Washington, DC

DOJ reaches settlement with Eagle Bank and Trust Company to resolve allegations of lending discrimination in St. Louis

September 29, 2015
The Justice Department filed a consent order today to resolve allegations that Eagle Bank and Trust Company (Eagle Bank) engaged in a pattern or practice of “redlining” predominantly African-American neighborhoods in and around St. Louis. “Redlining” is the discriminatory practice by banks or other financial institutions to deny or avoid providing credit services to a consumer because of the racial demographics of the neighborhood in which the consumer lives. This is the second redlining settlement that the department has announced in the past week.
     As a result of the settlement, Eagle Bank will open two new locations to serve the residents of African American neighborhoods in northern St. Louis. The bank will also invest at least $975,000 to provide banking and borrowing opportunities to residents and businesses in those areas. The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed in conjunction with the department’s complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
     The complaint alleges violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), which prohibit financial institutions from discriminating on the basis of race and color in their mortgage lending practices.

DOJ settles race and familial status FHA discrimination case for $75,000

September 01, 2015
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced yet another Fair Housing Act (FHA) case settlement yesterday. In this case, the DOJ alleged that the owners and managers of a mobile home park in Illinois had discriminated against families with children and African Americans. To resolve the complaint, among other relief, the defendants agreed to pay a total $75,000 to settle allegations that they violated the FHA.
     The agreement concluded a lawsuit asserting that the mobile home park violated the FHA by refusing to rent homes to African Americans and families with children. The factual allegations which made up the complaint were based on the results of testing conducted by DOJ’s fair housing testing program. Testing, of course, is a simulation of a housing transaction that compares responses given by housing providers to different types of applicants to probe whether discrimination may be taking place.
     Now, I am not a fan of testing such as this because the tester is being paid not to tell the truth and sometimes make assertions not backed up by the facts.

HUD offers 9 Million to provide stable housing to low-income victims of domestic violence living with HIV/AIDS

August 24, 2015
To help prevent victims of domestic violence living with HIV/AIDS from falling into homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is making more than $9 million available to state, local governments and non-profits through the VAWA/HOPWA Project Demonstration – a collaborative effort between HUD’s Office of HIVAIDS Housing (OHH) and the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW). More than half of women living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. do not have access to stable housing and are at higher risk of experiencing domestic violence. Read HUD’s Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).
     Through this demonstration program, HUD will provide funding for transitional and other temporary rental housing assistance and supportive services to low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. Grantees will be required to partner with local domestic violence and sexual assault service providers for client outreach and engagement and for comprehensive supportive services to ensure client success in the program.
     “Every American deserves to live in a safe and stable environment,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “This funding will help vulnerable populations with HIV/AIDS to break the cycle of domestic violence and get the help they need.”

Department of veterans affairs issues service animal regulation

August 18, 2015
The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a revised regulation on Aug. 17 that sets in place a national policy for the presence of animals in VA clinics, hospitals and on all VA properties. It defines "service animals" in conformity with existing federal regulations enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act. Only dogs, individually trained to be service animals, are allowed on VA premises.
     Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland meets a guide dog puppy during the 2015 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 29, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.
     The latest codification of federal regulations about service animals is found in 28 CFR 35.136. Entities covered by these regulations may exclude a service animal for only two reasons; if it is out of control and the animal's handler cannot or will not control the animal, or if the animal is not housebroken.

HUD charges South Dakota property owners with discrimination against resident in wheelchair

August 03, 2015
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged the owners and landlords of an eight-unit apartment complex in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow a resident with disabilities to use a wheelchair in his apartment. HUD’s charge also alleges that the Salem Family Trust and Calvin L. Salem, trustee and manager of the property, refused to return the resident’s security deposit after he was forced to move out of his apartment. Read HUD’s charge.
     The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from making a rental unit unavailable because of disability, discriminating in the terms of a rental because of disability, making statements regarding a rental that indicate discrimination based on disability, or retaliating against anyone for exercising their fair housing rights.
     “Wheelchair users can never feel at home if they aren’t allowed to use the very thing they depend on for mobility,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD remains committed to enforcing the nation’s fair housing laws and creating greater housing opportunities for people with disabilities.”

