Old news(More recent news is available here.)
Foreclosure Defenses, Claims and Resources to Ensure the Best Outcome for Homeowners
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, in partnership with the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton and the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project, is offering a continuing legal education class to attorneys and legal staff who want to be better equipped and knowledgeable about the mortgage foreclosure crisis, what can be done to assist Ohio homeowners facing foreclosure on their primary residence, and what resources are available to assist the attorneys in private practice and their staffs.
The course is being offered, free of charge, to attorneys or legal staff from the Dayton and Miami Valley Area. The date for the class is Friday, December 13 from 8:30am - 12:00pm. For more information about the course and to register online, go to mvfairhousing.com/cle.
Dine at TGI Friday’s on October 22, 2013 to support MVFHC
Print this certificate and give it to your server.
(Click here for 2-up PDF version.)
Please join us on October 22, 2013 for our fundraiser at TGI Friday’s at 2022 Miamisburg-Centerville Road (in the South Towne Shopping Center near I-675).
TGI Friday’s is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and for guests who present this certificate to their servers on October 22 TGI Friday’s will donate 20% of the checks to MVFHC.
Large groups can make lunch or dinner reservations by calling the restaurant at 937-439-3744.
We appreciate your support and hope to see you at TGI Friday’s!
HUD charges Fifth Third Bank, mortgage broker with discriminating against couple with disabilities
Bank allegedly required medical documentation of disabilities
August 22, 2013 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is charging Fifth Third Bank, Fifth Third Mortgage Company, and Cranbrook Mortgage Corporation with discriminating against a couple with disabilities who were attempting to refinance their home mortgage. HUD’s charge alleges that the Cincinnati, Ohio-based mortgage lender and the Clinton Township, Michigan-based mortgage broker required unnecessary medical documentation in order to qualify the couple for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to deny or discriminate in the terms and conditions of a mortgage or loan modification based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or family status, including imposing different application or qualification criteria.
“Persons with disabilities should not have to meet higher mortgage qualification standards because they rely on disability insurance payments as a source of income,” said Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Banks and mortgage companies may verify income and have eligibility standards, but they may not single out homebuyers with disabilities or deny financing when they are otherwise qualified.”
The case came to HUD’s attention after a married couple that receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits filed a complaint claiming that their application for an FHA-insured home refinance loan was unfairly denied. According to HUD’s charge, the lender and mortgage broker made statements and employed written policies requiring the couple to provide physician statements to establish continuance of SSDI income. The charge alleges that at the time of the couple’s loan, Fifth Third’s underwriting policy explicitly specified a physician’s statement as appropriate evidence for establishing continuance of disability income.
While lenders may verify an applicant’s income amount and source, they may not place higher qualification standards on applicants who receive disability income. The couple did not provide the requested physician statements, and Cranbrook and Fifth Third denied the loan application.
HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the complainants. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages.
Court of Appeals reverses decision in Fair Housing advertising case
Case remanded for additional proceedings
August 5, 2013 — In a unanimous decision issued today, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit reversed a lower court decision involving an advertisment placed on Craigslist by the Connor Group, a large national housing provider. The ad stated that Connor Group’s Dayton-area apartments were “a great bachelor pad for any single man looking to hook up.” Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) had argued that this language would unlawfully discourage families with children as well as women, two groups protected by the fair housing laws, from considering the housing, but MVFHC lost a jury trial. The 6th Circuit ruled that MVFHC is entitled to a new trial due to flawed jury instructions.
At issue is an ad that read:
599/1br — Great Bachelor Pad! (Centerville
“Obviously, we are very pleased with the decision from the Court of Appeals. Housing advertisements on the internet can discourage people protected under the federal and state fair housing laws from even looking at a particular property. This case will help clarify the law so people seeking housing can consider all of their options,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status, as well as the race or national origin of residents of a neighborhood. This law applies to housing and housing-related activities, which includes the advertising, maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing and selling of homes.
MVFHC was represented at trial and on appeal by Diane Citrino and Brian Heskamp of Thacker Martinsek LPA. Thacker Martinsek is a majority women-owned firm certified by WBENC and NAMWOLF with offices in Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio; and Naples, Florida. Thacker Martinsek’s practice areas focus on advocacy: business litigation, insurance recovery, litigation management, products liability, employment, civil rights, unfair competition and intellectual property litigation.
The 6th Circuit’s opinion is available in PDF format.
HUD study finds significant housing discrimination against same sex couples
June 18, 2013 — In the first national study on housing discrimination against same-sex couples, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has found that same-sex couples face significant discrimination when renting housing.
HUD’s study, “An Estimate of Housing Disrimination Against Same-Sex Couples,” was conducted via email in 50 metropolitan markets and found that same-sex couples receive fewer responses to email inquiries about advertised units. Heterosexual couples were favored over gay male couples in 15.9 percent of the tests and over lesbian couples in 15.6 percent of the tests.
Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO, said, “Although local jurisdictions such as the City of Dayton and the Village of Yellow Springs ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, the State of Ohio offers no such protection, leaving LGBT Ohioans outside of major cities and a few other jurisdictions with no legal recourse when they encounter discrimination. This is unacceptable.”
In one example from the study, a heterosexual married couple and a gay male couple sent emails inquiring about the availability of a one-bedroom apartment. The rental agent responded to the heterosexual couple to say the apartment was available and provided his phone number to make an appointment. A minute later the same agent sent an email to the gay couple to say that he thought he had the apartment rented.
“This is simply wrong,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “It is unjust, and we as a country cannot stand for it.”
June 2013 newsletter now available
The newsletter has information about our agreement with Wells Fargo, a FAQ about how the Fair Housing Act applies to families with children, and a calendar of upcoming events including our Waikiki party in August. Also included is the book corner featuring The Geography of Opportunity: Race and Housing Choice in Metropolitan America.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
HUD study finds that housing discrimination persists
June 12, 2013 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a nationwide study of over 8,000 tests conducted in 28 metropolitan areas. The report, titled “Housing Discrimination Against Racial and Ethnic Minorities 2012,” found that although blatant housing discrimination has declined, discrimination persists, raising the costs of housing searches for minorities and restricting their housing choice.
The study used paired tests using trained individuals—one white and the other black, Hispanic or Asian—matched on gender and age and equally well-qualified to rent or buy. The results of the tests showed that African American renters who contact agents about recently-advertised housing units learn about 11.4 percent fewer available units than equally-qualified whites. Hispanic renters learn about 12.5 percent fewer units than equally-qualified whites.
“HUD’s study confirms the importance of our testing program,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “Well-qualified families in the Miami Valley face housing discrimination based solely on the color of their skin, and testing is essential for discovering and abating that discrimination.”
HUD’s study found that minorities whose ethnicity is more readily identifiable experience more discrimination than those who may be mistaken for white. People of color with racially- or ethnically-identifiable names experience more discrimination.
In one example from the study, a black tester called and spoke with an agent who insisted that the tester must be pre-qualified in order to see homes. The agent refused to meet with the tester until she had talked with a lender. The agent did not ask the white tester in the pair about pre-qualification over the phone and readily made an appointment with the white tester.
“There is no excuse for discrimination,” continued McCarthy. “Housing providers should not limit the basic choice that all people should have in deciding where to live. All people who can qualify for a home should have the opportunity to apply.”
MVFHC honored by Realtists with Robert Morgan Community Award
June 14, 2013 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) is proud to have been honored today by the Ohio Realtist® Association at their 64th annual state conference, held here in Dayton, with their Robert Morgan Community Award for ally of the year.
Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO, said, “MVFHC greatly values our ongoing partnership with the Greater Dayton Realtist® Association and all Realtists® as we work together to promote equal housing opportunity for all people in the Miami Valley.”
The Greater Dayton Realtist® Association’s stated mission is “to serve the underserved.” Both the Dayton and Ohio chapters of the Realtists® are part of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, formed in 1947 when housing discrimination was prevalent in the United States and when African American real estate agents also faced discrimination when trying to join professional associations.
MVFHC partners with the Greater Dayton Realtist® Association in community education and in projects such as the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
MVFHC and Wells Fargo announce partnership to rebuild homeownership opportunities in the Miami Valley
Ground-breaking fair housing agreement covers marketing and maintenance of foreclosed properties
June 6, 2013 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC), together with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and 12 other NFHA member organizations, announced a collaboration with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. that will provide funds in 19 cities to foster homeownership, assist with rebuilding neighborhoods of color impacted by the foreclosure crisis, and promote diverse, inclusive communities.
Wells Fargo will provide $27 million to NFHA and the fair housing organizations to benefit 19 cities and promote home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, property rehabilitation, and development in communities of color.
MVFHC will receive $1,421,052 directly from Wells Fargo and will be responsible for managing the funds and providing a range of grants for items such as down payment assistance to owner-occupants seeking to purchase homes in the targeted neighborhoods as well as renovation efforts for homes that languished in foreclosure, including creative programs to increase homeownership and neighborhood stabilization.
“Many middle-class working people in the Dayton and Miami Valley region still face the threat of losing their homes, and many more have seen their property values plummet due to the foreclosure crisis,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “Wells Fargo has established itself as a leader in an effort to ensure that REO properties are properly maintained and marketed no matter where they are located in our city.”
In addition to the Dayton area, the other 18 geographic areas included in the agreement with NFHA are: Atlanta, GA; Baltimore and Prince George’s County, MD; Baton Rouge, LA; Charleston, SC; Metropolitan Chicago and south Cook County, IL; Oakland and Richmond, CA; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Grand Rapids, MI; Indianapolis, IN; Miami, FL; Milwaukee, WI; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Toledo, OH; and Washington, DC.
Real Estate Owned properties are homes that have gone through foreclosure and are now owned by banks, investors, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration, or the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Many neighborhoods across the country have been seriously damaged by the foreclosure crisis, including the impact of REO homes on property values, curb appeal, and tax revenue for schools,” said Shanna Smith, NFHA’s President/CEO. “Our joint efforts will help to lay the foundation for the industry to get some of those neighborhoods back on their feet.”
Under the agreement, Wells Fargo has made a number of very important commitments that will benefit communities throughout the United States, including:
This is the first-ever agreement regarding the equal maintenance and marketing of REO homes. The agreement is the result of a federal housing discrimination complaint filed in April 2012 with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The complaint alleged that Wells Fargo’s REO properties in white areas were much better maintained and marketed by Wells Fargo than REO properties in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.
In addition to the $27 million to promote homeownership, Wells Fargo will pay $3 million to NFHA and the 13 fair housing organizations for costs and damages, including diversion of resources incurred in connection with the investigations, and attorney fees. Wells Fargo is also committing $300,000 for the two national conferences and $250,000 to NFHA and local fair housing centers to hold seminars and address delinquencies and foreclosures.
Furthermore, Wells Fargo will provide an $11.5 million to HUD to support neighborhoods in an additional 25 cities: Austin, TX; Bakersfield, CA; Detroit, MI; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Fresno, CA; Houston, TX; Kansas City, MO; Las Vegas, NV; Los Angeles, CA; Memphis, TN; Modesto, CA; New York, NY; Phoenix, AZ; Riverside, CA; Sacramento, CA; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; San Jose, CA; Santa Ana, CA; St. Louis, MO-IL; Stockton, CA; Tampa, FL; Vallejo, CA; Virginia Beach, VA; and West Palm Beach, FL.
The agreements between Wells Fargo, the private fair housing organizations, and HUD total more than $42 million and will provide direct assistance to 44 communities nationwide.
NFHA and the 13 local fair housing organizations are represented by Joseph M. Sellers and Peter Romer-Friedman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
“This groundbreaking agreement is a testament to the fair housing movement’s vision and dedication to the promise of equality for all communities,” said Romer-Friedman. “This agreement will ensure that every community shares in the fruits of the housing recovery now underway.”
“Other banks should follow Wells Fargo’s lead and engage in broad relief to communities damaged by the foreclosure crisis,” continued Smith. “This is a huge step in the right direction and more is needed to get our neighborhoods, especially communities of color, back on their feet.”
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status, as well as the race or national origin of residents of a neighborhood. This law applies to housing and housing-related activities, which include the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing, and selling of homes.
Fair Housing Fundamentals for Property Managers — May 8, 2013
March 2013 newsletter now available
The newsletter has information about Fair Housing Month, a new HUD rule about disparate impact, and design and construction requirements of the federal fair housing law.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
The Opportunity Agenda
Join the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® for our annual celebration of Fair Housing Month. Register now!
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Sinclair Conference Center
The event includes three fair housing workshops accredited for continuing education for REALTORS® and other housing professionals, the Fair Housing luncheon, keynote speaker Jim Carr of the Opportunity Agenda, and the Marie Kindrick Fair Housing Awards presentations.
MVFHC praises new HUD rule clarifying how disparate impact in housing-related transactions is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act
February 8, 2013 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) welcomes a new rule issued today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) formalizing a national standard for determining whether housing-related policies having a disparate impact are discriminatory and prohibited by the Fair Housing Act.
“Through the issuance of this rule, HUD is reaffirming its commitment to enforcing the Fair Housing Act in a consistent and uniform manner,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “This will ensure the continued strength of one of the most important tools for exposing and ending housing discrimination.”
HUD, statutorily charged with responsibility for interpreting and enforcing the Fair Housing Act, has long interpreted the Act to prohibit housing practices with an unjustified discriminatory effect, if those practices actually or predictably result in a disparate impact on a protected class.
The rule allows complaints to be filed under the Act if a group can show a “discriminatory effect” or that a protected class was disparately impacted by the alleged illegal practices. In other words, no actual intent to discriminate is needed as long as the disparate impact can be shown. The rule also makes clear that housing-related transactions such as home loans and homeowners insurance are covered by the Act.
The rule does not change decades-old substantive law articulated by HUD and the courts. It adds no additional costs to housing providers and others engaged in housing transactions. Rather, the rule will simplify compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s discriminatory effects standard and will decrease litigation.
“We are pleased that HUD has issued this new rule,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “Making sure that people are treated equally in all housing transactions, including lending and insurance, helps our mission of ensuring equal housing opportunity for all people in our region.”
How is disparate impact a part of the Fair Housing Act? The Fair Housing Act prohibits both intentional discriminatory acts and facially “neutral” policies that may limit housing opportunities based on race, color, national origin, religion, or sex, or for families with children and people with disabilities. Any policy that has a discriminatory effect on a protected class must be changed so that it is both fair and effective, unless no other policy can achieve the same legitimate goal with a less discriminatory effect.
At a recent conference on housing issues, Sara Pratt, HUD’s chief of enforcement, explained the importance of the disparate impact standard for ensuring fair housing, saying that while overt discrimination has lessened, discrimination still occurs. “Landlords, housing professionals, and zoning and planning boards have learned to stop talking about it,” Pratt said. “What they haven’t learned is to stop doing it.”
Although the principle of disparate impact is not directly mentioned in the Fair Housing Act, it has been recognized by 11 circuit courts as a legally acceptable means by which parties can make claims under the Act. By creating a framework to root out not just intentional discrimination but also seemingly “neutral” policies, the Fair Housing Act enables HUD, state and local agencies, and private fair housing organizations to continue to address systemic housing discrimination and segregation in the United States.
What are some policies that have a disparate impact?
The disparate impact standard strengthens our communities and our nation. Implementing the disparate impact rule helps us maintain open markets free from discrimination—a critical component to the prosperity of America’s future. Discrimination disrupts our economy, causing inefficiency and instability by constraining the full economic participation of all hard-working Americans.
The final rule as sent to the Federal Register for publication is available on HUD’s website (Acrobat PDF).
MVFHC settles accessibility complaint against Steiner + Associates
Agreement includes Gilbert Court apartment units at The Greene
February 1, 2013 — A settlement has been approved between the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) et al. and Steiner + Associates et al. requiring the defendants to retrofit covered apartment units and adjacent common areas at three apartment complexes, consisting of 395 covered units in three states, to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities.
In Dayton the settlement also provides for an easement and right of way into the Greene Town Center for 99 years to allow the Dayton RTA to operate public transportation beyond Montgomery County on a route that runs east on Glengarry Drive into the center of The Greene, thus providing ready access to The Greene’s residential units and other amenities to people with mobility impairments.
