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Racial and ethnic minorities face more subtle housing dicsrimination

June 27, 2013
Blatant acts of housing discrimination faced by minority homeseekers continue to decline in the U.S., yet more subtle forms of housing denial stubbornly persist, according to a new summary study released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Urban Institute. Housing Discrimination Against Racial and Ethnic Minorities 2012 finds African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians learn about fewer housing options than equally qualified whites.
     Real estate agents and rental housing providers recommend and show fewer available homes and apartments to minority families, thereby increasing their costs and restricting their housing options. The study concludes this is a national, not a regional, phenomenon.
     "Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces, but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family's housing, economic and educational opportunities," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "It's clear we still have work to do to end housing discrimination once and for all."

OPINION: Return of the Predatory Lending Rip-Off

June 19, 2013
Five years after the bubble burst, subprime-mortgage-style avarice is making a comeback. Consider HR. 1077 and S. 949, a pair of industry-backed bills to re-legitimize one of the slimiest practices of the bubble years – the lender kickbacks that sent armies of brokers out across the land promoting dangerous and deceptive loans, especially in low-income areas and communities of color.
     Subprime lenders often charged high up-front fees, and they rarely held onto a loan long enough to care whether it got repaid. They were also fond of a form of broker commission known as a yield spread premium, or YSP, which was basically a reward for sticking a borrower with a needlessly expensive or risky loan.
     YSPs were a major driver of abusive lending. More than 85 percent of subprime mortgages included them, with brokers typically collecting $1,000 dollars or more for getting people to accept tricky loans that would cost them extra money and erode their equity (the best-case scenario) or push them into default and foreclosure (the all-too-common worst case).

US Supreme Court to hear NJ housing discrimination case

June 17, 2013
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take another dispute involving race, deciding whether people must prove they were victims of intentional housing discrimination to win lawsuits under federal law.
     With highly anticipated decisions on affirmative action and voting rights imminent, the justices added a case to their calendar for the fall that involves the Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, among other categories, in residential property sales and rentals. The issue in the case is whether it is enough to show that a practice has a disproportionate effect on a group or whether there must be proof of intent to discriminate.
     The outcome also could affect other laws, including one that prohibits discrimination in lending and is enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
     

Racial and ethnic minorities face more subtle housing discrimination

June 12, 2013
Blatant acts of housing discrimination faced by minority homeseekers continue to decline in the U.S., yet more subtle forms of housing denial stubbornly persist, according to a new summary study released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Urban Institute. Housing Discrimination Against Racial and Ethnic Minorities 2012 finds African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians learn about fewer housing options than equally qualified whites.
     Real estate agents and rental housing providers recommend and show fewer available homes and apartments to minority families, thereby increasing their costs and restricting their housing options. The study concludes this is a national, not a regional, phenomenon.
     “Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces, but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family’s housing, economic and educational opportunities,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “It’s clear we still have work to do to end housing discrimination once and for all.”

HUD settles claim alleging B of A and Fannie Mae discriminated against people with disabilities

June 07, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has reached a Conciliation Agreement with Bank of America and Fannie Mae, settling allegations that the Charlotte, NC-based lender and Fannie Mae violated the Fair Housing Act by denyinga borrower’s application to modify her mortgage loan because she did not provide sufficient information about the nature of her disability. The woman was applying for a loan modification through the Obama Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).
     The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to deny or discriminate in the terms and conditionsof a mortgage or loan modification based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or familial status.
     “People with disabilities should not have to answer unnecessary questions about the nature of their disability when seeking a loan modification,” said Bryan Greene, HUD General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to take action against lenders that subject persons with disabilities to discriminatory practices.”

