiple violations of the Nebraska Fair Housing Act.Cottonwood owners Gerald and Sharon Rich and property manager Lori Reinick were named as defendants.
     The complaint, filed Nov. 16, alleged that the defendants discriminated against Somalian, African-American, and/or Muslim tenants. The complaint listed to alleged violations as follows:

New housing policy eases transition for those with criminal records

December 02, 2015
Greg Ostiguy of New Bedford was arrested and charged with assault and battery in August 1991 after getting into a confrontation with his brother.
     Ostiguy, then 27, had been working for a lumber company and living on Thomas Street. He spent three days in jail.
     Two decades later, Ostiguy, 47, said he is homeless, camping out at a Park and Ride near the New Bedford Regional Airport. He said he has been living on the streets because he has been struggling to find work with his criminal record and unable to afford rent. He relies on a disability check for a motorcycle accident years ago.
     A new policy and guidance from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Justice Department would make it easier for people like Ostiguy to transition from prison and gain more opportunities for jobs and housing.
     "If I had housing, I could try to do better in my life. It's been two decades.

Mortgage lender Sage Bank sued by DOJ for alleged discriminatory practices

December 02, 2015
Lowell, Mass.-based mortgage lender Sage Bank will pay $1.175 million to resolve allegations brought by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that it violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by charging African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher prices for home loans than it did for white borrowers with comparable creditworthiness.
     As per a DOJ press release, Sage Bank had a pricing policy in place wherein each of its loan officers was assigned a "target price," which was the price a loan officer was required to achieve on each home loan, regardless of a borrower's creditworthiness.
     The DOJ's complaint alleges that the loan officers who were assigned higher target prices disproportionately served African-American and Hispanic borrowers. The complaint also alleges that loan officers had the discretion to price loans above their target prices and did so to a greater extent for African-American and Hispanic borrowers than for white borrowers.

Public housing enables the homeless to thrive in Asheville

November 28, 2015
Being homeless often involves circumstances out of one’s control.
     “I was kicked out of my home when I was 18. The hardest part was not knowing where I would be sleeping at night. For a while I was couchsurfing, and when it got really bad I would sleep in my car,” said 20-year-old Daniella Adarve Cuellar. “The key to avoiding police harassment is to park somewhere no one will notice you, like the dark corner of Walmart, but then my safety becomes an issue.”
     In 2005, a 10-year initiative started to end chronic homelessness by 2015 in Asheville. According to the executive summary of this initiative, 2,000 people experience homelessness in Asheville and Buncombe County at some time during the course of each year.
     According to the North Carolina Point-In-Time Count for Asheville/Buncombe County in 2008, the total homeless population was 509 for the year of 2008, a decrease in 2012 to 423 people.

Springfield zoning discriminates against mentally ill, violates fair housing rules

November 27, 2015
The lawsuit by Disability Rights Florida, a Tallahassee-based advocacy group, asks for an injunction blocking the city from enforcing Springfield’s zoning overlay, created about 15 years ago as a unique set of rules for the historic neighborhood north of downtown built in the late 19th and early 20th century.
     It pointed to the city’s refusal last month to permit an apartment building for the homeless as an example of the overlay blocking mentally ill people from living in the neighborhood.
     Ability Housing of Northeast Florida, the Jacksonville-based nonprofit that planned to refurbish a 12-unit building at 139 Cottage Ave., sued last week saying the city had violated the Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities acts.

The Durst organization fined for developing rental apartment buildings that were inaccessible to persons with disabilities

November 19, 2015
New York real estate developer, The Durst Organization, is now required to ensure that all their ongoing and future development projects should be made more accessible to persons with disabilities, including to make two of their existing apartment buildings in Manhattan more accessible to persons with disabilities. The company is also required to provide up to $515,000 to compensate aggrieved persons, as well as pay a civil penalty of $55,000.
     According to the press release of the United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York, United States and The Durst Organization have reached a settlement that resolves the federal civil right lawsuit that alleges The Durst Organization to be engaged in a pattern and practice of developing rental apartment buildings that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities or PWDs.
     "This is the ninth in a series of lawsuits that this office has brought against real estate developers and architects who fail to design and construct new apartment buildings accessible to people with disabilities," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
     

Emotional support animal owners experience housing problems

November 17, 2015
Several residents have faced problems trying to get their landlords to recognize their emotional support or companion animals.
     Chloe Martinez had her therapist write a note so her dog, Cash, could be her emotional support animal. Martinez, 23, is a recent University of Missouri graduate who said she got the idea from a friend after she started battling mental health issues.
     “It was my sophomore year of high school, and I was dealing with a lot of anxiety," Martinez said.
     She said Cash helps her deal with social anxiety when she is in public and has helped her through some very hard times.

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