MVFHC’s litigation against Steiner commenced in April 2008, after an extensive investigation by MVFHC and its partners, the National Fair Housing Alliance and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, uncovered substantial architectural barriers at three town centers developed by Steiner: Gilbert Court at the Greene Phase I, Beavercreek, OH; Lofts at Zona Rosa, Kansas City, MO; and Bayshore Town Center, Glendale, WI.
While not all violations were found in every development, the investigation identified violations such as:
Under the terms of the Stipulated Judgment, approved by Judge Thomas M. Rose of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on December 10, 2012, the defendants will be solely responsible for the costs of alteration or retrofits and are required to bring the common use facilities and exteriors of covered units into compliance within 36 months. The judgment also names an inspector, to be paid solely by the defendants, who will be responsible for conducting or supervising an on-site inspection at each retrofit property to determine if alterations have been performed according to the terms of the judgment.
The judgment also provides for a settlement payment, the amount of which was not disclosed, to be made to plaintiffs for alleged damages and expenses for the alleged diversion of plaintiffs’ resources and alleged frustration of plaintiffs’ mission; reimbursement for alleged costs and expenses relating to the investigation; and plaintiffs’ litigation costs and expenses and attorney fees.
“We are very pleased with the resolution of this case,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “Our mission is to ensure equal housing opportunity for all people in our region, and the pursuit of this case was essential to meeting our mission in the community, especially for people with disabilities.”
For more information about the case, including the accessibility requirements outlined in the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, the importance of building accessible apartments, and how the Steiner properties were out of compliance, read this information backgrounder (Adobe Acrobat PDF).
MVFHC and ACIL to present Visitability seminar at 2013 Home Improvement Show
John Zimmerman, Vice President of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC), and Greg Kramer, Assistant Director of the Access Center for Independent Living (ACIL), are presenting a seminar on “Visitability” on Saturday, January 12, 2013, at the 2013 Miami Valley Home Improvement Show at Hara Arena.
The Home Improvement Show begins on January 10 and runs through January 13. The Visitability seminar is scheduled for Saturday afternoon after 1 p.m. on the Main Stage close to the Ballarena entrance.
“Visitability” is a construction term used in both the world of new construction and home rehabilitation. It means a unit is built or rehabbed in a manner that all people, regardless of ability or disability, can easily visit or live in the unit because of three elemental features: having access to private bathrooms on the ground floor, ease of entry into the unit, and the ease to go from room to room through widened doorways.
The seminar is called “Visitability: An affordable way to add important accessibility features to your house.”
Mr. Kramer, who uses a wheelchair, and Mr. Zimmerman will talk about some of the most common needs of people with physical disabilities to access housing of their choice as well as easy ways for housing professionals to respond to the growing markets of disabled and elderly people. Seminar attendees will receive a free green-friendly reusable shopping bag and will also have a chance to win gift cards and other prizes during the seminar.
Materials for both housing consumers and housing professionals looking to increase their knowledge of fair housing and the housing needs of people with disabilities will be available.
Connecticut tenant awarded $109,789 for discrimination based on source of income
In a judgment by the Connecticut Housing Court on December 21, 2012, Becky Palmer was awarded $109,789 in compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees after landlord Kenneth Burkamp refused to allow her to use government funds for a security deposit to rent an apartment.
Ms. Palmer, a domestic violence survivor, was staying temporarily on her cousin’s couch when she obtained a Security Deposit Guarantee (SDG) from the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS). Under the DSS program, eligible tenants without resources for security deposits may instead use government-backed guarantees, enabling them to secure rental housing. Ms. Palmer attempted to use a SDG to rent an apartment in Manchester, Connecticut, but Mr. Burkamp, the owner of the apartment, refused to accept the SDG. As Judge Vernon Oliver of the Connecticut Housing Court explained, “Despite Ms. Palmer’s indicating to the defendant that his refusal was illegal, Mr. Burkamp indicated his reluctance to deal with the State of Connecticut.”
After being denied the apartment, Ms. Palmer contacted Connecticut Fair Housing Center (CFHC), whose attorneys Greg Kirschner and Timothy Bennett-Smyth, assisted by the law firm of Robinson & Cole LLP, agreed to represent her.
“Lawful source of income discrimination disproportionately affects people of color, single mothers, persons with disabilities, and domestic violence survivors,” said Bennett-Smyth, CFHC’s lead attorney on the case, explaining the case’s importance. “The refusal to participate in these programs by certain landlords causes real harm and it is unacceptable. This decision will put all housing providers on notice of the importance of complying with fair housing laws.”
“Clearly if respondent landlords such as Mr. Burkamp were allowed to simply ‘opt out’ of compliance [...] and thwart anti-discrimination laws designed to to provide prospective tenants with an opportunity to acquire suitable housing regardless of source of income, then the work of the legislature and the courts would be a sham,” Judge Oliver said in his ruling. “At trial, the respondent was far from contrite.”
The court’s award to Ms. Palmer includes a civil penalty agains the defendant for willful misconduct and is designed to deter other landlords from violating fair housing laws.
MVFHC has moved
MVFHC’s new building, 505 Riverside Drive
Effective January 2, 2013, our new address is 505 Riverside Drive, Dayton, OH 45405. Our phone number has not changed and is 937-223-6035.
For more information, please visit our directions page.
December 2012 newsletter now available
The newsletter has information about our new building, a calendar of events including the upcoming Universal 1 Credit Union HomeWorld Expo, and fair housing facts for people with disabilities. Also included is the book corner, about the book Segregation: The Rising Costs for America.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
Fair housing organizations find Bank of America discriminates in the Midwest
NFHA and member agencies allege discrimination in marketing and maintenance of foreclosed homes in Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis
October 23, 2012 — The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA); the HOPE Fair Housing Center, Wheaton, IL; the South Suburban Housing Center, Homewood, IL; the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council; and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana announced a federal housing discrimination complaint against Bank of America Corporation, Bank of America, N.A., and BAC Home Loan Servicing, LP. This complaint is the result of an undercover investigation of Bank of America that found the financial giant maintains and markets foreclosed homes in white neighborhoods in a much better manner than in African-American and Latino neighborhoods in Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis.
The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is part of an amended complaint NFHA and seven member agencies, including MVFHC, filed October 10 that looks at how Bank of America has differently maintained and marketed properties in white, African-American and Latino neighborhoods across the country.
Bank of America of one of the largest American banks that maintains and sells foreclosed properties and is one of the world’s largest financial institutions. The investigation in 13 cities of 505 foreclosed homes owned, serviced or managed by Bank of America demonstrates that it has engaged in a systemic practice of maintaining and marketing its foreclosed, bank-owned homes (also known as Real Estate Owned or REO properties) in a state of disrepair in communities of color while maintaining and marketing REO properties in predominantly white communities in a far superior manner. The investigation has evaluated Bank of America REO properties in 13 cities including Dayton as well as Atlanta; Charleston, SC; Chicago; Dallas; Grand Rapids, MI; Indianapolis; Miami/Fort Lauderdale; Milwaukee; Oakland/Concord/Richmond, CA; Orlando; Phoenix; and the Washington, DC area.
Communities of color continue to experience foreclosure rates twice that of white communities and continue to see their REO properties left to deteriorate and sit vacant.
“Good neighbors are consider; they take care of their yards, pick up their trash and care for their neighborhoods,” said Shanna L. Smith, NFHA’s President and CEO. “Bank of America is not a good neighbor in communities of color. Instead, one of the nation’s largest holders of foreclosed homes is busy making excuses and passing the buck when it comes to taking responsibility for the homes it owns or services. In many white neighborhoods, Bank of America’s foreclosed properties fit in with most other homes for sale on the block, with manicured lawns and for sale signs. African-American and Latino neighborhoods deserve equal treatment.”
NFHA and its member agencies are represented by Joseph M. Sellers and Peter Romer-Friedman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
NFHA and its partner agencies evaluated the maintenance and marketing of REO properties for the existence of 39 different types of maintenance or marketing deficiencies, such as broken windows and doors, water damage, overgrown lawns, no for sale signs, trash on the properties, and other problems.
Without a for sale sign, for example, potential homebuyers would simply not know the property is available. Also, if there are unauthorized occupants or storm damage, neighbors have no one to call. With a for sale sign, neighbors can call a real estate agent to report these kinds of problems. In Indianapolis, 100% of Bank of America REO properties in communities of color were missing for sale signs, as were 79% of properties in communities of color in Chicago and 87% in Milwaukee.
Trash on a property is not only an eyesore for neighbors but also makes a home unappealing and can be a potential health and safety hazard. In Indianapolis 71% of all of Bank of America’s REO properties in communities of color had substantial amounts of trash, as did 52% of properties in communities of color in Chicago and 33% in Milwaukee.
Additional detailed statistics and photos are available at www.nationalfairhousing.org.
MVFHC and partner agencies file discrimination complaint against Bank of America
Discrimination alleged in marketing and maintenance of foreclosed homes in Ohio and other areas
The above exhibit showing Bank of America maintenance of REO properties in greater Dayton is included in the entire complaint, which includes the above exhibit (PDF format)
September 25, 2012 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and its partners, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and four other NFHA member agencies around the country, announced a federal housing complaint against Bank of America Corporation, Bank of America N.A., and BAC Home Loan Servicing LP. This complaint, filed today with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is the result of an undercover investigation that found that Bank of America maintains and markets foreclosed homes in white neighborhoods in a much better manner than in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.
Bank of America is one of the largest American banks that maintains and sells foreclosed properties and is one of the world’s largest financial institutions. The investigation of 373 foreclosed homes that are owned, serviced or managed by Bank of America demonstrates that the financial giant has engaged in a systemic practice of maintaining and marketing its foreclosed, bank-owned properties (also known as Real Estate Owned or REO properties) in a state of disrepair in communities of color while maintaining and marketing REO properties in predominantly white communities in a far superior manner. The investigation evaluated Bank of America REO properties in Dayton as well as seven other metropolitan areas—Atlanta; Dallas; Grand Rapids; Miami/Fort Lauderdale; Oakland/Richmond/Concord, CA; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Washington, DC.
Communities of color continue to experience foreclosure rates twice those of white communities and continue to see their REO houses left to deteriorate and sit vacant.
In Dayton, ninety-two percent of Bank of America-owned properties in African-American communities had more than five maintenance or marketing problems, and 58 percent had over ten maintenance or marketing problems.
“Our investigation shows that virtually nothing has been done to appropriately maintain Bank of America REOs in Dayton’s African American neighborhoods,” said MVFHC’s President/CEO Jim McCarthy. “In fact, over the past two and one half years that we investigated how Bank of America maintained REOs in Dayton, the problem has actually gotten worse. I am disgusted by the indifference that Bank of America has shown toward its obligation to comply with federal law and not discriminate when it maintains and markets these homes.”
MVFHC, NFHA and their partner agencies are represented by Joseph M. Sellers and Peter Romer-Friedman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC. For more information, download a news release about the complaint or download a copy of the complaint (both in PDF format).
In April 2012, MVFHC, NFHA and their partners issued a report on the findings of their REO investigation, The Banks are Back—Our Neighborhoods are Not: Discrimination in the Maintenance and Marketing of REO Properties. The report offers disturbing evidence that the same banks that peddled unsustainable loans to communities of color, triggering the current foreclosure crisis, are now exacerbating damage to those communities and delaying the housing recovery. Since then complaints were filed with HUD against Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank.
MVFHC will hold 2nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on September 27, 2012
Photos from the 1st MLK Day of Service,
held October 1, 2011 in Trotwood:
September 27, 2012 will be MVFHC’s second annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, on which MVFHC staff and volunteers will walk the Westwood neighborhood in Dayton distributing information about how homeowners facing mortgage trouble can get help. The day honors the memory of Dr. King, a great proponent of fighting poverty through increasing the dream of homeownership.
The Westwood neighborhood is hard hit with foreclosures. Many homeowners are behind on payments due to job losses, unforeseen medical crises or unaffordable predatory loans. Some of these homeowners fell prey to mortgage rescue scammers who gave them false promises of loan modifications in exchange for large upfront fees, only then to disappear, never to be heard from again.
To stop these terrible practices, MVFHC, which runs the Predatory Lending and Foreclosure Solutions Project in collaboration with the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton, created the MLK Day of Service to highlight the services available from MVFHC and the HomeOwnership Center for homeowners struggling to stay in their homes.
Members of the City of Dayton’s Human Relations Council (HRC) and the Greater Dayton Realtist Association will assist in distributing this important information. HRC is the City of Dayton agency charged with enforcing its fair housing ordinances. The Realtists are the oldest African American real estate trade association in the Miami Valley and the United States.
Each year MVFHC and its partners select a Montgomery County neighborhood to conduct direct outreach to honor the legacy of Dr. King. Last year MVFHC and its partners distributed information bags in the City of Trotwood.
This year’s event has been made possible by the Greater Dayton RTA, which is providing one of the RTA’s Wright Flyers and a driver to transport volunteers.
MVFHC and partner agencies to file housing discrimination complaint against major national bank
Third complaint this year about maintenance and marketing of bank-owed foreclosed properties
On Tuesday, September 25th, the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and its partners, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and four other NFHA member agencies, will hold an online news conference announcing a federal housing discrimination complaint against a major national bank.
This complaint, the third of its kind this year, will be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is the result of an undercover investigation into how major American banks are failing to maintain and market Real Estate Owned (REO) properties—bank-owned or foreclosed properties—in African American and Latino neighborhoods throughout the nation.
The investigation of bank-owned homes in Dayton and other major cities across the country—including Atlanta; Dallas; Grand Rapids; Miami/Fort Lauderdale; Oakland/Richmond/Concord, CA; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Washington, DC—alleges a striking pattern of discrimination in which banks have maintained and marketed foreclosed properties in white communities in a far superior manner to foreclosed properties in communities of color.
In April 2012, MVFHC, NFHA and their partners issued a report on the findings of their REO investigation, The Banks are Back—Our Neighborhoods are Not: Discrimination in the Maintenance and Marketing of REO Properties. The report offers disturbing evidence that the same banks that peddled unsustainable loans to communities of color, triggering the current foreclosure crisis, are now exacerbating damage to those communities and delaying the housing recovery.
The online news conference will be held on Tuesday, September 25 at 12:00 p.m. EDT. RSVP to Cedric Ricks of NFHA at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Jim McCarthy named as member of inaugural Consumer Advisory Board of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
September 12, 2012 — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced the appointment of 25 consumer experts from outside the federal government to its newly-formed Consumer Advisory Board (CAB),
which will provide advice to CFPB leadership on a broad range of consumer financial issues and emerging market trends.
Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO, was named as one of the inaugural CAB members.
“This group of experts truly represents the interest of the diverse people and communities we serve,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The Consumer Advisory Board will be a resource to the CFPB, and I look forward to working with its members to further our mission to protect American consumers.”
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act charges the CFPB with establishing a Consumer Advisory Board to advise and consult with the CFPB’s director on a variety of consumer financial issues.
The newly appointed CAB members include experts in consumer protection, financial services, community development, fair lending, civil rights, and consumer financial products or services. They also represent depository institutions that primarily serve underserved communities, and they represent communities that have been significantly impacted by higher-priced mortgage loans.
CAB’s first meeting will take place Sept. 27–28, 2012, in St. Louis, MO. By statute the board will meet no less than twice per year. Members will have staggered three-year terms, and McCarthy will serve an initial full three-year term.
“I am honored to have been appointed to serve on the first ever Consumer Advisory Board to the CFPB,” McCarthy said. “I look forward to working with the distinguished individuals with whom I will serve, Director Richard Cordray, and the other dedicated professionals of the CFPB.”
McCarthy has been MVFHC’s President/CEO since 1998. He is currently serving his fifth term as Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Fair Housing Alliance in Washington, DC. McCarthy is one of the architects of the Predatory Lending Solutions and Foreclosure Prevention project, a program that addresses the problem of predatory mortgage lending and subsequent residential foreclosures in the greater Dayton and Montgomery County area.
