Raleigh, NC

Good news on affordable housing in N.C.

August 18, 2009
The General Assembly wrapped up its 2009-2010 session by passing several pieces of legislation that help advance the issue of affordable housing and respond to the housing crisis in NC. Most notably, the Affordable Housing/No Discrimination Act, the Community Land Trust Property Taxation bill and the Intermodal Transport bill, all passed with bi-partisan support and an overwhelming majority vote.
     The significant growth NC has experienced in the past 20 years has created an affordability crisis in all of major cities and our tourism center in the mountains and coast, remarked Chris Estes, Executive Director of the NC Housing Coalition, a private non profit advocacy and resource organization. This crisis has been compounded by the explosion of foreclosures among low and moderate income North Carolinians. These bills will help increase the provision of quality affordable homes for low and moderate wage workers in our workforce as well as our more vulnderable fixed-income seniors and persons with disabilities, said Estes.
     The Affordable Housing/No Discrimination Act (SB 810) expands the North Carolina Fair Housing Act by including affordable housing for those at 80% or below area median income as a protected class. It is now a violation of the law to discriminate in land-use decisions based on whether the development contains affordable housing. North Carolina is the first state to include affordable housing in their Fair Housing Act, once again paving the way for progress in affordable housing. This is landmark legislation, said Al Ripley, staff attorney for the NC Justice Center. It will both help encourage the development of additional housing opportunities in North Carolina and will be seen as a model for other states to emulate.

Court to rule on loans' fairness

January 23, 2008
More than 800 borrowers in North Carolina say Bank of America owes them money because a company it oversaw made them home mortgage loans with illegal, hidden credit insurance. For Bank of America and the borrowers, there is much more at stake than money. Experts say the case is about what's more important in North Carolina: Protecting consumers or protecting businesses.
     The fight has gone to the N.C. Supreme Court, which could issue a ruling as early as Friday.
     During arguments this month, John Jones, an attorney for the borrowers, told the court that Nations Credit, a subsidiary of Bank of America, illegally attached credit insurance to loans without telling customers. He said the bank should refund their money plus pay more as punishment for their bad practices. He contends that if the bank wins, predatory lending laws could be wiped out, and all consumers could be more vulnerable to rip offs.
     John Culver III, an attorney for the bank, told the court that the borrowers signed legal loan contracts and should be held to them. He cautioned that if the borrowers win, anyone who has second thoughts about a contract will be able to come back and sue. He declined an interview about the lawsuit.
     

Lending bill could soften N.C. law

December 04, 2007
Proposed legislation aimed at combating predatory lending would undercut North Carolina's law, state officials said Monday.
     Attorney General Roy Cooper criticized the federal Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007, saying it would weaken the remedies North Carolina homeowners have available to fight lenders who break the law.
     "A national law to fight predatory lending is long overdue, but it shouldn't come at the expense of North Carolina homeowners," Cooper said. "If Congress passes this law as currently written, North Carolina consumers will actually be worse off."
     Cooper last month sent letters to the state's Republican senators, Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, asking them to eliminate any provisions that pre-empt North Carolina law. The bill has passed the U.S. House and is pending in the Senate.

Mortgage lending disparities

November 07, 2006
The final part of our Eyewitness News investigation, "Borrowing While Black", is exposing what could be a hidden secret in the banking industry, and potentially illegal activity. We went undercover and discovered the price you pay for a home loan could depend on where you're buying. We also found a loan officer encouraging a buyer to look in one part of the Triangle over another.
     "I was not aware that lenders were participating in that kind of activity," said Stella Adams. She's a national expert on housing discrimination. She started the North Carolina Fair Housing Center in Durham 13 years ago.

N.C. anti-cohabitation law under attack

May 09, 2005
There are some 144,000 unmarried couples living together in North Carolina, and they are all breaking the law - a statute that has been on the books since 1805.
     The law against cohabitation is rarely enforced. But now the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to overturn it altogether, on behalf of a former sheriff's dispatcher who says she had to quit her job because she wouldn't marry her live-in boyfriend.
     Deborah Hobbs, 40, says her boss, Sheriff Carson Smith of Pender County, near Wilmington, told her to get married, move out or find another job after he found out she and her boyfriend had been living together for three years. The couple did not want to get married, so Hobbs quit.
     Her lawsuit, filed in March in state court, seeks to have the cohabitation law declared unconstitutional.

