Philadelphia, PA

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.

Fair Housing’s unfinished business

September 14, 2015
In early September, public policy experts, housing advocates, civil rights leaders, academicians and others came together for three days to listen, learn and craft a way forward to advance housing rights and opportunities. Convened by HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, the conference held September 1-3 celebrated major milestones in the fight for fair housing, recalled noteworthy achievements and itemized all that still remains to be accomplished.
     As co-sponsor of the 1968 Fair Housing Act (FHA), Walter Mondale, former vice president and Minnesota Senator, termed the Act’s passage as “one of the great miracles in modern history.” His opening keynote address also spoke to contemporary challenges to dismantle residential segregation and governmental policies that deny equal housing.
     “The Fair Housing Act has unfinished business,” noted Mondale. “When high-income Black families cannot qualify for applied loans and are steered away from White suburbs, the goals of the Fair Housing Act are not fulfilled.”
     “When the federal and state governments will pay to build new suburban highways, streets, sewers, school and parks but then allow these communities to exclude affordable housing, the goals of the Fair Housing Act are not fulfilled,” continued Mondale. “When we build most new subsidized housing in poor Black and Latino neighborhoods, the goals of the Fair Housing Act are not fulfilled.”

Court reaffirms fair-housing fight

July 07, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June affirming the use of "disparate impact" lawsuits to combat housing discrimination breathes new life into an important standard for protecting the rights of racial minorities, people with disabilities, families with children, and other victims of discrimination.
     The court could have robbed the Fair Housing Act of the disparate-impact standard but instead decided the Texas v. Inclusive Communities Project case in a way that reinforces protections for disadvantaged participants in the real estate market. Pennsylvania has been the site of numerous important disparate-impact cases, and the court's decision makes possible new challenges to discrimination against renters and home buyers.
     The disparate-impact standard bars housing practices that are harmful mainly to protected groups, even if there's no intentional discrimination. For example, the Housing Equality Center sued an apartment complex in West Chester that threatened to evict a mother, father, and young child from their two-bedroom apartment when the mother became pregnant again because the apartment complex had a policy that no more than three people could occupy a two-bedroom apartment. Needless occupancy restrictions like this primarily hurt families with children, a protected group under the Fair Housing Act. As a result of the lawsuit, the complex began permitting families of four to live in two-bedroom units.

Woman evicted after adopting son

April 16, 2010
All she wanted to do was provide a home for an orphaned child, but because of her kindness, a Bucks County woman's home was taken away, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
     HUD is alleging that Doylestown landlords Charles and Patricia Trucksess discriminated against families with children when renting properties and even terminated one tenant's lease after she adopted a child.
     The Trucksesses own several rental properties in Doylestown. In March 2007 a woman, who was not identified by HUD, rented a three-bedroom apartment from them on Old Easton Road near Curly Hill, court documents said.
     While viewing the apartment, the woman told Patricia Trucksess that she planned to adopt a child and Trucksess told her that she'd never rented to anyone with children, according to HUD.
     Still, the woman secured the apartment and in December of that year, adopted a 9-year-old son. They lived in the apartment until April 2009, when the woman was told her lease was being terminated, court documents said.

Real estate company settles Fair Housing suit

January 15, 2010
The Fair Housing Rights Center in Southeastern Pennsylvania (FHRC), a private non-profit organization dedicated to ending housing discrimination, has settled a fair housing suit against Michael Singer Real Estate. Michael Singer Real Estate is a management company that owns and operates rental sites throughout Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. After extensive investigation that was conducted over the course of one year, the FHRC found violations of the reasonable accommodation provisions of federal and state fair housing laws.
     The federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability in housing-related transactions, mandates that people with disabilities who use service animals must be granted a reasonable accommodation to “no pets” policies. This is to ensure that people with disabilities that require service animals have the same housing options as everyone else.
     In 2008, the FHRC uncovered discriminatory practices when a tester was told that Michael Singer Real Estate management would not waive their “No Dogs” policy for someone who had a service animal. As a result, the Center stepped up its investigation and conducted numerous tests at varying Michael Singer Real Estate properties. Test results showed that multiple agents and multiple sites had a policy and practice of denying service animals, including seeing-eye dogs, seizure alert dogs, hearing impaired dogs, and emotional support dogs.