“Wall Street disproportionately targeted communities of color with toxic mortgage loans. African Americans and Latinos are 75 percent more likely than Caucasians to experience foreclosure,” McCarthy continued. “As a result of depreciation in the value of properties near foreclosed properties, African American and Latino communities are expected by year’s end to have lost more than $370 billion in wealth. I am eager to help in any way to ensure better consumer protections so that we do not see a continuation of the housing crisis that has been afflicting our communities.”
Dine at TGI Friday’s on October 16, 2012 to support MVFHC
Print this certificate and give it to your server.
(Click here for 2-up PDF version.)
Please join us on October 16, 2012 for our fundraiser at TGI Friday’s at 2022 Miamisburg-Centerville Road (in the South Towne Shopping Center near I-675).
TGI Friday’s is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and for guests who present this certificate to their servers on October 16 TGI Friday’s will donate 20% of the checks to MVFHC.
Large groups can make lunch or dinner reservations by calling the restaurant at 937-439-3744.
We appreciate your support and hope to see you at TGI Friday’s!
Civil Rights Organizations join legal battle over Fremont, Nebraska immigration ordinance
September 5, 2012 — Three civil rights organizations—the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska-Iowa (FHCNI), the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR)—have entered into the legal battle over a controversial ordinance that seeks to restrict housing opportunities of immigrants living in Fremont, Nebraska.
Passed in 2010, Freemont ordinance 5165 makes it illegal to rent to “aliens” and requires a license in order to rent housing.
The ordinance was immediately challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU Nebraska, and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund as violation the Constitution and various federal and state statues. The case is now scheduled to come before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
NFHA, FHCNI, and NCLR submitted an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief to the Eighth Circuit on August 31 in support of the plaintiffs. Steve Dane, partner at the national civil rights law firm of Relman, Dane, & Colfax PLLC, wrote and filed the brief. An amicus curiae is filed by parties that are not involved in the litigation but that have an interest in the outcome of the case.
“It has been clear from the beginning that the ordinance was an attempt to force undocumented immigrants from living or working in Fremont,” said Joe Garcia, FHCNI’s director. “The ordinance has created a climate of intimidation and fear that chills the rights of Hispanics, including U.S. citizens and immigrants with lawful status.”
The Fremont ordinance requires all renters in the city to apply for an “occupancy license” and allows the city to revoke the license of anyone who does not pass a background check for citizenship or legal authorization to be in the United States. Applicants are required by the ordinance to declare their immigration status in their application; those whose legal status cannot be verified will have their right to rent within the city revoked.
Earlier this year, Judge Smith Camp of the District Court of Nebraska found that this violated the federal Fair Housing Act, and she enjoined the City of Fremont from enforcing any penalties against those who were in violation of the ordinance. However, she let stand the registration and occupancy license process.
“The City of Fremont is blatantly discriminating against the Latino population while pretending not to,” said Shanna L. Smith, NFHA’s President/CEO. “We’re not falling for it, neither did Judge Smith Camp, and neither will the Eighth Circuit. These kinds of ordinances are exactly why we have the ability under our nation’s fair housing and civil rights laws to bring disparate impact cases: to root out discrimination masking as public policy.”
“Restrictive ordinances such as the one passed by the City of Fremont are aimed at intimidating Hispanic families and pushing them out of neighborhoods they have a right to live in,” said Janis Bowdler, director of NCLR’s Wealth-Building Policy Project. “Such laws are divisive and costly, and they damage the public reputation of Fremont as a place that allows racial discrimination against its residents regardless of their immigration status.”
Fremont’s population went from 95% white to 85% white between 2000 and 2010. During that time the Hispanic population grew from 4.3% to 11.9%.
The civil rights groups argue that Judge Smith Camp was correct in finding a violation of the Fair Housing Act and support the plaintiffs’ position that the housing registration section of the ordinance should also have been struck down. The groups cite statistics showing that the ordinance’s housing restrictions would have an adverse impact on Latinos, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, because Latinos are more likely to rent than non-Latinos and make up a disproportionate number of the Fremont/Omaha region’s foreign-born population. The groups further assert that the city has not established that any legitimate governmental interest are furthered by the ordinance’s housing restrictions.
September 2012 newsletter now available
The newsletter has a calendar of upcoming events as well as articles about the second Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (to be held September 27 2012), about the film (How to Survive a Plague) that MVFHC is sponsoring at the 2012 Downtown Dayton LGBT Film Festival, and about national origin discrimination. Also included is the book corner, about the book The New Suburbanites: Race and Housing in the Suburbs.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
MVFHC joins NFHA in supporting the Anna Louise Inn in Cincinnati
Read a statement from
NFHA President and CEO Shanna L. Smith regarding the Anna Louise Inn
July 31, 2012 — MVFHC joins with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) in expressing support for the Anna Louise Inn, the only single room occupancy residence for women in Cincinnati.
The Anna Louise Inn, located near Lytle Park in downtown Cincinnati, has been providing safe and affordable housing for single women since 1909. The Inn’s owner, Cincinnati Union Bethel,
As NFHA President and CEO Shanna L. Smith points out in a statement regarding the Anna Louise Inn, “It is a basic tenet of the federal Fair Housing Act that neighbors cannot prevent someone from living in a neighborhood because of discriminatory prejudice and stereotypes. The fair housing laws do not simply apply to landlords and real estate agents; they also apply to neighbors who try to drive someone out of their home through harassment, intimidation or coercion.”
Smith continues, “The City of Cincinnati has a duty under the federal Fair Housing Act to affirmatively further fair housing, which involves assessing barriers to housing choice and taking actions to counteract any barriers.”
MVFHC joins with NFHA in urging Western & Southern to cease its opposition to the Anna Louise Inn and to become a welcoming good neighbor that values neighborhood diversity.
For more information about the struggles faced by the Inn and for news about an upcoming Ice Cream Social on September 14, 2012 from 4:30–6:00 p.m. in Lytle Park in Cincinnati in support of the Inn, visit the Inn’s news page.
Capital One to pay $210 million to settle charges of deceptive marketing
First public enforcement case brought by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
July 18, 2012 — Capital One Financial Corp. will pay a total of $210 to settle charges of deceptive marketing of credit card “add-on” products such as payment protection and credit monitoring.
It was the first public enforcement case brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), established by the Dodd-Frank Act to increase oversight of consumer financial products. CFPB and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the primary regulator of Capital One, said the bank agreed to provide between $140 million and $150 million in restitution to 2 million customers and to pay an additional $60 million in penalties—$25 million to CFPB and $35 to OCC. The Virginia-based company didn’t admit or deny wrongdoing.
“Today’s action puts $140 million back in the pockets of two million Capital One customers who were pressured or misled into buying credit card products they didn’t understand, didn’t want or, in some cases, couldn’t even use,” said CFPB director Richard Cordray. “We are putting companies on notice that these deceptive practices are against the law and will not be tolerated.”
Cordray said that other card issuers who market similar products face CFPB enforcement actions as well.
“We know these deceptive marketing tactics for credit card add-on products are not unique to a single institution,” Cordray said. “We expect announcements about other institutions as our ongoing work continues to unfold.
Cordray said the first public enforcement action by CFPB would not focus on smaller issues that are in a legal “gray area.” CFPB is looking out for “violation of law and substantial consumer harm,” he said.
He also said CFPB would seek restitution in future enforcement actions. “We will insist on refunds for injured consumers,” Cordray said. “That’s a priority.”
As part of the settlement, Capital One agreed not to market the add-on products until CFPB approves its plan for complying with the settlement, CFPB’s assistant director for enforcement, Kent Markus, said. This is one reason why CFPB wasn’t concerned that Capital One didn’t admit wrongdoing, Cordray said.
“Capital One is agreeing to a compliance regiment that is quite careful about ensuring that this does not happen again,” Cordray said.
CFPB said its examiners discovered that Capital One’s third-party vendors engaged in deceptive tactics to sell ancillary products to the company’s credit cards. The products included “payment protection” that allows customers to cancel as many as 12 months of minimum payments if they face unemployment or temporary disability.
The vendors also sold credit-monitoring services, which promised identity-theft protection and access to “credit education specialists,” CFPB said.
Cordray said that customers were wrongly led to believe they needed to buy the services to activate their cards or that debt protection or credit monitoring was free, while others were left with the impression that the purchase would improve their credit scores. Some customers were simply not eligible but got billed anyway.
Capital One said in a statement that it became aware of its vendors’ practices in late 2011.
“We are accountable for the actions that vendors take on our behalf,” Ryan Schneider, president of Capital One’s credit card business, said in the statement. “These marketing calls were inconsistent with the explicit instructions that we provided to agents for how these products should be sold. We apologize to those customers who were impacted and we are committed to making it right.”
More cases against credit card companies may be in the works. CFPB and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. have subpoenaed Discover Financial Services amid a probe into that lender’s marketing of fee-based products, including debt protection, the company said in a June filing.
Debt protection products, also known as credit insurance, are lucrative mainly because of limited competition. Customers can’t get a credit card from one company and credit insurance from another, according to consumer advocates including Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the Center for Economic Justice and a former Texas state insurance official.
Card-issuing banks kept about 55 percent of the fees in pretax earnings, according to a March 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. Issuers reaped $2.4 billion in fees from the products in 2009, according to the GAO, Congress’s investigative arm.
In January, Capital One agreed to provide $13.5 to West Virginia and consumers there to settle claims tied to the sale of payment protection and other products between 2010 and 2005, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw said in a Jan. 17 statement. The company denied liability, according to the statement.
CFPB said it will consider whether new rules are needed for debt protection products, which have been among CFPB’s priorities since the agency officially started work on July 21, 2011. CFPB examiners are responsible for assuring compliance with federal consumer laws at banks with assets of more than $10 billion.
Cincinnati landlord must pay $855,000 for sexually harassing his tenants
July 18, 2012 — Cincinnati landlord Henry E. Bailey agreed to the entry of an $855,000 civil judgment against him, after admitting that he violated the Fair Housing Act as alleged in a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in federal court.
The DOJ complaint alleged that Bailey subjected female tenants and applicants to unwanted sexual comments and touching, entered the apartments of female tenants without notice or permission, granted tangible housing benefits in exchange for sexual favors, and took adverse actions against female tenants when they refused his sexual advances.
“The women involved were subjected to intimidating and severe acts of unwanted sexual conduct in their homes, where they expected to feel safe,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “This judgment reflects the gravity of the alleged conduct.”
Under the terms of the consent judgment, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Bailey is obligated to pay $800,000 in damages to 14 women he sexually harassed and $55,000 in a civil penalty to the United States. In addition, the consent judgment enjoins Bailey from further acts of discrimination and requires him to retain an independent management company to manage any currently rented units and any future rental properties he acquires.
“This helps right the wrongs committed against vulnerable individuals,” said Carter Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. “The decree sends a message that property owners must respect the rights of their tenants and those who seek safe, secure housing.”
DOG began investigating Bailey after Housing Opportunities Made Equal, a Cincinnati-based non-profit fair housing advocacy group, notified DOJ of sexual harassment complaints it has received against Bailey.
June 2012 newsletter now available
In addition to information about our upcoming Waikiki Party fundraiser, the newsletter has articles about a new HUD regulation to ensure equal access to housing for LGBT people and about new HUD grants awarded to MVFHC. Also included is information about a book on the rebuilding of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward as well as info on MVFHC’s tester program and on upcoming community events.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
SunTrust Mortgage agrees to pay $21 million to settle lawsuit
DOJ complaint alleged discrimination resulting in increased loan prices for many African American and Hispanic borrowers
May 31, 2012 — SunTrust Mortgage, Inc., the mortgage lending subsidiary of the nation’s 11th-largest commercial bank, has agreed to pay $21 million to resolve a lawsuit by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that it engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination that increased loan prices for many of the qualified African American and Hispanic borrowers who obtained loans between 2005 and 2009 through SunTrust Mortgage’s regional retail offices and national network of mortgage brokers.
The settlement also requires SunTrust Mortgage to continue using policies and practices it adopted to prevent discrimination following the time period in the lawsuit.
The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, where SunTrust Mortgage is headquartered. The settlement comes after a two-and-a-half year investigation by the DOJ, which included reviewing internal company documents and data on more than 850,000 residential mortgage loans that SunTrust Mortgage originated between 2005 and 2009. SunTrust Mortgage cooperated fully with the DOJ’s investigation into its lending practices and agreed to settle this matter without contested litigation.
“Today’s settlement demonstrates that the Department of Justice takes seriously its responsibility to investigate mortgage lending practices during the mortgage boom years and, when the evidence shows the law was broken, to obtain compenstation for victims of illegal conduct,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “We will, however, work constructively with responsible lenders like SunTrust Mortgage that are willing to take the necessary steps to ensure equal credit opportunity for all borrowers. We commend SunTrust Mortgage for taking action to implement strong fair lending policies even before they knew the full results of our investigation.”
The settlement was filed in conjunction with the DOJ’s complaint that alleges SunTrust Mortgage violated the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act by charging more than 20,000 African American and Hispanic borrowers higher fees and interest rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers—not based on borrower risk—but because of their race or national origin. Specifically, the allegations involve loans made to African American borrowers between 2005 and 2008 through the more than 200 retail offices directly operated by SunTrust Mortgage in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The allegations also involve loans made to African American and Hispanic borrowers between 2005 and 2009 through SunTrust Mortgage’s national network of mortgage brokeres.
For more information, visit this page on the DOJ website.
HUD awards MVFHC $775,000 to combat housing and lending discrimination
May 9, 2012 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded MVFHC two grants under HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP), which is the only federal funding source specifically for education, outreach and enforcement activities by private, non-profit fair housing organizations.
The grants awarded to MVFHC are:
Private Enforcement Initiative—Lending Component: $325,000
MVFHC will use grant funds to augment its existing fair lending enforcement and complaint activities and to support the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton. Activities will include:
Education and Outreach Initiative—Lending Component: $125,000
MVFHC will use grant funds to inform the public and lending professionals about their rights and obligations under the Fair Housing Act and substantially equivalent state and local fair housing and fair lending laws. MVFHC will provide education, training and technical assistance to the public, borrowers and lending professionals on fair lending laws addresing mortgage lending discrimination through fair housing and lending workshops and community meetings, resulting in referrals to appropriate staff at MVFHC who will provide advocacy for and direct assistance to victims of fair housing and fair lending discrimination. MVFHC will use brochures, PSAs, pre-recorded and live broadcast programs and certified curricula for housing professionals, all focused on the intersection of fair housing and fair lending.
Private Enforcement Initiative—Multi-Year Component: $325,000
In this grant, the second year of a three-year cycle first announced in October 2011, MVFHC will address housing discrimination through ongoing enforcement and education activities. MVFHC will continue to implement systemic investigation and enforcement by intake of allegations of housing discrimination, by testing and by other investigative work to provide just resolutions for fair housing discrimination; mediation or other voluntary resolution of allegations of fair housing; and litigation of fair housing cases, including procuring expert witnesses. MVFHC will conduct fair housing and fair lending workshops for residential housing consumers, private and public housing professionals and underserved individuals in all protected classes under federal, state and local laws. MVFHC will also distribute print materials, PSAs, pre-recorded and live broadcast programs for television, internet and radio, certified professional cuuricula, and fair housing information on its website.
“These grants are essential to continuing our important work in the community, especially in light of the local funding constraints faced by some of our longtime funders,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “It is important to realize that while this funding is essential, it is not funding that will allow MVFHC to increase its capacity but rather is a retooling of the funding of MVFHC’s existing services to the community.”
The grants to MVFHC are part of $27.5 million in Private Enforcement Initiative grants awarded by HUD to help private non-profit groups investigate alleged housing discrimination and to enforce the Fair Housing Act and state and local laws that are substantially equivalent to the Act.
McCarthy continued, “Over the past nineteen years, MVFHC has undergone significant growth and worked diligently to improve fair housing services and equal opportunity in the Miami Valley. We’re very pleased that HUD has recognized our work as being worthy of funding, and we look forward to continuing to partner with HUD and local governments for a better tomorrow.”
