Washington, DC

Clinton announces $6.5B lending settlement

January 18, 1999
After knocking down a wall with ``therapeutic'' zeal, President Clinton used Monday's holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. to announce a $6.5 billion fair housing settlement reached by enforcing a law passed days after King's death.
      Under the settlement, Columbia, Md.-based Columbia National Mortgage, will make $6 billion in home mortgage loans available over five years to minorities and low- to moderate-income families in the District of Columbia and 26 states where they did business in 1997. The company also will spend $529 million on programs designed to increase homeownership among minority and poor families.
      Columbia National was accused of violating the Fair Housing Act -- which bars discrimination in home sales and rentals -- by making too few loans to minority or low- to moderate-income families. In 1997, its loans to such borrowers totaled only $51.6 million, less than 5 percent of its volume; In 10 states, none of its loans went to minorities or the poor.
      The case was the eighth settlement negotiated by HUD to resolve alleged unfair lending practices uncovered through testing by the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission.

High court won't revive redlining lawsuit

January 16, 1999
The Supreme Court today refused to revive a massive class-action civil rights lawsuit against many of the nation's largest insurance companies filed on behalf of 93,000 homeowners living in predominantly black neighborhoods of St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.
      The justices, without comment, left intact rulings that threw out the case.
      U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. in Kansas City ruled in 1997 that those who sued ``lack standing to bring claims against defendants against whom they have alleged no direct injury.''
      The judge's ruling left individual homeowners free to sue ``with whom each plaintiff has alleged grievances.'' A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the class action last August.

FCC: Advertisers routinely avoid minority radio

January 13, 1999
Advertisers regularly discriminate against minority-owned radio stations and stations that have large African American or Hispanic audiences, a new government study has concluded.
      The study, to be released today by the Federal Communications Commission, offers the strongest evidence yet for a complaint long voiced by minority broadcasters. For decades, they have said advertisers paid disproportionately less for air time on stations reaching largely African American or Hispanic audiences or bypassed their stations altogether, a practice known among ad buyers as the "no urban/Spanish dictate."
      Based on interviews and an analysis of radio industry data for 3,745 stations, the FCC study found that stations owned by "majority" firms collected about 29 percent more revenue per listener than minority-owned stations targeting largely minority audiences. In a survey of 64 minority-owned stations, 91 percent said they had encountered advertiser "dictates" not to buy ads on their stations.

Clinton pushes plan to help disabled to work

January 13, 1999
President Clinton proposed $2 billion in tax credits, health benefits and other services Wednesday to make it easier for disabled Americans to hold jobs.
      At a White House ceremony, Clinton endorsed legislation being introduced next week by Sens. James Jeffords, R-Vt., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., that would expand federal health coverage for disabled workers.
      ``Americans should never have to choose between the dignity of work and the health care they need,'' Clinton said. ``With this initiative, they'll have a ticket to work, not an impossible choice."

USDA searching for settlement class members

January 07, 1999
A major advertising campaign will kick off soon to locate black farmers who may be eligible to join a multimillion-dollar settlement with the Agriculture Department.
      Attorneys announced late Tuesday that a settlement had been reached in the 1997 racial discrimination lawsuit, ending more than two years of sometimes-contentious negotiations. Black farmers sued because they were denied access to government loans and subsidies.
      A federal judge gave preliminary approval to the deal, which covers black farmers from 1981 to 1996. Final approval is expected at a hearing on March 2.

HUD program to fund 59,000 new home loans

December 24, 1998
Ginnie Mae today announced that an initiative that encourages lenders to provide mortgage loans to underserved central city neighborhoods to boost homeownership helped provide $5.3 billion in financing for 59,108 new loans in the 1997 and 1998 fiscal years.
     Ginnie Mae is a wholly-owned government corporation within the Department of Housing and Urban Development that supports federal housing initiatives by providing liquidity to the secondary mortgage market and by attracting capital to the residential mortgage markets. Ginnie Mae programs help increase the supply of affordable housing by guaranteeing securities issued by private lenders backed by pools of residential mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (which is part of HUD), the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Rural Housing Service.
     The Targeted Lending Initiative was launched during 1996 with the goal of producing $1 billion of new lending and 15,000 new homeowners in targeted areas each year.

Census chief plans count amid party bickering

December 17, 1998
"Let us imagine," said Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt, "there were no politics at all . . ."
     He has something of a wistful look on his face as he describes this scenario, a politics-free zone around his foremost assignment in his new job, planning the 2000 Census. He imagines a census designed and executed by professional statisticians, without political hoopla and interference. "That would be marvelous."
     But that, he knows, isn't going to happen.
     In fact, Prewitt, who was sworn in last month, is taking on one of the most politically encumbered jobs in Washington, planning the next census in the midst of a bitter battle between Republicans and Democrats over how it should be conducted. His predecessor quit in part because of the bruising climate. And now, Prewitt enters when the issue is at the top of both party's agendas and pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will likely rule on the matter early next year. 

Hotel chain settles disability probe with DOJ

December 17, 1998
Three hotel chains are under investigation by the Justice Department over complaints by disabled customers like those that led Holiday Inns to agree to provide guaranteed reservations and mediation of disputes for the disabled.
     A groundbreaking agreement between the department and the nearly 2,000 hotels in the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza chains was announced Wednesday by acting Assistant Attorney General Bill Lann Lee and executives of Bass Hotels & Resorts, an Atlanta-based subsidiary of the British firm Bass PLC, which owns, operates or franchises the hotels.
     ``Travelers with disabilities will be able to make reservations for rooms, instead of having reservations about whether the room will be there,'' Lee said at a news conference.
     Disabled people had complained that accessible rooms reserved in advance were not available when they got to the hotel. ``They were giving guarantees, but the guarantees weren't any good,'' said John Wodatch, chief of the disability rights section. 

High Court to decide states' duty to house people with mental disabilities

December 15, 1998
The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether some mentally disabled people must be given a chance at being placed in group homes or other community-based programs rather than in institutions.
     Lower courts had said that Georgia had to provide that opportunity, a requirement that 22 other states contended would have "catastrophic effects" on their treasuries.

Home loans pricier for blacks, NCRC says

November 25, 1998
While fairness in mortgage lending improved in recent years, much new lending to blacks appears to come from "subprime" home loans with higher interest rates, a private group says.
     Officials of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, in releasing a study Tuesday, said they were concerned that after a few years of progress starting in 1994, the gap between minorities and whites being denied home mortgages widened again in 1996-97.
     The study was based on data submitted to the federal government by banks, thrifts and mortgage companies. It is consistent with a government survey issued last summer showing that financial institutions are turning down blacks, Hispanics and American Indians for home mortgage loans more often than whites, no matter what their income. 


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