$62,500 settlement resolves discriminatory maintenance suit

January 19, 2005
This week, the North Carolina Fair Housing Center and a family of African tenants announced the $62,500 settlement of their claims for discriminatory maintenance practices against United Dominion Realty Trust, Inc. (“UDRT”), one of the largest owners of apartment complexes nationwide.
     The family of three, originally from Angola and the Congo, had lived in the Cinnamon Ridge (now renamed Cameron Gardens) development in Raleigh for several years. While at the property, the lawsuit alleged, the family suffered from wretched, slum-like maintenance conditions – including multiple ceiling collapses, water running through their ceiling, backed-up and malfunctioning water pipes making the bathroom unusable, and defective insulation and window jambs that made the apartment freezing on winter nights, among other conditions.
     According to the suit, other tenants at Cinnamon Ridge – predominantly Hispanic and non-European immigrants – suffered from similar conditions, including one tenant whose non-functioning toilet was removed, but not replaced for over a month. While the owner allegedly refused to make such basic repairs at this predominantly minority property, it offered a “Superstar Service” maintenance policy at its apartments with mostly white tenants, guaranteeing repairs within a 24-hour period. In addition to the discriminatory maintenance practices, the suit claimed that the owner “steered” white tenants to its white properties and minorities to its poorly maintained complexes.

Household refunds to go out to NC borrowers

December 16, 2003
Starting today, refund checks totaling $11 million will be mailed to North Carolina consumers with Household or Beneficial Finance home loans in the nation's largest such settlement, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.
     "Homeowners deserved their money back and now they'll get it," said Cooper, who helped win the national settlement last year. "Even more important, consumers now have better access to credit on fair terms because this settlement raises the bar for mortgage lenders everywhere."
     In North Carolina, 22,946 consumers who borrowed from Household will share in the state's $11 million portion of the landmark national settlement. Consumers with second mortgage loans of $25,000 or greater or first mortgage loans will get a pro rata share of the settlement fund depending on the size of their initial loan. Approximately 2,000 consumers will get refunds of more than $1,000, with more than 5,000 receiving refunds of $500 or more. The average refund will be $480. Consumers who had a second mortgage loan of less than $25,000 should see refunds of $100.

Raleigh sessions to pass the word on fair housing

April 10, 2003
Last year, the City Council deadlocked on whether to seek more authority to enforce fair housing laws that the city had let lapse. But it also appointed a new majority to the city's fair housing hearing board, which hadn't met for at least six years.
     The city and the reinvigorated board are holding a conference Friday and Saturday to teach renters, homeowners, landlords and real estate agents about fair housing. The event is free and open to the public.
     Raleigh is the only large city in North Carolina that doesn't investigate its own fair housing complaints. The city failed to revise its fair housing ordinance more than a decade ago to reflect new federal rules banning discrimination against the disabled and families with children.

Opinion: N.C. council proposes subtle discrimination

February 19, 2003
When I first heard about the proposed housing ordinance, I blew it off as just another thing the City Council was running their mouths about. I read some articles about it and talked to some of my friends but never really took it seriously. However, when I read the article in Campus Forum, submitted by Bruce Mamel, former chair of the West Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council, I was outraged by his "reasoning" for limiting the number of unrelated people living together.
     Mamel claims that the ordinance is designed with students' best interests in mind. By not allowing more than 2 nonrelated people living together, it supposedly preserves the area by keeping it cleaner and less run-down. This in turn keeps the area nice for when students are ready to buy their own houses. The council seems to think that by putting up this ordinance, yards will stay more clear of trash, houses will be kept in better shape, and people will want to move to Raleigh because it will look like a prettier city.
     The council fails to realize that quite a bit of Raleigh, especially the area inside the Beltline and areas near NCSU's campus, is inhabited mainly by college students. These students have limited funds and cannot afford to live with just two people in a house. Even apartments are quite expensive, and when you throw in the expense of tuition, books, car payments, food, gas, etc. it gets to be too much for any student to be able to afford. Personally, I am a full-time student who works three jobs to cover my expenses, and since I refuse to take out a student loan, I try hard to not depend on my family for money. You can say that this is just stupid stubbornness on my behalf, but it is that stubbornness that will keep me from having to pay back thousands of dollars when I get out of college. In addition, this stubbornness might also give me the chance to have a little money in my pocket for when I get out into the "real world."

Opinion: Sexual orientation bias shouldn't be tolerated

November 11, 2002
Technician printed an article on Friday on N.C. State's Resolution 12, which "puts discrimination based on sexual orientation on par with discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, national origin, age, disability or veteran status."
     While the passing of this resolution does not change university policies, it does specify what the university considers to be discrimination. This is an incredibly positive move on the part of our university. While discrimination by default includes discrimination based on sexual orientation, this resolution drives the concept home to students and faculty members.
     There are several reasons why discrimination based on sexual orientation has been tolerated for so long. One reason is that people have tended to think that sexual orientation is something that someone chooses for him or herself. Unlike race or gender, many people believe others make the conscious decision to be homosexual, and therefore homosexuality should not be acceptable.  

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