MVFHC and NFHA file discrimination complaint against U.S. Bank
Fair housing organizations allege discrimination in marketing and maintenance of foreclosed properties
April 17, 2012 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and its partners, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and three other NFHA member agencies, filed a federal housing discrimination complaint against U.S. Bancorp and U.S. Bank National Bank Association. The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is the result of an undercover investigation of U.S. Bank's bank-owned properties, finding that its foreclosed properties in white areas are much better maintained and marketed than its properties in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.
U.S. Bank is the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. The investigation of 177 foreclosed properties owned by U.S. Bank demonstrates that the financial giant has engaged in a systemic practice of maintaining and marketing its foreclosed, bank-owned properties (also known as Real Estate Owned or REO) in a state of disrepair in communities of color while maintaining and marketing REO properties in predominantly white communities in a far superior manner. The investigation evaluated properties in greater Dayton as well as in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Baltimore, MD; Miami and Fort Lauderdale, FL; Oakland/Richmond/Concord, CA; and Washington, DC.
“Our findings underscore the obvious: properties that are poorly maintained not only lose value but also have a higher likelihood of selling to an investor rather than to a family,” said Shanna L. Smith, NFHA’s President and CEO. “U.S. Bank is making it harder for the market to come back in communities of color.”
MVFHC, NFHA and three other NFHA member agencies—Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence in Miami, FL; Metro Fair Housing Services in Atlanta, GA; and HOPE Fair Housing Center in Wheaton, IL—evaluated the maintenance and marketing of REO properties for the existence of 39 different types of maintenance or marketing deficiencies, such as broken windows and doors, water damage, overgrown lawns, lack of “for sale” signs, trash on the properties, and other deficits.
“We are simply asking U.S. Bank to do routine maintenance and marketing of their REO properties in Dayton,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President and CEO. “The neglect of these properties by U.S. Bank leads to the deterioration of neighborhoods, the loss of property values, and the decline of our tax base.”
Nationally, and in each of the seven metropolitan areas, U.S. Bank’s REO properties in communities of color were far more likely to have several deficiencies in maintenance or marketing than REO properties in predominantly white communities.
“Without routine maintenance, these properties have become eyesores in Atlanta’s neighborhoods and should be an embarrassment for U.S. Bank,” said Gail Williams, Executive Director of Metro Fair Housing Services in Atlanta. “Atlanta’s neighborhoods are being victimized over and over again by the big banks—first with predatory loans, then by the denial of loan modifications through the foreclosure crisis, and now with poorly maintained REO properties.”
Without a “for sale” sign, for example, potential homebuyers driving in the neighborhoods would simply not know a property is available. Also, if there is storm damage or unauthorized occupants, neighbors have no one to call. With a “for sale” sign, people know who to contact to visit the home, and neighbors can call a real estate agent to report problems. In Dayton, 94 percent of all U.S. Bank properties in communities of color were missing “for sale” signs, while in Chicago and the Bay Area 68 percent and 64 percent of all properties in communities of color had the same deficiency.
Trash on the property is a health and safety hazard and makes a home unappealing—but this is an easy problem to fix and should be addressed immediately. About three-fourths of U.S. Bank properties in communities of color in Atlanta, Baltimore, and Washington DC had substantial amounts of trash.
“Chicago is a city of neighborhoods with more than 77 defined communities and over 200 neighborhoods. Each of these communities deserves to be treated equally by banks in the marketing and maintenance of REO properties,&dquo; said Anne Houghtaling, Executive Director of HOPE Fair Housing Center in Wheaton, IL. “Evidence in this complaint demonstrates that U.S. Bank does not treat properties fairly if they are located in communities of color.”
Earlier this month, NFHA issued a report on the findings of its nationwide REO investigation, The Banks Are Back, Our Neighborhoods Are Not: Discrimination in the Maintenance and Marketing of REO Properties. The report offers disturbing evidence that the same banks that peddled unsustainable loans to communities of color an triggered the current foreclosure crisis are now exacerbating damage to these communities. It details the results of the evaluation of more than 1,000 REO properties nationwide.
Last week, NFHA filed a HUD administrative complaint against Wells Fargo. MVFHC, NFHA and their partners will continue their investigation into the practices of REO maintenance and marketing in the nation’s banking system.
Fair housing organizations file discrimination complaint against Wells Fargo
MVFHC and NFHA allege discrimination in marketing and maintenance of foreclosed properties
April 10, 2012 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and its partners, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and three other NFHA member agencies, announced a federal housing discrimination complaint against Wells Fargo & Co. and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. The complaint, filed earlier today with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is the result of an undercover investigation of Wells Fargo’s bank-owned properties finding that foreclosed properties in white areas are much better maintained and marketed by Wells Fargo than such properties in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.
The investigation of 218 foreclosed properties owned by Wells Fargo demonstrates that Wells Fargo has engaged in a systemic practice of maintaining and marketing its foreclosed, bank-owned properties (also known as Real Estate Owned or REO) in a state of disrepair in communities of color while maintaining and marketing REO properties in predominantly white communities in a far superior manner. The Wells Fargo investigation evaluated properties in greater Dayton as well as in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Dallas, TX; Miami and Fort Lauderdale, FL; Oakland/Richmond/Concord, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; and Washington, DC.
Nationally, and in each of the eight metropolitan areas, Wells Fargo’s REO properties in communities of color were far more likely to have several deficiencies in maintenance or marketing than REO properties in predominantly white communities.
Without a “for sale” sign, for example, potential homebuyers would simply not know a property is available. Also, if there is storm damage or unauthorized occupants, neighbors have no one to call. With a “for sale” sign, neighbors can call a real estate agent to report these kinds of problems.
There were no “for sale” signs at 90 percent of Wells Fargo properties in Dayton’s communities of color. Almost twice as many “for sale” signs were found in white communities than in communities of color in Philadelphia, PA and Oakland, CA. In Washington, DC, there were four times as many “for sale” signs in white neighborhoods than in neighborhoods of color.
Trash on the property is a health and safety hazard and makes a home unappealing—but this is a very easy problem to fix and should be addressed immediately. Wells Fargo properties in communities of color in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Oakland, Miami, Dallas, and Washington, DC had almost twice as much trash as those in white communities.
Detailed national and local statistics and photos are available in this PowerPoint presentation (PDF format).
“Wells Fargo’s disregard for homes in communities of color has severely damaged these communities,” said Shanna L. Smith, NFHA’s President and CEO. “The Company has also hindered the nation’s efforts to promote fair housing and is clear violation of the Fair Housign Act.”
MVFHC, NFHA and three other NFHA member agencies—Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence in Miami, FL; Metro Fair Housing Services in Atlanta, GA; and North Texas Fair Housing Center in Dallas, TX—evaluated the maintenance and marketing of REO properties for the existence of 39 different types of maintenance or marketing deficiencies, such as broken windows and doors, water damage, overgrown lawns, lack of “for sale” signs, trash on the properties, and other deficits.
“We hope that Wells Fargo will take immediate action to correct the stark racial and ethnic disparities we have found in the maintenance and marketing of its foreclosed properties,” continued Smith.
The complainants are represented by Peter Romer-Friedman, an attorney at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, a law firm that specializes in class action and other complex litigation on behalf of plaintiffs.
Next week, MVFHC, NFHA and their partners will announce another complaint they will file against another major bank.
MVFHC and partner agencies uncover discrimination in treatment of foreclosed properties
Investigation finds striking incidents of discrimination in care and maintenance of bank-owned properties
April 4, 2012 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and its partners, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and three other NFHA member agencies, announced the results of an undercover investigation into the ways the nation’s financial institutions are failing to maintain Real Estate Owned (REO) properties in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. The investigation of REO properties in nine major U.S. cities, including Dayton, found striking incidents of discrimination in the care and maintenance of properties, with foreclosed properties in white areas being much better maintained and marketed than those in neighborhoods of color.
A report of the investigation, “The Banks Are Back, Our Neighborhoods Are Not: Discrimination in the Maintenance and Marketing of REO Properties,” details the results of the evaluation of more than 1,000 REO properties located in the greater Dayton area as well as in and around Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Dallas, TX; Miami and Fort Lauderdale, FL; Oakland/Richmond/Concord, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; and Washington, DC.
“This report offers evidence that banks responsible for peddlign unsustainable loans to communities of color and triggering our current foreclosure crisis are continuing to damage those communities by failing to properly maintain and market the properties they own,” said Shanna L. Smith, NFHA’s President and CEO.
“This is an investigation—not a study—that will culminate in the filing of administrative complaints with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and/or lawsuits in federal district court,” continued Smith. “The first complaint will be filed shortly.”
MVFHC, NFHA and three other NFHA member agencies—Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence in Miami, FL; Metro Fair Housing Services in Atlanta, GA; and North Texas Fair Housing Center in Dallas, TX—evaluated the maintenance and marketing of REO properties on a 100-point scale, subtracting points for broken windows and doors, water damage, overgrown lawns, lack of “for sale” signs, trash on the properties, and other deficits.
The evaluations took into account 39 different aspects of the maintenance and marketing of each property. Overall, REO properties in communities of color were 42 percent more likely to have more than 15 maintenance problems than properties in white neighborhoods.
Some trends the investigation revealed include:
“We hope that banks will heed the information in this report and take immediate action to correct the disparate treatment we have found,” Smith said. “The proper maintenance and marketing of REO properties is a key factor in the sale of homes to families rather than to investors.” The report contains details specific to each city and gives extensive recommendations on how to fix these problems.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status as well as on the race or national origin of residents of a neighborhood. This law applies to housing and housing-related activities, which include the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing and selling of homes.
Download the report (PDF format).
HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity responds to national segregation study
February 29, 2012 — John Trasviña, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, has written an article, “Continuing the Fight Against Segregation,” for the Huffington Post that addresses a recent national study on racial segregation in the United States.
Assistant Secretary Traviña points out that “it is premature to declare victory and pronounce that it is time to move on,” despite the findings of the study, released by the Manhattan Institute.
The assistant secretary discusses the harm caused by continued racial and ethnic segregation, particularly in education, and points out that “in 2011, HUD brought more housing discrimination charges than in any year since 2002.”
For more information about the study and reactions to it, see also this posting about a Dayton Daily News article from earlier this month.
March 2012 newsletter now available
In addition to information about our upcoming Fair Housing Month celebration, the newsletter includes an article by Montgomery County Treasurer Carolyn Rice about a new approach her office is taking to help delinquent taxpayers. Also included this month is information about how the Fair Housing Act applies to families with children, about a children’s book that teaches about fair housing, and about upcoming community events.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
Assistant Director for the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Join the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® for our annual celebration of Fair Housing Month. Register now!
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Sinclair Conference Center
The event includes fair housing workshops accredited for continuing education for REALTORS® and other housing professionals, the Fair Housing luncheon, keynote speaker Patrice Ficklin of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Marie Kindrick Fair Housing Awards presentations.
MVFHC and other local fair housing groups awarded $434,000 by HUD
February 15, 2012 — As reported in the Dayton Business Journal, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded MVFHC and four other local agencies grants from the Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) totaling $434,000, out of $766,000 awarded to Ohio organizations and $7.5 million awarded nationally.
MVFHC will use the money to do fair housing education and testing for discrimination against deaf and LGBT people.
The other local agencies awarded money are the City of Dayton’s Human Relations Council (HRC), a local FHAP agency, for the city’s Welcome Dayton initiative working to make Dayton more welcoming to immigrants; Legal Aid of Western Ohio, for legal assistance and education for immigrants; and Wright State University’s Center for Urban and Public Affairs, for stabilizing minority neighborhoods through the improved community policing.
MVFHC will work with HRC and the other agencies in these complementary efforts to further fair housing.
Understanding Magner v. Gallagher
February 14, 2012 — The Opportunity Agenda has released answers to some frequently-asked questions about the Magner v. Gallagher case:
Q. Why is resolution of this case so important?
A. The positive resolution of this case is important because overcoming unnecessary and unequal barriers to housing is crucial to ensuring equal opportunity for all and to building strong communities. Thanks to St. Paul’s action, we can be confident that this progress will continue.
One of the reasons why the Fair Housing Act’s full reach is so important is that it’s the primary tool to hold banks and subprime lenders accountable for abusive lending practices. The lending industry knows this, and that’s why the biggest banking organizations in the country signed briefs asking the Supreme Court to narrow the Act’s reach. The positive resolution of this case means that subprime lenders and other exploitative actors can be held accountable for racial discrimination.
Q. What is disparate impact?
A. Disparate impact is the idea that some policies have the practical effect of discriminating based on race, family status, or some other category, and are unnecessary or unjustified.
When a policy has a discriminatory effect and it is unjustified or unnecessary, the disparate impact approach says it must be set aside in favor of a policy that is both fair and effective. But if the policy has a solid reason behind it, and no other policy could achieve the same goal with a less discriminatory effect, then the challenged policy stands, even though it excludes more people from one group than another.
An example is when a city decides to keep out all housing that would be affordable to working class people, and that has the effect of excluding most or all people of color, who are more likely to be in that category. If the city could not show an important reason for its policy, or if a more fair and effective alternative were available, then the policy would have to be set aside under the disparate impact approach.
Q. What were the facts of the Magner case?
A. The plaintiffs in the case were building owners in St. Paul, Minnesota, who rent their properties to working class people, including many African Americans. They claimed that the city was trying to push them and other rental owners out of town, in favor of owner-occupied housing, with the practical effect of excluding many African Americans from any housing in the city.
Q. Shouldn’t a city be able to enforce safety and cleanliness standards?
A. Cities and towns should be able to enforce fair and legitimate safety and sanitation standards. The claim here was that enforcement of those standards was both discriminatory in practice and unnecessary in fact. The plaintiff apartment owners had to prove these two things at trial in order to win their fair housing claim.
MVFHC and NFHA applaud City of St. Paul for removing key fair housing case from the Supreme Court
February 10, 2012 — The City of St. Paul has withdrawn its appeal to the Supreme Court of a fair housing case challenging its housing code.
In the case, Magner v. Gallagher, rental property owners challenged the city’s housing code under the Fair Housing Act, alleging that the code’s requirement of renovations to low-income housing was discriminatory because most of the tenants in the properties were minorities. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that policies that disproportionately impact protected groups violate the Fair Housing Act.
Attorneys General from twelve states filed an amicus brief supporting the ruling. California Attorney General Kamala Harris pointed out that St. Paul’s housing code caused disproportionate hardships to African Americans, who make up over 60 percent of the city’s renters despite being only 12 percent of the city’s population.
MVFHC President and CEO Jim McCarthy joined Shanna Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, in congratulating St. Paul for removing its appeal of the case.
Smith made the following statement about the case:
The National Fair Housing Alliance is proud to stand in solidarity with the City of Saint Paul today. We congratulate the City on its thoughtful leadership decision to remove its appeal in Magner v. Gallagher due to the potentially catastrophic, unintended consequences of a case challenging the “disparate impact” theory under the Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Act has a dual mission: to eliminate housing discrimination and to promote diverse, inclusive comunities. As such, the law covers both intentional discrimination as well as policies that have a discriminatory impact, even if they may appear neutral. Disparate impact claims under the Fair Housing Act are critical to addressing systemic housing discrimination and segregation in the United States.
Civil rights advocates and the U.S. government have used disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act for over 40 years to help address mortgage lending and insurance redlining practices as well as discriminatory zoning ordinances. Disparate impact has proven to be an invaluable tool in protecting the housing rights of all people.
The City’s decision will keep this vital part of the law viable for future generations.
Dayton Daily News reports on national segregation study
February 6, 2012 — The Dayton Daily News has published an article, “Dayton slowly moving toward integration,” reporting on a controversial new study about racial segregation in the United States. The article, by staff writer Mary McCarty, also includes commentary by MVFHC President/CEO Jim McCarthy and features the story of a local African American woman who turned to MVFHC for help after she suspected she had faced discrimination.