HUD announces resolution of REO issues with Wells Fargo

June 06, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that Wells Fargo Bank N.A., the National Fair Housing Alliance, 13 private fair housing organizations and Acting Assistant Secretary Bryan Greene have reached an agreement through which Wells Fargo will invest in efforts designed to help improve housing in minority neighborhoods that have been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. As part of the agreement, Wells Fargo has committed to invest a total of $39 million in 45 communities across the country through various programs to support home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, property rehabilitation and housing development.
     Wells Fargo also has committed to ongoing enhancements in its best practices regarding the maintenance and marketing of Real Estate Owned (REO) properties after foreclosure. This includes use of a revised Real Estate Broker Procedure Manual and property inspection checklist, and an enhanced training program for real estate brokers and agents who list REO properties. Further, Wells Fargo staff who are responsible for managing REO will also take the training.
     In addition, Wells Fargo will extend the amount of time that individual REO properties will be exclusively available for purchase by an owner-occupant or a non-profit organization to increase the chance that the house will be acquired by an owner-occupant.

Groups appeal to federal judge for fair lending data on homeowner relief

May 30, 2013
More than a dozen housing and consumer advocates, in a letter to a federal judge last week, questioned whether homeowner relief given under the requirements of a nationwide mortgage settlement is being given fairly to borrowers in communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.
     In their letter to U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, who is assigned to the case, 17 groups, including Americans for Financial Reform, Consumer Federation of America, Woodstock Institute, Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People, and others requested fair housing data on the implementation of the settlement.
     “We are writing because we work with and are concerned about the communities and families who should be seeing improved processes, fairer mortgage servicing outcomes and compensation for illegally completed foreclosures as a result of the federal/state mortgage servicing settlement,” the groups wrote in their May 23 letter.

GayRealEstate.com reports a majority of states still allow housing discrimination against gays

May 16, 2013
According to a recently published report, most states have failed to protect the rights of the LGBT community when it comes to housing.
     The National Fair Housing Alliance has recently addressed this matter in a report available at: http://www.nationalfairhousing.org/Portals/33/2013_Fair_Housing_Trends_R....
     This report was released on April 11, 2013 and is meant to educate and enlighten the community at large about the huge problem with housing discrimination against the LGBT community.

DOJ reaches fair housing settlement with design professionals in disability lawsuit

May 16, 2013
The Justice Department today announced a settlement with the architects and civil engineers involved in the design and construction of multifamily housing complexes located in Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. The department’s lawsuit alleges that nine multifamily housing complexes with more than 800 units covered by the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements were designed and built without required accessible features. No settlement has been reached with the developer, builder or former owners of these properties, who are alleged to have violated not only the Fair Housing Act, but also the Americans with Disabilities Act.
     Under the settlement, which was approved today by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi yesterday evening, nine architects and civil engineers will pay a total of $865,000 to make the complexes for which they were responsible accessible to persons with disabilities. They will also pay $60,000 to compensate aggrieved persons harmed by the inaccessible housing alleged in the government’s lawsuit. The settlement requires these defendants to undergo training on the Fair Housing Act and to provide periodic reports to the government.

St. Bernards Parish, Louisiana, agrees to 2.5 million settlement

May 10, 2013
The Justice Department announced today that St. Bernard Parish, La., has agreed to a settlement valued at more than $2.5 million to resolve separate lawsuits by the United States and private plaintiffs alleging that the parish sought to restrict rental housing to African Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
     The United States’ lawsuit alleged, among other things, that the parish: (1) passed a law, known as the permissive use permit ordinance, that prevented homeowners from renting single-family homes in residential zones without first obtaining a permit from the parish; (2) revised its zoning code to reduce dramatically the amount of land available for multi-family apartments; and (3) interfered with individuals’ housing rights. The lawsuit further alleged that these actions were done to limit or deny rental housing to African-Americans in violation of the Fair Housing Act. These actions came on the heels of the parish’s other efforts after Hurricane Katrina to restrict rental housing opportunities, including halting the re-establishment or redevelopment of rental housing and enacting a permit requirement for single-family rentals but exempting renters who were “related by blood” to the homeowners. The parish later rescinded these restrictions.
     “The Fair Housing Act is clear that local governments cannot use their zoning and land-use laws to discriminate on the basis of race,” said Eric Halperin, Senior Counsel and Special Counsel for Fair Lending in the Civil Rights Division. “People should have the freedom to choose where they live, without regard to race, and this innovative settlement will create greater housing opportunities in the New Orleans area.”

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