Justice Department settles discrimination lawsuit with Biafora's Inc.

July 28, 2015
A new apartment complex with 100 wheelchair accessible units will be built in Morgantown as part of a settlement between the Justice Department and a Morgantown developer. Biafora's Inc. was accused of violating the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by building 23 complexes in West Virginia and Pennsylvania that were inaccessible to people with disabilities. The group, and several affiliated companies, have agreed to pay $205,000. They'll also make certain changes to fix the accessibility issues to some buildings. These include replacing or making sloped portions of sidewalks, installing cabinets in bathrooms and kitchens to provide room for wheelchairs and widening doorways. The defendants will also pay $180,000 to establish a settlement fund for the purpose of compensating individuals with disabilities who have been impacted by the accessibility violations and $25,000 as a civil penalty.

DOJ sues Nevada housing provider for discriminating against families with children

July 13, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 13, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the owners of rental properties in Carson City, Nevada, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, charges that Betty Brinson and Hughston Brinson, the owners of a single-family rental home, discriminated against families with children by placing a series of advertisements in the local newspaper indicating a preference for adult tenants, and by refusing to rent the home to a family with three children because they did not want children living at the property.
     The suit also alleges that Ms. Brinson placed discriminatory advertisements for another property she owns – a 36-unit apartment complex – indicating a preference for adult tenants.
     The lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the family who alleged they were refused the opportunity to rent the single-family home because they were a family with children. After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department.

HUD issues guidance to help avoid discrimination to LGBT Americans seeking HUD-assisted housing

July 13, 2015
As part of the White House Conference on Aging today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued guidance to better serve and help avoid discrimination to LGBT Americans seeking HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing. The guidance will help clarify the Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Rule (Equal Access Rule), which was originally published in 2012. The Equal Access Rule ensures that housing across HUD programs is open to all eligible individuals regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status, including Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly.
     “Every American deserves to live with dignity, regardless of who they love or who they are,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “HUD is committed to fighting unjust discrimination and to expanding housing opportunity for all.”
     HUD’s guidance on multifamily and insured housing programs clarifies that a determination of eligibility for housing that is assisted by HUD or subject to a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) shall be made in accordance with the eligibility requirements provided for such a program by HUD, and be made available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The guidance also clarifies that no owner of administrator of HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing, approved lender in an FHA mortgage insurance program, nor any recipient or sub-recipient of HUD funds may inquire about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant for, or occupant of, HUD-assisted housing or housing whose financing is insured by HUD, whether renter or owner occupied.

HUD announces final rule on affirmatively furthering fair housing

July 08, 2015
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a final rule today to equip communities that receive HUD funding with data and tools to help them meet long-standing fair housing obligations in their use of HUD funds. HUD will also provide additional guidance and technical assistance to facilitate local decision-making on fair housing priorities and goals for affordable housing and community development.
     For more than forty years, HUD funding recipients have been obligated by law to reduce barriers to fair housing, so everyone can access affordable, quality housing. Established in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the law directs HUD and its program participants to promote fair housing and equal opportunity. This obligation was intended to ensure that every person in America has the right to fair housing, regardless of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status. The final rule aims to provide all HUD program participants with clear guidelines and data they can use to achieve those goals.
     “As a former mayor, I know firsthand that strong communities are vital to the well-being and prosperity of families,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “Unfortunately, too many Americans find their dreams limited by where they come from, and a ZIP code should never determine a child’s future.
     This important step will give local leaders the tools they need to provide all Americans with access to safe, affordable housing in communities that are rich with opportunity.” -

Supreme Court upholds housing discrimination law

June 25, 2015
A deeply divided Supreme Court delivered an unexpected reprieve to civil rights groups on Thursday, ruling that housing discrimination need not be intentional in order to be illegal.
     The justices said legal objections to lending, zoning, sales and rental practices only need to show that they had a disparate impact on blacks or other minorities.
     The court's 5-4 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was an unlikely conclusion to a years-long effort by opponents of the civil rights-era law to reduce its effectiveness against housing policies and practices used by many builders, lenders and insurers. Twice before, the justices had agreed to hear a challenge to the law, only to see the cases withdrawn or settled before reaching court.


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