The study, “The End of the Segregated Century: Racial Separation in America’s Neighborhoods, 1890–2010,” by the conservative think tank Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, reports that black segregation is at its lowest point in the past century and that segregation in Dayton has dropped 22 percent in the past 40 years. The report also claims that “all-white neighborhoods are effectively extinct,” although it acknowledges that segregation has not disappeared.
“We have made progress, but there’s a long way to go,” MVFHC’s President/CEO Jim McCarthy says in the article. “It’s simply not true that all-white neighborhoods are extinct. We have laws on the books that redlining is illegal, but instances are constantly being discovered.”
In the article, Mary McCarty reports on the experiences of Tiffany Bryant, an African American nurse who faced problems last year applying for an apartment at a complex in Centerville. Suspecting discrimination, Bryant contacted MVFHC, and MVFHC investigated and filed a complaint that led to both parties agreeing to mediation. Bryant, who found another apartment in Centerville, remarks in the article about how she feels less trustful now of white people and wonders about how her new neighbors feel about her.
The article also quotes Ruth Thompson-Miller, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Dayton, as finding the Manhattan Institute’s study to be overly optimistic. She says, ”One family moving into a community doesn’t mean it’s diverse, and just living in a neighborhood doesn’t mean they’re welcome or that they aren’t getting harassed.” Thompson-Miller also raises concerns about disparities between whites and minorities in health and income.
Margery Turner, vice president of research for the Urban Institute, is also quoted in the article. Although the decline of segregation is “something that should be celebrated,” Turner says, “ it is hard to say that segregation is a thing of the past. I hope that Ohio’s poor grades catalyze a conversation that’s fruitful for the region and helps to remove barriers to equal opportunity and affordable housing.”
HUD prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in federal housing programs
“I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose,” Donovan said during his speech at the 24th annual Creating Change conference.
The rule, which will go to into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register, covers HUD-assisted housing and housing whose financing is insured by HUD. Owners and operators of such housing will be prohibited from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of applicants or occupants.
The rule also protects homebuyers seeking mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Lenders will be prohibited from using LGBT status as a basis to determine borrowers’ eligibility.
In his speech announcing the change, Donovan told the story of a Washington State couple, Michelle and Mitch DeShane, whom he said faced discrimination based on gender identity. Donovan said that two years ago Michelle tried to add her husband, a transgender man, to her housing voucher, but her request was denied by the local housing authority, which said the couple did not meet its definition of family.
“That’s just wrong,” Donovan said. “No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
This new rule “is just the beginning,” Donovan said. “Training and education are essential to ensuring rules are followed in communities across the country. HUD and its fair housing partners will work to provide guidance and training on the substance of this rule — and the impact it will have for both how we administer HUD programs and also how we enforce our nation’s fair housing laws more broadly.”
National Fair Housing Alliance releases issue brief about fair housing, access to opportunity and the housing crisis
The Promise of the Fair Housing Act and the Role of Fair Housing Organizations
January 26, 2012 — Jorge Andres Soto and Deidre Swesnik of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) have released an issue brief, “The Promise of Fair Housing and the Role of Fair Housing Organizations,” that explores the ongoing and pervasive nature of discriminatory tactics used to deny housing opportunities to minorities, especially African Americans and Latinos.
Soto and Swesnick report that there are “at least 11,000 incidents of housing discrimination each day throughout the United States” and argue that fair housing groups and government enforcement agencies need far more support to “achieve elimination of housing discrimination in all its forms.”
Discriminatory tactics in housing have resulted in a “disproporationate loss of wealth” for “communities of color,” the authors write, citing a Pew Research Center analysis indicating that between 2005 and 2009 median wealth fell 66 percent among Latino households and 53 percent among African-American households, compared to only 16 percent among white households. Attributable to this loss of wealth are “the disproportionately high rates of foreclosure among people of color,” Soto and Swesnick write, pointing to ”the pedding of high-cost subprime, predatory loans in communities of color.”
The brief concludes with policy recommendations “that must be taken to address barriers to impede full functioning of the existing fair housing framework and to modernize our civil rights infrastructure as it relates to housing and the need for additional protections against discrimination.” The authors argue that the Fair Housing Act should be amended to ban discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or because of their legal source of income.
Katy Crosby named Human Relations Council Acting Director
Tom Wahlrab retiring after 18 years of city service
January 25, 2012 — The Dayton City Commission has appointed Catherine (Katy) Crosby as Acting Director of the Human Relations Council (HRC), effective February 1, 2012. Her appointment follows the planned retirement of HRC Director Tom Wahlrab on January 31.
“We are happy to appoint Katy Crosby as HRC Acting Director,” said Mayor Gary Leitzell. “She has served the Dayton community well and we are confident that she will lead the Council’s important work effectively.”
City Manager Tim Riordan acknowledged retiring HRC Director Tom Wahlrab’s contributions to the City of Dayton during 18 years of service.
“Tom has provided steady, community-focused leadership to the Human Relations Council,” Riordan said. “He has also overseen development of the Welcome Dayton immigrant-friendly city initiative and given that program a strong foundation for continued growth.”
HRC, established by the City Commission in 1962, investigates and adjudicates discrimination complaints, implements the PEP program (providing opportunities to minority- and women-owned businesses as well as small and disadvantaged enterprises), and addresses issues that affect the disabled. HRC also operates special programs associated with the agency’s mission, such as public education programs. In addition to staff, HRC is supported by a 10-member board appointed to three-year terms by the City Commission.
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center applauds President Obama’s appointment of Richard Cordray
January 4, 2012 — Jim McCarthy, President/CEO of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, issued the following statement today about President Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the
The President has courageously sided with Ohioans and strengthened our nation’s financial marketplace by making a recess appointment of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray is an exceptionally qualified nominee who has the intelligence and honesty to protect everyday Americans from the abuses that led to our current housing and financial crises. Mr. Cordray will fairly oversee the nation’s financial institutions to help restore our nation’s economic well-being.
Wall Street disproportionately targeted communities of color for toxic mortgage loans. African Americans and Latinos are 75 percent more likely to experience foreclosure. As a result of foreclosures creating depreciation in nearby properties alone, African Americans and Latino communities are expected to have lost more than $370 billion in wealth by year’s end. We need a tough “cop on the beat” and we’ve got one in Richard Cordray.
Congratulations to Mr. Cordray and to the American people.
For more background on Cordray’s appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, see this op-ed, “Portman should vote to confirm Cordray.” This op-ed, by McCarthy and by Deborah Goldberg of the National Fair Housing Alliance, ran in the Dayton Daily News on December 7, 2011.
Fair Housing advocates object to banks’ proposals for foreclosed homes
December 28, 2011 — The Huffington Post reported that Fair Housing advocates are objecting to proposals to the federal government submitted by financial and investment companies on how they can help run a program to rent out foreclosued homes.
Jeremy Rosen, the National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty’s policy director, told the Huffington Post that “it’s really a question of whether the banks that made so much money creating this crisis are going to profit again.”
On Monday Bloomberg reported that about 400 proposals were submitted to the Federal Housing Finance Agency by companies including UBS, Deutsche Bank and Barclays Capital. Of particular interest is a proposal from Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm headed by Daniel Mudd, the former CEO of Fannie Mae who was sued earlier this month by the SEC for allegedly lying about the amount of risk the mortgage finance agency was undergoing during the housing boom. Critics contend that, by proposing to help the federal government sell or rent foreclosed homes it owns, Mudd’s new firm would profit from a problem he may have helped to cause.
Deborah Goldberg, special projects director of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), told the Huffington Post, “The way that these houses are ultimately disposed of will have real implications for the housing market in the next few years. This is about real families, real neighborhoods and real communities.”
Goldberg stressed the importance of close monitoring of foreclosed properties, saying that a report released earlier this year by NFHA and partner agencies including the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center showed how many bank-owned properties are falling into disrepair, particularly in minority neighborhoods. Goldberg said, “If the government is selling properties, it needs to be very careful about who it sells them to and the terms and conditions of those sales, and that we don’t do further damage to communities that are reeling from the impact of the housing crisis.”
Rosen urged that for-profit companies such as bank should be limited in their participation in any program to manage foreclosed properties owned by the government and that instead non-profit agencies around the country develop a plan that benefits middle and lower-middle class people affected by the housing crisis. About the banks, Goldberg said, "Let’s just say their track record isn’t good.”
“Families that lost their homes during the crisis are at risk of being taken advantage of again,” Rosen said. “Not everything, in terms of responding to the foreclosure crisis, has been within the control of the administration. This is fully within their control. It’s time for them to stand up for families.”
Federal court enjoins Alabama officials from relying on anti-immigrant law in issuing mobile home registration tags
Update: December 12, 2011 — Following the issuing of a temporary restraining order last month, a federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama, has now issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of a provision of Alabama’s HB 56.
Judge Myron Thompson held, in a 108-page opinion, that the plaintiffs are substantially likely to prevail on their claims that the law intentionally discriminates against and has an unlawful disparate impact on Latinos, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Judge Thompson further held that the plaintiffs demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on their preemption claims and that they would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction.
November 23, 2011 — After several hours of testimony, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama temporarily enjoined Alabama state officials from enforcing a section of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law HB 56 against families who live in mobile homes.
Section 30 of HB 56 would impose criminal penalties on any individual entering into, or attempting to enter into, a “business transaction” with the State or a political subdivision without proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status. The enforcement of Section 30 by state officials charged with issuing annual registration tags to residents of mobile homes would have left undocumented immigrants in an impossible position: attempt to renew the mobile home tags they need and risk being charged with a felony under HB 56, or refrain from renewing tags before the November 30 renewal deadline and risk other civil and criminal penalties, including criminal prosecution and imprisonment.
The court enjoined Alabama’s Revenue Commissioner and a Montgomery County official from requiring any person who attempts to pay the annual fee required by the state’s manufactured home registration law to provide documentation of his or her U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status; and from refusing to issue manufactured home decals to any person because that person cannot prove his or her U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status. The court also ordered the Revenue Commissioner immediately to notify all other responsible county officials in the State of the court’s ruling.
The lawsuit was filed by the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center (based in Montgomery), the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama (based in Birmingham), the Center for Fair Housing, Inc. (based in Mobile), and two John Doe individuals on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals.
Relman, Dane & Colfax is representing the plaintiffs in the suit, in conjunction with lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU, and LatinoJustice.
The New York Times has a discussion of how HB 56 is adversely affecting Alabama and its residents in an editorial entitled, “The Price of Intolerance.”
Portman should vote to confirm Cordray
by Jim McCarthy and Deborah Goldberg
December 7, 2011 — More than 2.7 million Americans who received mortgage loans between 2004 and 2008 have lost their homes to foreclosure. In Dayton, more than 5,700 residents who got mortgages during that period have lost their homes, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.
More than 6,700 Dayton families are past 60 days late on their payments and are at serious risk of foreclosure.
Our nation and this state face problems in the current housing market because of a failure of the banking regulators to prevent banks from offering risky loans that were doomed from the start. So far, many Senate Republicans have sided with Big Banks instead of consumers.
Earlier this year, 44 Republican senators signed a letter stating they would not confirm any nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), unless changes are made to the agency to weaken its authority and handicap its ability to adequately protect consumers.
However, in recent weeks, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., announced his support for the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to become the CFPB’s permanent director. We urge Ohio’s Republican Sen. Rob Portman to join Brown and support Cordray’s nomination as well.
Ohioans from both parties want a tough traffic cop on Wall Street. With Cordray at the helm, the CFPB will have the ability to police the practices of major banks and non-bank financial institutions that caused the mortgage crisis that plunged the nation into recession.
Portman has another chance to show he is for everyday Ohioans. As early as this week, there may be a floor vote in the Senate on the Cordray nomination.
The stakes are high. While Americans from every background have already lost their homes, millions more are still paying their mortgages, but have seen their home values plummet. The Federal Reserve estimates that, since 2005, declining home values have cost homeowners $7 trillion in lost wealth that they could have used to weather the economic turmoil, send their kids to college, start or expand a small business, fund retirement, or pass along to the next generation.
This crisis has hit hardest at communities of color, especially African-Americans and Latinos, who were targeted for toxic sub-prime loans. As a result of foreclosures, African-American and Latino communities have lost more than $370 billion in wealth, making it more difficult for them to achieve economic stability and prosperity. In Dayton, of homeowners who received mortgages between 2004 and 2008, African-Americans are more than twice as likely as white residents to have lost their homes to foreclosure, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.
Congress created the CFPB last year to bring order, transparency and fairness to the financial services industry. It’s time for the CFPB to get to work.
The CFPB’s mission is more urgent than ever: Making sure borrowers have the necessary information to shop for mortgages that best fit their needs, that there are no traps hidden in fine print, and that mortgage companies treat borrowers fairly if they hit hard times. Filling a crucial need for minorities, the agency will ensure all borrowers can get the best loan for which they qualify, regardless of their skin color or national origin.
The CFPB officially opened its doors on July 21, and its staff is hard at work. But, without a director, the agency has not been able to exercise its full authority.
Consumers can’t afford to wait any longer for the CFPB. Sen. Portman, it’s time to confirm Richard Cordray.
Jim McCarthy is President/CEO of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center. Deborah Goldberg is the special projects director of the National Fair Housing Alliance. This op-ed ran in the Dayton Daily News on December 7, 2011.
December 2011 newsletter now available
The newsletter contains information about HUD funding for FY 2012, information on fair housing basics, an article on creating advertising that complies with the Fair Housing Act, and more!
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
Movers, Fulton County sheriff’s deputies refuse to evict 103-year-old woman
November 30, 2011 — According to a report from WSB-TV in Atlanta, Fulton County sheriff’s deputies and movers showed up at the home of a 103-year-old woman and her 83-year-old daughter to evict them pursuant to a foreclosure action by Deutsche Bank but then decided they could not carry out the orders.
Vinia Hall and her daughter have lived at their home in northwest Atlanta for 53 years. Family members told WSB-TV that they had enough money to pay the mortgage but had difficulties getting the bank to accept their payments.
Watch the WSB-TV report below:
Fair housing organizations applaud Ohio senator for supporting federal funding
October 21, 2011 — Recognizing the crucial work by non-profit fair housing organizations in Ohio and nationwide, the Senate voted Thursday to restore level funding of $42.5 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) in the federal fiscal year 2012 budget. Senator Sherrod Brown sponsored the amendment to restore nearly $7 million in funding. FHIP funding is part of appropriations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is vital in protecting all families and individuals seeking fair housing choices across the country. The amendment passed with support of both Democrats and Republicans in a voice vote.
“Senator Sherrod Brown is a true champion of fair housing choice for all Ohioans and all Americans regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability or familial status,” said Jim McCarthy, president and CEO of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC), representing a group of fair housing organizations in Ohio. “We applaud Senator Brown and all senators who supported amendment number 874 for their efforts in promoting fair housing for everyone.”
In addition to MVFHC, the Ohio fair housing organizations who endorsed this amendment were: Fair Housing Advocates Association of Akron; Fair Housing Resource Center, Inc. of Painesville; Heights Community Congress of Cleveland Heights; Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Greater Cincinnati; Housing Research & Advocacy Center of Cleveland; the City of Cleveland’s Office of Fair Housing & Community Affairs; and the Toledo Fair Housing Center.
The Senate’s action comes a month after the House Appropriations Subcommittee approved level funding for FHIP at $42.5 million.
Ohio fair housing organizations such as MVFHC fight housing discrimination and help families save their homes from foreclosure. The severity of the problem is felt by the American middle class as well as by communities of color, service members and their families, and by people with disabilities.
For example, MVFHC worked with the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton to help Gail Harris, a single 51-year-old African-American mother. Ms. Harris was able to modify her $40,000 mortgage on a home she inherited from her parents that she would have lost without help from MVFHC.
Fair housing organizations receive funding through FHIP assist people who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination. FHIP is a competitive grant program administered by HUD that fights discrimination in the housing, rental, sales, lending and insurance markets. There are approximately 100 full-service fair housing organizations nationwide that conduct enforcement and education for the community and the housing industry.
