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Mortgages hard to get on reservations

November 25, 1998
Chester Carl seemed the ideal candidate for a conventional home mortgage. He owned three thriving small businesses -- a silk-screen printing operation, a television satellite dish company and a shop that manufactured camper shells for pickup trucks -- and he had an excellent credit rating along with a reputation as a solid family man.
     But when he decided to build his dream house in 1982 -- and again 10 years later when he started work on another house -- he did not even bother applying to a bank for a home loan. Instead, he worked on the houses piecemeal, building room by room from check to check as he became able to buy the materials and pay for the labor.
     The reason: Carl is an American Indian and his houses are on the sprawling Navajo reservation that straddles eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. There, as is the case on most of the nation's approximately 550 Indian reservations, obtaining a conventional home loan -- or even a federally backed mortgage -- is easier said than done.  

Eddie Bauer settles race discrimination suit

November 24, 1998
The Eddie Bauer Inc. clothing company has dropped its appeal of a $1 million federal jury award to three young black men in connection with their treatment during an alleged shoplifting incident, and settled their case for an undisclosed sum, attorneys for both sides said yesterday.
     The racially charged lawsuit stemmed from an October 20, 1995, incident in which Alonzo Jackson, 16 at the time, was confronted by Robert Sheehan, an off-duty Prince George's County police detective working as a security guard at an Eddie Bauer warehouse sale in Fort Washington.
     During the five-day trial last fall in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Jackson testified that he was wearing an Eddie Bauer shirt he had bought at the warehouse the previous day. Jackson and two other witnesses testified that Sheehan made him remove the green-plaid shirt when he couldn't produce a receipt on the spot. Jackson later returned with a receipt showing that he had purchased two items at the store and was given the shirt back, according to testimony. 

Black farmers consider $125M settlement

November 21, 1998
Black farmers said they are considering a deal of at least $125 million to settle their discrimination lawsuit against the Agriculture Department.
     The settlement would give each of the 1,000 plaintiffs about $50,000 and resolve any outstanding debt with the government. The average plaintiff's debt is estimated at $75,000 to $100,000.
     The lawsuit -- claiming discrimination through denial of farm loans, crop subsidies and other benefits -- was filed last year, shortly after the Agriculture Department admitted its own process of resolving discrimination complaints had been in disarray and caused a huge backlog.
     Plaintiffs won a significant victory last month when a judge agreed to certify them as a class. A trial has been scheduled for February 1.

Justice sues Jackson, Miss. apartment owner

November 20, 1998
The owner and operators of rental properties in Jackson, Mississippi, were sued by the Justice Department today for allegedly discriminating against African American home seekers.
     The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, alleges that A. Waddell Nejam, who owns and rents townhouses and apartments in the Belhaven neighborhood, leasing agent Ann B. Sumrall, and a former leasing agent, Alice Perry, falsely told African Americans that apartments were not available. 

Lenders launch minority mortgage loan effort

November 18, 1998
The mortgage banking industry Tuesday launched an aggressive campaign to expand homeownership among the nation's underserved minorities, a group expected to make up half of the U.S. population by 2010.
     ``The facts are clear, reaching these underserved communities and populations is not only good public policy, it's good business,'' said Donald Lange, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.
     His group Tuesday announced the launch of the Research Institute for Housing America, a nonprofit organization devoted to
expanding housing and mortgage markets to all Americans.

HUD to conduct nationwide testing project

November 16, 1998
Federal housing officials say a yearlong $7.5 million study will help them crackdown on mortgage lenders, landlords and others who discriminate against minorities.
     The Department of Housing and Urban Development will commission the study, which will take a look at patterns of discrimination in the selling and renting houses and apartments.
     The study will involve people posing as would-be buyers or renters who will report on the reception they receive from real estate brokers, landlords and mortgage lenders. The people doing the testing -- both men and women -- will be from a wide number of racial and ethnic groups, including blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders and American Indians as well as a control group of whites.
     The Mortgage Bankers Association of America said it "welcomed" the initiative, but the National Association of Realtors said it felt the money should be used for educational purposes, to make sure that all parties are fully acquainted with the law.
     "We are opposed to the use of federal funds . . . unless there is bona fide evidence of discrimination," said Lee Verstandig, senior vice president for governmental affairs of the Realtors group.

DOJ settles familial status complaint in Idaho

November 16, 1998
An Idaho landlord, who publicized ads with the words "no children," has agreed to no longer discriminate against families with children, the Justice Department announced.
     The agreement, filed together with a civil complaint in U.S. District Court in Boise, resolves allegations that Marvin A. Gardner, a landlord in Rexburg, Idaho, discriminated against families with children in violation of the Fair Housing Act. 

State Farm can go into S&L business

November 13, 1998
After mollifying concerns about lending discrimination, insurance giant State Farm has secured regulators' approval to operate a federal savings and loan.
     The federal Office of Thrift Supervision approved the new charter on Thursday. Approval had been held up for a year partly because of opposition from several community groups, which voiced concern that State Farm might discriminate against low-income borrowers. The company, based in Bloomington, Ill., in the past had been accused of discriminating against inner-city homeowners in underwriting insurance policies.
     Seeking to assuage those concerns, State Farm pledged to make $195 million in loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers in the S&L's first three years of operation.

Senate confirms top HUD posts

October 26, 1998
The Senate has confirmed President Clinton's nominees for five top posts at the Department of Housing and Urban Development:
      Saul Ramirez, Jr. of Laredo, TX, as Deputy Secretary.
      William C. Apgar of Newton, MA, as Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner.
      Harold Lucas of Newark, NJ, as Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing.
      Cardell Cooper of East Orange, NJ, as Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development.
      Ira G. Peppercorn of Indianapolis, as Director of the Office of Multifamily Housing Assistance Restructuring.
      "These talented and dedicated public servants will play a key role in helping HUD to succeed in its mission," Secretary Andrew Cuomo said.

Rate of home ownership hits record high

October 22, 1998
The U.S. homeownership rate soared to a record high 66.8 percent in the third quarter of this year. The rate, which measures the percentage of families who own the homes they live in, was up from 66 percent in the second quarter of this year.
     The number of families owning their own homes hit 69.1 million in the third quarter - the highest number in American history, and up from 68.3 million in the second quarter. The third quarter covers July, August and September.

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