Advocates outraged by “fundamentally un-American” Ohio Senate Bill 349
SB 349 would protect landlords who discriminate and
would jeopardize federal funding for Ohio Civil Rights Commission
July 28, 2014 — Today the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and partners announced a campaign to oppose Ohio Senate Bill 349, introduced by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) in late June. MVFHC and its partners denounce SB 349 as an attack on civil rights and an erosion of strong fair housing laws in Ohio.
The campaign’s website is fight349.org.
Among other regressive measures, the bill would lower the penalties for housing discrimination and damage the important safeguards provided by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). Ohio residents would either need to use the administrative process provided on the federal level through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or be forced to use attorneys to sue violators in state court. In addition, Ohio law would no longer be “substantially equivalent” to federal law, thus ending substantial HUD funding to Ohio.
“SB 349 would rob Ohio of its substantial equivalent status and its ability to investigate and adjudicate housing discrimination claims on the state level,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “Proponents of SB 349 are just plain wrong if they believe that they will have an easier time complying with civil rights laws administered from the federal level as opposed to at the state level.”
Specifically, SB 349:
Sets up conflict between state and federal fair housing law, thereby stripping Ohio of the approximately $1 million that HUD annually provides to the OCRC to investigate discrimination cases. The housing law conflict would prohibit the OCRC from accessing Fair Housing Assistance Program dollars that support complaint processing, enforcement activities, training and other projects.
Diminishes the consequences of discrimination by lowering and capping the punitive damages that landlords found guilty of flagrant discrimination would have to pay.
Discourages victims of housing discrimination from filing a complaint to protect their rights by making them liable for the attorney’s fees of the party they accuse of discrimination if there is not enough evidence to prove their case.
Reduces legal challenges to discrimination by prohibiting state or local fair housing agencies from collecting actual or punitive damages.
Renders the OCRC unable to punish housing discrimination and forces cases into the more expensive and complex courts process.
Superficially mirrors some portions of federal law while gutting Ohio’s current protections from housing discrimination.
“SB 349 would significantly undercut the work of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and force housing discrimination complaints to the Federal level,” said Elizabeth Brown, Executive Director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal in Cincinnati. “Why would Ohio want to give up its control of civil rights issues? Does the real estate industry really think it is better off facing Federal investigators and Federal attorneys? This is not the time for the state of Ohio to gut its civil rights laws.”
Michael Marsh, President/CEO of Toledo Fair Housing Center, said, “SB 349 is a step backwards for Ohioans. Instead of ensuring equal opportunity, it renders civil rights laws virtually unenforceable within the Buckeye State and turns away $1M in annual funding from the federal government to enforce the fair housing laws. It is fundamentally un-American to deny equal opportunity to families with children and persons with disabilities. Senator Seitz should be ashamed, and Ohioans embarrassed, by his buffoonery.”
SunTrust agrees to pay $320 million to resolve criminal investigation into its HAMP program
SunTrust misled customers seeking relief through Home Affordable Modification Program
WASHINGTON, DC — The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced that a non-prosecution agreement with SunTrust Mortgage Inc. has been reached that resolves a criminal investigation of SunTrust’s administration of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).
SunTrust has agreed to pay $320 million to resolve the investigation, to be divided as follows:
Restitution — SunTrust will pay $179 million to compensate borrowers for damage caused by its mismanagement of HAMP.
Forfeiture — SunTrust will pay $16 million to be available to law enforcement agencies working on mortgage fraud and other matters related to misuse of TARP funds.
Prevention — SunTrust will pay $20 million to establish a fund for distribution to organizations providing counseling and other services to distressed homeowners.
For additional information, read
the full press release on the SIGTARP site.