“This week’s vote was an important step forward in the Senate, but there is more that must be done,” said Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “I urge the Senate to increase funding for housing counseling services, the Community Development Block Grant program, and many other programs that are vital in furthering the goal of equality in America today.”
MVFHC offering free CLE class to Dayton area lawyers
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, in partnership with the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton, is offering a continuing legal education class to attorneys and legal staff who want to be better equipped and knowledgeable about the mortgage foreclosure crisis, what can be done to assist Ohio homeowners facing foreclosure on their primary residences, and what resources are available to assist attorneys in private practice and their staffs.
The course is being offered, free of charge, to attorneys or legal staff from the Dayton and Miami Valley Area. Two dates are available to choose from: Thursday, November 10, 2011 from 8:30 a.m. – to 12:00 p.m. and Monday, December 12, 2011 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information about the course and to register online, go to mvfairhousing.com/cle.
Housing rights advocacy for victims of domestic violence
October 14, 2011 — Incidents of domestic violence can threaten a family's housing stability. Landlords may refuse to rent to a past victim of domestic violence or threaten to evict a tenant if an incident of domestic violence occurs.
Our community is not immune to this issue. In fact, Fair Housing Contact Service (FHCS), an Akron-based civil rights organization, identified a local landlord who threatened to begin the eviction process against a single mother if she was abused in her apartment. FHCS filed a charge of housing discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) alleging discrimination on the basis of sex because statistics show that women are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence. Discrimination on the basis of sex is prohibited by state and federal fair housing laws. In September, FHCS received a favorable determination from the OCRC indicating the landlord had discriminated on the basis of sex due to her comments regarding domestic violence.
Reflecting on this determination, Tamala Skipper, FHCS Executive Director said, “This case sheds light on an emerging issue, and FHCS is a proud advocate for the housing rights of victims of domestic violence. This determination is a step toward our goal of equal housing opportunity.”
To continue to highlight this issue, FHCS is pleased to host its 46th Annual Meeting and Luncheon on Thursday, October 27, 2011. This year’s Keynote Speakers, Attorneys Darlene Bonta and Meredith Lobritz Watts both of Community Legal Aid Services, will present on the topic of Housing Rights Advocacy for Victims of Domestic Violence. The program will include an overview of the housing rights the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act afford to victims of domestic violence and their families. For more information, please visit the Fair Housing Contact Service website at www.fairhousingakron.org or call 330-376-6191.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
September 2011 newsletter now available
In addition to information about our successful Waikiki fundraiser, the newsletter also contains information about MVFHC’s recent grant applications as well as about a new section of the Department of Justice’s Americans with Disabilities Act website addressing the rights of people with disabilities living in institutions.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
Visit the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center at the Montgomery County Fair
Are you coming to the Montgomery County Fair? Stop by MVFHC’s booth in the Coliseum to learn about fair housing and about mortgage rescue scams.
The Fair runs August 31–September 5.
MVFHC files suit against local landlord for discriminatory policies and retaliatory terminations
Lawsuit alleges that A. Ray Brown engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination
August 12, 2011 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and two former property managers have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that local property owner and landlord A. Ray Brown engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against African Americans, Latinos, and families with children in violation of Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit alleges that Brown and his management company sought to limit the number of minorities in their buildings, instructed leasing managers to reject qualified minorities who applied for apartments, ordered managers to provide false reasons for denials of rental applications to conceal his discriminatory motives, and otherwise expected or forced managers to participate in unlawful discriminatory behavior.
Two rental managers formerly employed by the defendants have joined MVFHC as plaintiffs. They both allege they were terminated by the defendants after they challenged their employers’ discriminatory practices and refused to participate in them.
The suit alleges that Brown and the other defendants acted intentionally and willfully, thus warranting punitive damages.
“Housing discrimination in any form is unacceptable,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President and CEO. “This type of behavior not only subjects people of color to the indignities of discrimination, but it also degrades our community.”
“We are passionate about our mission of eliminating housing discrimination and ensuring equal housing opportunity for all people in our region,” McCarthy continued. “Whenever we learn of this type of behavior, we will take action to address it.”
The suit asks the Court to declare that the defendants have violated the federal Fair Housing Act; seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from discrimination in the future; and seeks compensatory and punitive damages for MVFHC and the former employees, plus all attorney fees, costs and expenses.
In addition to the fair housing violations, the lawsuit claims that defendant A. Ray Brown Family Investment LP is in breach of a conciliation agreement entered into with MVFHC in 2009 to settle a different housing discrimination claim.
In the Dayton area, A. Ray Brown owns Jewelstone Terrace, an apartment complex with 258 units, in Dayton and the Highland Park Aparments, a complex with 140 units, in Kettering. In greater Cincinnati, A. Ray Brown owns the Riverchase Apartments (203 units) in Newport, Kentucky, and Harborview Apartments (84 units) in Addyston, Ohio.
MVFHC and the other plaintiffs are being represented by Stephen M. Dane of Relman, Dane & Colfax, a law firm specializing in representing plaintiffs in fair housing litigation, and by Saba Bireda, an attorney based in Washington, DC.
June 2011 newsletter now available
In addition to information about our upcoming Waikiki fundraiser scheduled for August 20th, the newsletter also contains information about two reports released by MVFHC in conjunction with partner agencies as well as some suggestions of good books and movies about fair housing issues and civil rights.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
Hole in One Fore! Homefull
Homefull invites you to take part in a fun day of golf to achieve the bold vision of "A community where there is no homelessness."
MVFHC and partner agencies find that banks discriminate in their treatment of foreclosed properties
Investigation reveals that banks’ record for maintaining properties in African-American and Latino neighborhoods is worse than in white neighborhoods
April 11, 2011 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and its partners, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and two other NFHA member agencies, released the findings of a year-long investigation into the ways that banks secure, maintain, and market the foreclosed properties they own, finding that banks are discriminating in the treatment of their properties.
The report, entitled, “Here Comes the Bank, There Goes Our Neighborhood: How Lenders Discriminate in the Treatment of Foreclosed Homes,” details the results of an investigation of 624 bank-owned properties in the greater Dayton area as well as in Washington, DC’s Maryland suburbs, New Haven and Hartford, CT, and Richmond, VA. The investigation found that banks generally take greater care to maintain and secure the properties they own in white neighborhoods than they do in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.
“The pattern of neglect of bank-owned foreclosed properties in the Miami Valley is unmistakable,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President and CEO. “The negligence of lenders in maintaining these properties not only devalues the private investment of neighboring properties but also jeopardizes thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars of public money—Community Development Block Grant and HOME dollars—that have been invested by the City of Dayton and Montgomery County in attempts to stabilize neighborhoods that not only have been historically redlined but also have been grossly under-served by the lending industry.”
MVFHC, NFHA, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia evaluated the maintenance of bank-owned homes in their areas on a 100-point scale, subtracting points when properties were poorly maintained or created eye sores with poor curb appeal.
Although many properties in white neighborhoods received passing grades and had well-maintained and trash-free lawns, secured entrances and generally nice upkeep, properties in African American neighborhoods were more likely to receive below average or failing grades due to cracked foundations, leaky roofs, and warning signs out front.
MVFHC and its partners contend that banks risk violating the Fair Housing Act when they fail to maintain bank-owned homes in African American and Latino neighboods, as they must provide these services without regard to the race or national origin of residents living in the areas in which the properties are located. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status. This law applies to housing and housing-related activities, including the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing and selling of homes.
The report, available for download in PDF format, outlines the steps that MVFHC and its partners took in their investigation, what they found, and recommendations as to how banks, federal and local governments, and residents can begin to address the situation.
MVFHC, in collaboration with NFHA and partner agencies, releases report on mortgage loan modification scams
April 6, 2011 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC), in conjunction with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and two other NFHA member agencies, has completed a year-long investigation of the mortgage modification and foreclosure prevention industry, releasing today a report entitled “Have I Got a Deal for You! An Undercover Investigation of Mortgage Loan Modification Scams.”
With funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Fair Housing Initiatives Program, MVFHC, NFHA, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia worked collaboratively on a national scam investigation project that examined scamming techniques. From April 2010 through March 2011, the project identified more than 150 companies suspected of being scammers based on information from their websites and initial contact with company representatives. The partner organizations conducted 84 investigations including testing of 80 companies.
The investigation found that the market is rife with corrupt practices: firms are over-promising, under-delivering and charging for services that are readily available from non-profit organizations for free. Also, in a troubling trend, some companies are advising homeowners to commit acts of fraud against their lenders.
The report, available for download in PDF format, includes a brief description of the foreclosure crisis, the steps that MVFHC and its partners in the project took to investigate scammers, what they found, and the recommendations they propose to begin addressing this problem.
MVFHC offering free CLE class to Dayton area lawyers
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, in partnership with the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton, the Dayton Bar Association and the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project, is offering a continuing legal education class to attorneys and legal staff who want to be better equipped and knowledgeable about what mortgage fraud is and how to address it. The presenters will give special insight into the perspectives and services offered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The course is being offered, free of charge, to attorneys or legal staff from the Dayton and Miami Valley Area and will be held on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For more information about the course and to register online, go to mvfairhousing.com/cle.
Recent DOJ amendments to ADA regulations and how they affect reasonable accommodation requests
As clarified in a recent guidance memo issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), although the Department of Justice (DOJ) has new rules limiting the definition of “service animal” as applied under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), this new definition does not apply to the federal Fair Housing Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974.
In situations where both laws apply, housing providers must meet the broader federal Fair Housing Act/Section 504 standard in deciding whether to grant reasonable accommodation requests.
March 2011 newsletter now available
In addition to information about our upcoming Fair Housing Month celebration, the newsletter also contains information about HUD’s new protections for victims of domestic violence and about revised accessibility standards for the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as information on the Moraine Home Fair on March 19th and the Celebrating Life & Health fair on April 16th.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
Join the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® for our annual celebration of Fair Housing Month. Register now!
Sara K. Pratt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Programs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Sinclair Conference Center
The event includes fair housing workshops accredited for continuing education for REALTORS® and other housing professionals, the Fair Housing luncheon, keynote speakers Sara K. Pratt, and the Marie Kindrick Fair Housing Awards presentations.
Don’t miss the Early Bird pricing available through March 11th!
MVFHC and Choices in Community Living file suit alleging bias by local REALTOR® and real estate broker
January 18, 2011 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. (MVFHC) and Choices in Community Living, Inc. (CICL) have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that local REALTOR® Kathryn Storey and her broker, Real Living Petkus REALTORS®, have engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against people with disabilities in violation of the Fair Housing Act by refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability or handicap equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling; and made statements with respect to the rental of dwellings that indicated unlawful limitation or discrimination based on disability or handicap. The lawsuit names Kathryn Storey, Michael J. Petkus, and Real Living Petkus REALTORS® as defendants.
The lawsuit alleges that in December 2009 a CICL agent contacted Real Living Petkus REALTORS® to express interest in a property located at 4959 Strathaven Drive in the Forest Ridge neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio, for four men with developmental disabilities. When CICL was unable to schedule an appointment to view the property, they contacted MVFHC and sought assistance with the situation.
The lawsuit alleges that after over a month of repeated requests from both MVFHC and CICL that CICL be afforded an equal opportunity to rent the property, CICL was never given the opportunity even to schedule an appointment to view the property. The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants also repeatedly refused to discuss or consider providing to CICL any reasonable accommodation to its policies, practices, standards, or procedures governing the rental or showing of the property.
However, in subsequent interactions testers, working on behalf of CICL and MVFHC, contacted the defendants regarding the 4959 Strathaven Drive property, and the testers were able to secure appointments to view the property by simply telling the defendants the number of people intending to reside in the property and approximate income figures.
In February 2010, MVFHC and CICL filed a complaint of discrimination with the City of Dayton Human Relations Council (HRC), which conducted and completed an investigation of the complaint. Based upon the evidence obtained in that investigation, in December 2010 HRC determined that there was probable cause to conclude that the defendants engaged in discriminatory housing practices.
The lawsuit alleges that as a result of the defendants’ actions both CICL and MVFHC have suffered direct injury and asks the Court to declare that Ms. Storey and Petkus Realtors have violated the federal Fair Housing Act and to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from discriminating on the basis of handicap or disability and to order compensatory and punitive damages for both CICL and MVFHC plus all attorney fees, costs, and expenses. Both MVFHC and CICL are being represented by Stephen M. Dane of Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, a law firm specializing in fair housing compliance and litigation.
CICL is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to provide homes and other services for individuals with developmental disabilities in Montgomery, Clark, Madison and Preble Counties in Ohio. For more information, visit CICL’s website.
MVFHC works closely with companies and agencies in the Dayton area involved in providing housing to people with disabilities, including CICL as well as the Dayton Access Center for Independent Living and the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disability Services. To learn more about MVFHC’s mission and services, visit the mission and services pages.
The work that provided the basis for this complaint was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this complaint. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.
Kettering seeking stories from LGBT residents
January 18, 2011 — The City of Kettering Board of Community Relations (BCR) is working on recommending some progressive changes to Kettering’s ordinances, specifically to extend protection for city residents based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In order to support its recommendation to Kettering’s city council, BCR is seeking stories of problems that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents in Kettering have faced in housing, employment or public accommodations, based on sexual orientation or gender identity. BCR is willing to protect the privacy of individuals who relate their stories and will share the stories anonymously in their report.
Kettering contracts with the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center to assist in responding to calls regarding possible housing discrimination issues, and MVFHC is assisting in gathering information about discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. To share a story of a problem that you have faced, contact MVFHC by calling 937-223-6035 or by e-mailing email@example.com.
MVFHC to present seminar at 2011 Miami Valley Home Improvement Show
Show to run January 13–16 at Hara Arena
January 7, 2011 — Staff from the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) will present at a seminar as part of the 2011 Miami Valley Home Improvement Show to be held at Hara Arena beginning on January 13, 2011 and running through January 16, 2011. The seminar, “Foreclosures, Loan Modifications and How to Avoid Loan Scams and Protect Your Home,” is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 15, 2011 on the Main Stage close to the Ball Arena entrance.
Staff from MVFHC’s Predatory Lending Solutions Project will explain the current state of foreclosures, foreclosure rescue scams, and the things a consumer can do either to avoid a foreclosure or to work their way through the foreclosure process with a positive outcome.
Seminar attendees will receive a free green-friendly reusable shopping tote and will have a chance to win gift cards to local stores such as Kroger. MVFHC will also have a booth throughout the show with materials both for housing consumers and for housing professionals looking to learn about fair housing and fair lending.
HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary will be keynote speaker at April fair housing luncheon
January 3, 2011 — Sara K. Pratt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO), will be the keynote speaker at MVFHC’s annual celebration of Fair Housing Month, to be held Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at the Sinclair Conference Center.
MVFHC settles case against local attorney
November 6, 2010 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. (MVFHC) recently filed an Acceptance of Offer of Judgment in the case of Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. (MVHFC) v. Joseph and Jolene Walker. This case was resolved in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division.
Dine with T.G.I. Friday’s on November 10th to raise money for MVFHC
T.G.I. Friday’s is open from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, so you can come for lunch, you can come for dinner, or you can come for appetizers and drinks!
Be sure to print this coupon and bring it with you to make sure that MVFHC gets credit for your visit.
Thanks for your support, and be sure to invite all your friends!
John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Vicki Schultz, Senior Fair Lending Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice
Thursday, April 8, 2010
David H. Ponitz Sinclair Center
Sinclair Community College
The event includes a fair housing workshop accredited for continuing education for REALTORS® and other housing professionals, the Fair Housing luncheon, keynote speakers John Trasviña and Vicki Schultz, and the Marie Kindrick Fair Housing Awards presentations.
Former owners and managers of Kansas City, KS, apartment complex pay over $2 million to settle discrimination case
February 19, 2010 — The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) announced the settlement of a case alleging housing discrimination in the rental of apartments in Kansas City, KS. The combined $2.13 million settlement represents the second largest monetary payment ever obtained by the DOJ in a fair housing case alleging housing discrimination in the rental of apartments.