Ailing woman, 78, spared eviction after PHA's reasoning collapses

September 16, 2009
One phone call from the Philadelphia Housing Authority to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could have saved 78-year-old Clara McLeod months of emotional agony. Instead, the authority moved to have McLeod evicted in July from the Conswiller B. Pratt apartment building at the Greater Grays Ferry Estates, where she's lived for five years.
     It was only after the Daily News got involved that McLeod's eviction was averted. After calls to HUD and PHA from the Daily News, Brown said his agency would allow McLeod to stay in her apartment. PHA spokesman Maurice Brown said the modifications to every unit in the apartment building were required by HUD.
     But Bryan Greene, HUD's general deputy assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, flatly denied that claim, adding that PHA had "plenty of opportunity to accommodate this woman." Although PHA is required under a 2008 agreement with HUD to make 5 percent, or 760 units, of its inventory handicapped-accessible by 2013, PHA decides which units to make handicapped-accessible, Greene said.

Suburban swim club re-invites inner city kids

July 13, 2009
A suburban swim club that touched off a storm of controversy after disinviting a Philadelphia day camp of mostly black and Hispanic children now wants to re-invite them, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
     The newspaper quotes the president of the Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley as saying the group's board decided it would "reach out" to the Philadelphia group, known as Creative Steps, to "get the kids back to the club in a safe environment."
     The uproar occurred last month after 65 children from Creative Steps arrived at the Montgomery County club and heard members allegedly make racial remarks. Some parents also escorted their children from the pool, the paper says.

Philadelphia-area swim club accused of racial discrimination

July 09, 2009
A private swim club in suburban Philadelphia allegedly discriminated against minority children from a city day camp, denying the campers re-entry amid claims of racism, camp officials claim.
     Alethea Wright, executive director of Creative Steps Inc., told MyFOXPhilly.com that the camp's check for $1,950 was returned after just one 90-minute session on June 29 at the Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley.
     "I get a phone call from the board chair saying, 'You're no longer going to be able to swim here,'" said Wright, adding that she was not given a specific reason. "The other members were taking their children out while our children were swimming."
     Wright said several African-American children of the 65 participants in her program allegedly overheard a Caucasian woman complaining about their presence at the pool.
     John Duesler, president of the swim club, told FOX 29 in Philadelphia that the club "underestimated the impact the children would have." They "fundamentally changed the atmosphere" at the pool, he said.

Philadelphia sheriff's home sales suspended

March 28, 2008
With housing advocates predicting that the subprime mortgage crisis will hit the city hard in 2008, Sheriff John D. Green yesterday suspended sales of foreclosed properties for April and said he would seek court approval for an even longer moratorium.
     His announcement came about 30 minutes after City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on him to freeze sheriff's sales.
     "We are excited about having a partnership with City Council," Green said in a news release, noting that he did not have the same support when he unilaterally imposed a 30-day moratorium in 2004.
     Green said the reprieve would give his office more time to identify predatory-lending victims and to help struggling home owners. Lenders caution that any moratorium could drive some mortgage bankers out of the city, making loans costlier and more difficult to obtain for everyone.

Foreclosure fallout: Renters forced out of lost homes

November 30, 2007
Alice Mills signed her lease in February, thinking she would have a nice place to stay for the next year, until she could make her way into a senior citizens' community.
     The corner house she found in northeast Philadelphia was small, but it was enough for the 67-year-old great-great-grandmother who lives by herself.
     Then in July, Mills got a rude surprise when she came home from a hospital stay to find a sheriff's notice on the door, saying the house had been foreclosed and she must call about being evicted.
     Mills says her landlord told her not to worry because he would "take care of it," so she ignored other letters and notices that came to the apartment. Not until a sheriff's deputy showed up on November 13 did Mills take the eviction notices seriously. He told her she had to be out of the house the next day.

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