NFHA Urges Ohio Senate to Reject Radical Anti-Civil Rights Bill
Senate Bill 349 Would Make It Easier to Discriminate in Housing
WASHINGTON, DC — A proposed bill in the Ohio Senate would make it easier for landlords and others to discriminate in housing and not to be held accountable for their actions. It would also cost the State at least $1 million in lost federal funding. Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, issued the following statement calling for the Ohio Senate to reject this radical measure:
“All people should have equal access to housing they can afford. Senate Bill 349 would replace Ohio’s long standing strong law with only a slap on the wrist for banks, real estate companies, landlords, and apartment owners who discriminate. Senate Bill 349 would weaken the ability of Ohio’s civil rights organizations and neighborhood groups to hold accountable those who discriminate against neighborhoods, people with disabilities, families with children, women, people of color, and many others.
“In addition, this sweeping change would put Ohio’s fair housing law out of alignment with the federal statute that protects equality of opportunity for all Americans in housing. As a result, the State would lose at least $1 million in federal funds.
“In 2013 alone, Ohio fair housing organizations investigated more than 1,600 complaints of housing discrimination. This discrimination includes failures by banks to maintain foreclosed homes they own. As these neglected properties deteriorate, cities are forced to use tax payer dollars to fix damage and provide increased police and fire protection. Does the Ohio Senate really want to leave cities to clean up after bad banks without any recourse to recover those burdensome costs? Rather than making the banks clean up the mess they have made, this bill would shift the burden to the tax payer. The National Fair Housing Alliance urges Ohio lawmakers to side with Ohioans and hold companies that violate the law accountable for their acts of discrimination.”
Roosevelt Commons gift cards available free to youth residents of 45417
Program made possible by an MVFHC Inclusive Community Fund grant
Youth age 17 and younger residing in ZIP code 45417 are eligible to receive a free $75 gift card to the Greater Dayton Recreation Center at Roosevelt Commons.
To register for gift cards, go in person to the Greater Dayton Recreation Center at Roosevelt Commons, 2021 West Third Street. You must present proof of residence in ZIP code 45417.
For more information, visit our page about the gift card program.
Previous news items are available here.
Resources and useful links
Inclusive Community Fund
MVFHC’s Inclusive Community Fund
is working to help residents of ZIP codes 45417
with down payment assistance, home repair and rehabilitation, accessibility modifications, home improvement loans, and neighborhood quality of life grants. For more information, visit our ICF page
Reasonable Modifications and Accommodations
Have questions about what your rights or responsibilities are under the federal Fair Housing Act for persons with disabilities? Now available online in the Services/Reference section are joint statements from the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development that explain reasonable modifications
HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton
The Home Ownership Center
is a non-profit organization that empowers local residents to achieve and sustain homeownership and financial success. They’ve helped thousands of individuals and families meet their homeownership goals through a variety of services offered at low or no cost.
MVFHC provides legal counsel and advice at no cost for foreclosure cases involving residential mortgages.
If you have received a foreclosure complaint, call MVFHC at 937-223-6035.
If you are struggling with your mortgage payments but have not yet been served with a foreclosure notice, please contact the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton at 937-853-1600.
Service Animal Policy
A Service Animal Policy
is now available available online in the Services/Reference section. The policy explains what service animals are and how they are a reasonable accommodation under the Federal Fair Housing Act and also provides practice guidelines for housing providers
and for tenants
Additional Landlord/Tenant info
Also, if you are a landlord or a tenant wanting information on your rights and duties under Ohio law, the Dayton-Montgomery County Ombudsman's Office has a page about landlord/tenant issues
Mobile Home Park residents
rights and responsibilities
A booklet outlining your rights and responsibilities when renting mobile homes or lots in mobile home parks is available on the Ohio Legal Services website
Fair Housing Advertising Word and Phrase List
A word and phrase list
intended as a guideline to assist in complying with state and federal fair housing laws is available online in the Services/Reference section.
Equal Housing Opportunity usage guidelines
on the usage of the "Equal Housing Opportunity" logo and slogan are available online in the Services/Reference section.
Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST
is an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that promotes compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. Visit www.fairhousingfirst.org
for instruction programs and useful online resources.
is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. To learn how you can save money in your home, visit www.energystar.gov
Copies of special reports such as Analyses of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice released by local jurisdictions as well as other reports done by MVFHC on zoning and predatory lending are available on the reports