The DOJ brought a lawsuit in federal district court in Kansas alleging that Stacy Sturdevant, the community manager of the Central Park Towers Apartments (CPT), her employer, NHP Management Co., as well as the Apartment Investment and Management Company (AIMCO) and the former owners of CPT, engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit also alleged that the defendants retaliated against an employee, Melissa Kothe, for cooperating with Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) investigators.
In its amended complaint, filed on Sept. 18, 2008, the DOJ alleged that for two-and-a-half years between 2003-2005, Sturdevant engaged in discriminatory rental practices on the basis of race. The United States presented evidence in litigation that Sturdevant openly displayed racially hostile materials at CPT, such as hangman’s nooses, frequently referred to African Americans with racial epithets and generally treated white residents more favorably than African American residents. The government also alleged that the defendants improperly retaliated against Kothe, a resident services coordinator at CPT, by firing her when she cooperated with HUD investigators and advised a resident to contact HUD.
“The right to live peacefully in one’s own home without being victimized, harassed and treated unfairly because of race is a fundamental right in our nation,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement is designed to send a message to housing providers across the country that we have a zero-tolerance policy for this type of egregious behavior.”
“Individuals who step forward to assist victims of housing discrimination should know that HUD and the Justice Department will protect them from retaliation,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This settlement vindicates that interest.”
Sturdevant was an employee of NHP Management Company, a subsidiary of AIMCO, one of the nation’s largest owners and operators of multifamily dwellings. Central Park Towers II L.P. owned the building where Sturdevant was employed — a Section 8 property with 195 units designated for persons with disabilities and/or elderly. This settlement will resolve the United States’ claims on behalf of over 40 current and former tenants of Central Park Towers, as well as the claim on behalf of Kothe.
The DOJ settled its claim against the former owners, Central Park Towers II L.P. last summer, for $145,000. That settlement, together with the agreement announced today, amount to a total settlement of $2.13 million. The settlements are in the form of consent orders that the parties have submitted to the court for approval. Last summer’s settlement with the former owners has already been approved by the court. Today’s agreement must still be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Vratil.
The agreement filed today would require the defendants to pay $95,500 in civil penalties to the United States, and a total of approximately $1.89 million into a fund that would be used to compensate persons who were harmed by the defendants’ discriminatory practices. The terms of the distribution of the monetary damages will be determined in a separate disbursement order to be submitted by the United States for approval by the court.
MVFHC offering free CLE class to Dayton area lawyers
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, in partnership with the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton and the Dayton Bar Association, is offering a continuing legal education class to attorneys and legal staff who want to be better equipped and knowledgeable about the mortgage foreclosure crisis, what can be done to assist Ohio homeowners facing foreclosure on their primary residence, and what resources are available to assist the attorneys in private practice and their staffs.
The course is being offered, free of charge, to attorneys or legal staff from the Dayton and Miami Valley Area. The final date for the class is Thursday, May 6. For more information about the course and to register online, go to mvfairhousing.com/cle.
Coldwell Banker company pays $160,000 to resolve housing discrimination lawsuit
February 3, 2010 — Atlanta real estate firm Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty, Inc., its successor-owner Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty Company, Inc., and the companies’ former real estate agent Rodney Lee Foreman have agreed to pay $160,000 to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA). The settlement, which awaits approval from a federal court in Atlanta, is believed to be the largest real estate sales discrimination settlement in ten years involving a single agent’s behavior.
NFHA conducted a series of tests of Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane from late 2003 in 2004 in which two testers (mystery shoppers) posed as home seekers looking for properties in the same price range. NFHA sent one white tester and one African-American tester with slightly better financial qualifications to the real estate agency to document in which area real estate agents would show and market homes. These testers had identical housing preferences.
According to the NFHA and DOJ complaints, testing revealed that Rodney Foreman discriminated on the basis of race. Foreman steered the white homeseekers away from interracial neighborhoods where African Americans lived and into white neighborhoods. He then steered African-American homeseekers away from white neighborhoods and into predominantly African-American neighborhoods. The lawsuit alleged that Foreman’s steering was conscious and deliberate.
During one test, Foreman allegedly told a white tester that he had compiled two listings of homes to visit—one for an African-American buyer and one for a white buyer—because he could not determine the tester’s race over the telephone. Once Foreman saw the tester was white, he threw away one stack of listings. While taking the same tester to visit potential homes, he said, “Once Blacks move in, then property values go down. It is impossible to resell your house… I want you to be able to re-sell your house.”
In 2005 NFHA presented this evidence to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the form of an administrative complaint. For unknown reasons it took HUD’s Office of Systemic Investigations three years to find probable cause and charge the complaint. NFHA elected to have the complaint proceed in federal court, so DOJ filed suit on behalf of NFHA in the Northern District of Georgia in January 2009. NFHA subsequently intervened as a party in the DOJ lawsuit.
“Five years after submitting this strong evidence of discrimination, we are pleased to see this matter finally resolved,” said NFHA President and CEO Shanna L. Smith. “Racial steering by real estate agents is a serious violation of the Fair Housing Act. It illegally limits housing choices for all homebuyers and perpetuates neighborhood segregation. Agents should understand that illegal steering practices will no longer go unchallenged. Congress intended the Fair Housing Act to eliminate discriminatory practices and to promote residential diversity. Moving forward, NFHA will continue to test real estate companies for racial steering and bring actions against those that violate the law.”
Under the Fair Housing Act it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, disability or familial status. DOJ and NFHA alleged that Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty was liable for Rodney Foreman and Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty’s violations because it purchased the assets of Joe T. Lane Realty in 2007. Defendants denied liability.
This settlement follows a similar complaint NFHA filed involving a single agent working for Chicago-area real estate company Re/Max East-West, which led to a DOJ case brought on behalf of NFHA and settled for $120,000.
MVFHC awarded grants from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
January 20, 2010 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) two grants under HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP), the only federal funding source specifically for education, outreach and enforcement activities by private, non-profit fair housing organizations.
The grants awarded to MVFHC are:
FHIP — Education and Outreach: $100,000.00 for a twelve-month project during which MVFHC will conduct educational and outreach programs through forums including government centers, schools, churches and professional organizations such as the Greater Dayton Apartment Assocation and the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS®.
FHIP — Fair Housing Organization Initiative Continued Development General Component: $90,000.00 for a twelve-month project that will assist MVFHC in the expansion of its information technology infrastructure to better support its operational staff in the provision of enforcement and education services in the Montgomery County area.
These grants are in addition to a three-year FHIP performance-based grant awarded in 2007 that enables MVFHC to provide complaint intake, investigation and referrals for alleged victims of discrimination and to conduct systemic testing throughout the Miami Valley. In addition, a portion of the performance-based grant supports MVFHC’s Predatory Lending Solutions project.
“These grants represent a tremendous opportunity for the Miami Valley community, especially in light of the local funding constraints faced by some of our long-term funders,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President and CEO. “It is important to realize that while this funding is essential, it is not funding that will allow MVFHC to increase its capactity but rather a retooling of the funding of MVFHC’s existing services to the community.”
The grant to MVFHC is part of $27.5 million in Private Enforcement Initiative grants awarded by HUD to help groups investigate alleged housing discrimination and to enforce the Fair Housing Act as well as substantially equivalent state and local laws.
“Over the past sixteen years, MVFHC has undergone significant growth and has worked diligently to improve fair housing services in the Miami Valley,” McCarthy continued. “We’re very pleased that HUD has recognized our work as being worthy of funding.”
Save Transit Now, Move Ohio Forward!
A host of transportation, public policy, social service, and environmental organizations have joined forces in a campaign to reverse the decline of public transportation around Ohio, suggesting initial steps to safeguard public transit users from further service cuts and fare increases and to save Ohio’s economy and environment from further decline.
— Overturning the state constitutional prohibition on Ohio gas tax revenues and motor vehicle fees being used for non-highway purposes, thereby freeing up revenue to be used for mass transit
— Using flexible transportation funding sources currently available in Ohio—such as gas taxes collected from off-road vehicles, farming and landscaping equipment, and revenue raised from vanity license plates—to fund mass transit
— Using flexible federal highway funds for public transportation projects by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and metropolitan planning organizations
What you can do to help:
More Ohioans travel on buses and trains within the state’s metro areas than fly in and out of Ohio’s airports. More than 350,000 Ohioans each day use buses and trains to reach jobs, medical appointments, day care, pharmacies, schools, job training and other services. Donna P. McNamee, a member of ODOT’s 21st Century Transportation Priorities Task Force, points out, "For many people—including people with disabilities, seniors and low income individuals—public transit is the only way to get around.”
Despite the need for public transporation, Ohio transit agencies have been forced to slash transit services and to raise fares. The State of Ohio has cut funding by 75 percent since 2002; less than one percent of ODOT’s budget is spent on public transit. “In fact,” says Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio, “the State of Ohio will spend more to cut the grass along its Interstates than for public transit operations.”
Ohio ranks 40th in the nation for relative commitment to public transit, despite being the nation’s seventh most populous state. Indiana spends three times more than Ohio, and Pennsylvania spends 33 times as much.
“It is no accident that our public transit agencies are in crisis,” says Amanda Woodrum, a researcher at Policy Matters Ohio. “It is the direct result of choices we Ohioans have made on how to spend our transportation dollars.”
1. Investments in public transit produce nearly 20% more jobs than equivalent expenditures in new roads or highways.
2. Public transportation reduces traffic congestion.
3. Public transportation is more affordable and accessible. For seniors and people with disabilities owning and maintaing a private vehicle may not be an option at all.
4. Public transportation reduces dependence on fossil fuels. Nationally, public transportation saves 900,000 automobile fill-ups each day and 37 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.
5. By reducing air pollution and encouraging people to walk more, public transit creates healther communities.
6. Transit-oriented development is more environmentally friendly and can serve to reduce urban sprawl and revitalize our cities.
Proceeds support MVFHC’s mission of eliminating housing discrimination and ensuring equal housing opportunity for all people in our region. A portion of the price of each ticket is tax deductible.
Looking Towards Visitability — Promoting Access for All
John T. Zimmerman, Vice President of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. (MVFHC), and Greg Kramer, Assistant Director of the Access Center for Independent Living (ACIL), are presenting a seminar on “visitability” at the 2010 Miami Valley Home Improvement Show at Hara Arena. The seminar, called “Looking Towards Visitability — Promoting Access for All,” will be held on Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. on the Main Stage close to the Ball Arena entrance. MVFHC and ACIL will also have information booths at the show, which runs from January 14, 2010 through January 17, 2010.
Visitability, a construction term used both in new construction and in home rehabilitation, refers to units being built or rehabbed in a manner such that they can easily be visited or lived in by all people, regardless of ability or disability. Visitable units have three elemental features: access to private bathrooms on the ground floor, ease of entry into the unit, and ease of access from room to room through widened doorways.
At the seminar Mr. Kramer, who uses a wheelchair, and Mr. Zimmerman will talk about some of the most common needs of people with physical disabilities in accessing housing of their choice as well as about easy ways for housing professionals to respond to the growing markets of disabled and elderly people. Seminar attendees will receive a free green-friendly reusable shopping bag and will have the chance during the seminar to win gift cards and other prizes. Materials will be available both for housing consumer and for housing professionals looking to increase their knowledge of fair housing and the housing needs of people with disabilities.
MVFHC seeks to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunity for all people in the Miami Valley. MVFHC, a non-profit Ohio corporation, assists people who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination and identifies barriers to fair housing to help to counteract and to eliminate discriminatory practices through education and enforcement.
ACIL is a non-profit, non-residential center for independent living whose board and staff are comprised entirely of people with disabilities. ACIL’s mission is to ensure that people with disabilities have complete access to the communities in which they wish to live. ACIL accomplishes this through advocacy, information and referral; independent living skills training; peer support; a recycled durable medical equipment program; and assisting individuals when they transition from individual settings such as nursing homes to community-based living such as apartments.
March with MVFHC for M L K
Help us to honor the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by joining MVFHC staff and board members on Monday, January 18, 2010, as we march with the North Quadrant, stepping off at 10:55 from the parking lot of the Vineyard Church’s Dayton campus, 1222 North Main Street (at Helena Street) down Main Street to Courthouse Square!
Thanks to the Vineyard Church who will provide hot chocolate, coffee and donuts to marchers from 10:00 – 10:45.
Download this flyer (PDF format) with all this info to give to family, friends and co-workers — bring a group to march with us! Make signs to carry during the march!
The program at Courthouse Square will conclude at noon, and RTA will provide free bus service back to the church parking lot.
North Quadrant Co-Chairs for 2010 are Brenda Gains and the North East Priority Board and the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center. For more information about the 2010 March, visit iis.stat.wright.edu/MLK; for more information about all 2010 MLK Day activities, visit the SCLC website.
The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act gives renters certain rights
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray has prepared a memo summarizing tenants’ rights regarding foreclosure that explains the protections offered to people who rent their homes and whose landlords are in foreclosure.
If the property in which you live has been taken over by a new owner, you have the the right to stay in your home until the end of your current lease, unless the new owner intends to live in the property, in which case you must be given at least 90 days advance notice before you must move.
If you experience problems with the new owner of your property, you can visit the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Renters in Foreclosure Toolkit for some helpful resources, including a sample letter you can use to explain to the new owner your rights under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act. The Attorney General suggests that if you send any letters that you keep copies of the letters and that you send the letters via certified mail with return receipt in order to have proof that the new owner received your request.
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center does not provide assistance to renters in foreclosure. Instead, if you live in western Ohio, you contact Advocates for Basic Legal Equality on their Legal Aid Line at 888-534-1432. You can also visit Ohio Legal Services (866-529-6446) to be connected to your local legal aid office.
MVFHC honored with Access Center for Independent Living partnership award
MVFHC President/CEO Jim McCarthy accepts partnership award from ACIL Assistant Director Greg Kramer
July 24, 2009 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) was honored today by the Access Center for Independent Living (ACIL) with their partnership award during the celebration of the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act held downtown at Courthouse Square.
Over the past several years MVFHC has partnered with ACIL in the education of housing providers and consumers about accessible housing and equal opportunities for people living with disabilities. The two organizations have worked together on projects including development of an Accessible Housing brochure that helps housing providers learn how to make their housing more welcoming to people with disabilities; promotion of OhioHousingLocator.org, a site that enables people to search for accessible rental housing; and, in conjunction with the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS®, the addition of detailed accessibility information to the Dayton-area Multiple Listing Service.
McCarthy elected to fourth term as National Fair Housing Alliance chair
HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity John Trasviña with NFHA Board Chair Jim McCarthy
June 8, 2009 — Miami Valley Fair Housing Center President/CEO Jim McCarthy was re-elected today as chair of the board of directors of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) at NFHA’s annual conference “Fair Housing in the 21st Century: Realizing a More Perfect Union” being held in Washington, DC.
Starting his fourth term as NFHA chair, McCarthy has been a fierce advocate for fair housing and against predatory lending, having testified in 2007 before the House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy on “ Foreclosure, Predatory Mortgage and Payday Lending in America’s Cities” and at last year’s National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity on “Still Separate and Unequal: The State of Fair Housing in America.”
National Fair Housing Alliance and HUD Secretary Donovan Roll Out Media Campaign
HUD and Fair Housing Group Partner to Fight Foreclosures and Discrimination
June 8, 2009 — Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan rolled out their national media campaign to fight foreclosures and discrimination.
NFHA, whose board Miami Valley Fair Housing Center President/CEO Jim McCarthy chairs, and HUD have partnered to create a national media campaign that informs consumers about alternatives to foreclosure, how to avoid predatory loan terms and how to recognize and report rental discrimination. NFHA’s members nationwide, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and other groups will assist with distributing the materials.
“Many families, particularly minorities, have been victims of aggressive and misleading marketing of risky loan products and foreclosure rescue scams,” said HUD Secretary Donovan. “As we implement President Obama’s Making Home Affordable plan to deal with the foreclosure crisis we need to ensure that families in trouble with their mortgages are not hurt a second time with scams. Foreclosure scams are destructive, devastating, and deceptive, and I’m thrilled that the National Fair Housing Alliance, in partnership with HUD is launching an ad campaign to address the fair housing challenges in the foreclosure crisis, including predatory lending and foreclosure scams.”
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan with NFHA Board Chair Jim McCarthy
Secretary Donovan spoke at NFHA’s annual conference “Fair Housing in the 21st Century: Realizing a More Perfect Union” at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
“Today, we are witnessing the devastating effects of the foreclosure crisis in communities across the country — a loss of wealth and housing security, depleted tax-bases, reduced social and municipal services, and less funding for schools,” said Shanna L. Smith, NFHA President and CEO. “Every day, communities of color and lower-income borrowers are disproportionately shouldering the fallout of years of abusive and predatory lending. We are happy to be able to partner with HUD today to make sure all families know their rights.”
The campaign is designed to target: (1) families in immediate need to refinance; (2) families in or on the brink of foreclosure; (3) families facing eviction or already in the rental market: and (4) families ready to purchase a home.
The media campaign includes print ads and posters addressing foreclosure prevention, predatory lending and rental discrimination in English, Spanish and Chinese; television public service announcements (PSA) in English and Spanish; radio PSAs in English and Spanish; a movie slide; and an airport diorama. In total, 26 products with some variations in English, Spanish and Chinese will be produced for this campaign.
Foreclosure prevention — Materials drive consumers to the Making Home Affordable website, where consumers can learn about alternatives to foreclosure, get linked to HUD-certified housing counseling agencies, and reach their servicers.
Anti-Predatory Lending — Materials drive consumers to HUD’s Predatory Lending website. There, consumers can learn how to access the media campaign materials, information, website links and contact information for government, public and private groups/businesses about mortgage lending opportunities and how to recognize and report lending discrimination.
Rental Housing Discrimination — Materials drive consumers to HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity website. Consumers will be more aware of how to recognize and report rental discrimination and find links to government and non-profit enforcement and counseling agencies.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. It also covers all housing transactions and services, including advertising, rentals, sales, lending, and insurance, as well as harassment.
Marie Kindrick Awards presented at Fair Housing Luncheon
On April 2, more than 170 people turned out for the 2009 Fair Housing Luncheon, an annual event presented by the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS®. During this entertaining gathering, the annual Marie Kindrick Fair Housing Awards were presented. The awards, named after the REALTOR® who committed herself to working for the rights of the under-represented, honor individuals who champion equal opportunity and diversity. The Community Volunteer award went to Ann Shafor, the REALTOR® award was presented to Sheila Crane, and Greg Kramer took home the Community Professional Award.
Ann Shafor - 2009 Community Volunteer Award
Ann Shafor is the Chairperson of the Robert E. Kolze Housing Justice Fund, a non-profit organization based in Montgomery County, Ohio. The Kolze Fund provides funds for the litigation of significant housing issues to aid low and moderate income families by eliminating prejudice and discrimination and combating community deterioration.
Mrs. Shafor holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and a Master of Community Planning and worked for more than 29 years at the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC). During her tenure at MVRPC, she skillfully managed and provided leadership to a number of nationally recognized planning initiatives including the nation’s first Regional Fair Share Housing Plan (1970), the first HEW sponsored Human Service Delivery System Innovation Partnership (1974), and a wide range of collaborative water management initiatives over the 1980s and 1990s.
Her planning products have provided recognition to planning as a profession as well as national/state recognition including the Fair Share Housing Plan that was selected for Horizon on Display, HUD/ARBA for Community Achievement (1975), the Groundwater Protection Strategy that received the OPC/APA Outstanding Project Award (1991) and the Fair Share Housing Plan that was named a National Planning Landmark, APA/AICP (2001). She retired from MVRPC in 1995, but since then has remained active in the community through private consulting and volunteer work with various organizations.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Ann was at the forefront of the fair housing movement in the Miami Valley. In April 1970, together with Dale Bertsch and colleagues she designed and began implementing the first regional housing planning program in the nation. In June 1970, she prepared the Housing Needs in the Miami Valley Region in preparation for Fair Share Housing Plan development, and she was responsible for completing the initial draft of The Housing Plan for the Miami Valley Region in the summer of 1970.
In December 1978, Ann became a founding member of the Housing Justice Fund, now known as the Robert E. Kolze Housing Justice Fund. In late 1979 and early 1980, she was one of the original incorporators of the Montgomery County Community Development Corporation, which we now know as County Corp.
In December 1980, Ann was instrumental in the creation of the Montgomery County Fair Housing Center, the predecessor to the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, which was then housed within MVRPC. One of the initial efforts of the Center was to file the Dunn v. Midwestern Indemnity Insurance (472 F Supp. 1106 (SD Ohio 1979); 88 FRD 191 (SD Ohio 1980), a landmark insurance redlining case that resulted in several insurance companies settling with plaintiffs over their refusal to insure properties in areas of West Dayton that had been deemed “too risky.” This effort also provided one of the sources for data for the preparation of the Community Reinvestment Act, which was being written and developed at the time.
In 1993 Ann was named as a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Water Quality for the State of Ohio by Governor George Voinovich. Other honors that Ann holds include the Dayton Daily News’ Top 10 Women Award (1971) for her work on the Fair Share Plan, the YWCA Pathfinder Award (1984) for guiding their strategic plan, having her Fair Share Plan named National Historic Planning Landmark at the APA/AICP national conference in 2001, and being selected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners in 2003. Ann and her husband Tom live in Spring Valley Township.
Greg Kramer - 2009 Community Professional Award
Greg Kramer is an energetic and relentless advocate for improving the lives of people living with disabilities. He is committed to the slogan: “Fair Housing, It is not an option, it’s the Law.” He puts this slogan to use every day.
Greg has been employed at the Access Center for Independent Living the past ten years and has been the Assistant Director for the past seven years. As the assistant director, housing issues is one of his areas of responsibility. Greg continually advocates for increasing the number of affordable, accessible and integrated housing units in the Miami Valley area. He advocates with public officials and private businesses, letting them know that accessibility is the best option for the communities they represent. For example, Greg and the staff of the Access Center have worked with the Dayton Metropolitan Housing Authority (DMHA) to come into compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. DMHA will spend 7 million on the project over the next 5 years nearly doubling the amount of accessible units available for their constituents. The two organizations, the Access Center for Independent Living and DMHA, have formed a permanent partnership to monitor accessibility issues and needs.
Another ongoing partnership that Greg has developed is with the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS®. Working with the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Committee, Greg has led the way to develop an Accessibility Features Form for the MLS. This form will assist local REALTORS® to include the accessibility features of the homes they list for sale without any additional cost.
Greg works with many other groups to promote housing choice. He works with the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) to include Visitability into their QAP. He serves on the Home Choice housing workgroup for the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and the housing workgroup for the Unified Long Term Care Budget for the State of Ohio. Greg also leads a local housing group that serves the City of Dayton, the City of Kettering, and Montgomery County. This group has been meeting for the past four years and is working on solving the growing problem of the lack of housing options for people with disabilities. This working group brings together many housing professionals with the expertise to comment on new proposals and solutions that are developed to fit the needs of local communities. Recently Greg has been presenting and reviewing plans with this housing group for local laws and programs which could be enacted to increase accessibility in newly built single family, two-family and three-family residential structures.
Greg is a graduate from Wright State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts.
Sheila M. Crane - 2009 REALTOR® Award
As a REALTOR® and Community Development Specialist, Sheila Crane has worked with various community development and non-profit organizations in an effort to secure housing for some of our most challenged and underserved citizens. Sheila is currently serving a second term as a Miami Valley In-Ovations board member. She has previously served as Women’s Council of REALTORS’® chairperson of the Education and Political committees and she is currently the WCR President-Elect.
While serving on the Executive Board of Miami Valley United Methodist Community Care, Sheila served six years as Executive Secretary and the chair of the Housing Committee. She has been actively involved in addressing the issues of vacant and blighted properties and working with the city of Dayton’s Orion Solutions project. While working on a Doctorate in Urban Ministry and Community Development, Sheila attended national conferences addressing vacant properties and community revitalization and stabilization. Numerous trips to Washington, D.C. have provided opportunities to facilitate foreclosure intervention practices while working with legislators on Capital Hill. Sheila was awarded the honor of being the 2005 Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® Community Service recipient for her work with seniors and their housing needs. Presenting twice a year for the University of Dayton’s Ethics, and the Faith & Justice classes, Sheila’s presentations usually focus on senior fraud, predatory practices, mortgage fraud, and foreclosure intervention.
Sheila has been involved in working with The Other Place and Homeless to Home in bringing Rapid Re-housing to Dayton and Montgomery County. Working with certified Housing Counselors has inspired Sheila to become a Facilitator for NeighborWorks America which is the non-profit arm of Congress.
Sheila was able to retire in 2005 as a Delta Airlines International In-Flight Service Coordinator. She has been married to Dale Crane for fifteen years; they are the proud parents of one daughter, Ciara, who will turn thirteen on Easter Sunday.
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center partners with the Access Center for Independent Living and the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® to help the disabled find homes
by Tim Tresslar, Dayton Daily News
April 5 — Three local organizations have launched a tool aimed at connecting buyers and renters with housing that includes specialized features for the physically disabled.
The Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® will add detailed accessibility information on properties included in its Multiple Listing Service. The board added this feature in collaboration with the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the Access Center for Independent Living.
A form available through the board will allow agents and brokers to inventory a property’s accessibility features, such as wheelchair ramps and handrails, and highlight them in a property’s multiple listing service entry.
Officials with the local board and the National Association of REALTORS® say it’s the first program of its kind operated by a board of REALTORS® in the country. In addition to linking people with the housing, John Zimmerman, vice president of MVFHC, said the form and the specialized listings also will help real estate agents and builders see what specific features actually make a home accessible.
Zimmerman and Greg Kramer, assistant director of the Access Center, started working on this initiative more than a year ago as they continually saw how hard it was to find homes outfitted with wheelchair ramps and other features.
The form started as a list of 120 items, compiled through brainstorming, research and consultations with architects.
Zimmerman and Kramer winnowed down the list further by consulting with the ultimate end users, people who have physical disabilities and the board approved its use for the MLS system. DABR president Harry Vearn in a statement said the new initiative shows the board’s dedication to fair housing principles.
The number of people with disabilities is expected to grow locally and nationally, due in part to an increase in the number of elderly and wounded veterans, Zimmerman and Kramer said.
Come to one of our two workshops:
Fair Housing and Accessibilty Issues
Fair Housing and Foreclosure in Ohio
Or come just to the luncheon.
Jim McCarthy, President/CEO of Miami Valley Fair Housing, Inc. (MVFHC), will appear on the “WHIO Reports” radio program airing this Sunday, March 15, 2009. “WHIO Reports,” hosted by Jim Barrett, will profile MVFHC as well as the upcoming Fair Housing Month Celebration and the Marie Kindrick Fair Housing Awards.
You can listen on the radio or stream the audio from your computer. The program airs on Sunday on the following stations:
HUD Produces Video Messages for Deaf and Hard of Hearing
YouTube and Facebook video will alert consumers about important housing issues
February 23, 2009 — The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it has produced videos designed to educate deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers about their fair housing rights, housing counseling services and loan programs offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), hosting the videos on YouTube and Facebook.
In one video, a HUD employee uses sign language to tell his story of refinancing his home through FHA, the largest government insurer of mortgages. In another video, he explains that it's illegal to discriminate in housing based on race, religion, sex, national origin, disability or familial status. All videos encourage viewers to contact HUD by visiting its website, www.hud.gov, for more information.
Viewers who live in Montgomery County and think they've been discriminated against can also contact the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) at 937-223-6035; viewers who live in the City of Dayton and think they've been discriminated against can contact Dayton's Human Relations Council at 937-333-1403.
Issue 5 passes by Huge Margin!
Yes: 64%, No: 36% win signals the end of the debt trap
FromThe national payday lending lobby waged one of the dirtiest, most costly and deceptive campaigns in recent history. High-priced lawyers failed twice on petition summary language that the Attorney General found neither fair nor truthful. Petition gatherers lied and bribed voters into signing. Misleading television ads featured a fake farmer and his fan belt, a soccer mom who clearly wasn’t, and a guy in boxer shorts who ran around the screen like a plucked chicken awaiting the butcher.
the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio's newsletter
The media saw through it all. And while there are hundreds of articles and editorials to choose from that sum up the campaign, the Cleveland Plain Dealer possibly said it best in an editorial that ran November 5:
It didn’t matter how many millions of dollars payday lenders spent in their desperate attempt to continue charging 391 percent interest rates on short-term loans, Ohioans weren’t about to be fooled by their deceitful campaign. Voters Tuesday dealt the payday lending industry one of the most humiliating election defeats imaginable, overwhelmingly approving a measure (Issue 5) capping APR interest rates at 28 percent.
Proponents of State Issue 5 had a lot of help from churches and newspapers (every big-city daily endorsed its passage), but the campaign itself only spent about $500,000. The payday lenders spent about $22 million. But in the end, their dirty money didn’t matter. If the lenders had spent $50 million opposing Issue 5, it still would have passed — big.
The lenders made a pathetic attempt to convince voters that opposing Issue 5 would save jobs. But Issue 5 was never about jobs. It was always about fairness, about preventing the payday lenders from preying on Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens. Ohioans understood that. The payday lenders and their high-priced consultants didn’t.
Fair housing and civil rights groups file federal lawsuit in post-Katrina housing discrimination case
Road Home, Louisiana’s Hurricane Katrina recovery program, discriminates against African-American homeowners in New Orleans.
The Road Home, an $11 billion federally-funded program, is the largest housing redevelopment program in U.S. history. The suit is being filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of five individuals representing a class of more than 20,000 African-American homeowners and two fair housing organizations, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and the National Fair Housing Alliance.
“Forty years after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, residential segregation still permeates New Orleans,” said James Perry, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. “Homes in communities of color still have lower values than those in white communities even when the condition, style and quality of the homes are comparable. Louisiana’s program builds on this history of discrimination. Only when housing opportunities are created for all residents of New Orleans will our recovery truly be successful.”
HUD is responsible for overseeing Louisiana’s use of federal disaster recovery funding and assuring that the funds are used to promote equal housing opportunity.
“HUD has the duty, authority, and ability to make sure Louisiana distributes funds for the Road Home program fairly,” said Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “Instead, HUD allowed a formula that is biased and threatens to undermine the recovery efforts of African-American homeowners. As such, it failed to take into account the legacy of racial discrimination in the housing market, which has resulted in systematically lower values for homes in communities of color.”
The plaintiffs in the case are represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Washington D.C. plaintiff’s law firm, Cohen Milstein, and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.
“African American homeowners in New Orleans are being unfairly prevented from reclaiming their homes by the discriminatory design and implementation of the Road Home program. African Americans are facing huge gaps between the amount of their Road Home grant awards versus the cost to rebuild their homes when compared to their white counterparts,” said John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel.
According to Cohen Milstein’s Joseph M. Sellers, head of the firm’s Civil Rights and Employment Practice, “HUD and Louisiana have perpetrated a cruel hoax on African-American victims of the Katrina and Rita hurricanes by offering assistance that Congress intended would permit them to rebuild their destroyed homes but which falls far short of its noble promise by linking it to the depressed values of their pre-storm segregated housing rather than to the cost of reconstruction.”
The discrimination, in this case, is the result of the formula used to determine Road Home grants. Grant awards are based on the lower of two-values: the pre-storm value of the home, or the cost of damage. Home values in most predominantly African-American neighborhoods are lower than the values of similar homes in white neighborhoods. As a result, the grants for African-American homeowners are more likely to be based upon the pre-storm value of their homes, leaving them without enough money to rebuild. In contrast, white homeowners are more likely to receive grants based on the actual cost of repairs. The lawsuit filed today seeks to eliminate this disparity.
Copies of the case complaint and related materials are available at http://www.gnofairhousing.org.
Ballot measures in Ohio and Arizona doom deceptive tactics and predatory practices
Ballot propositions initiated by the industry, supported by over 30 million of their trade groups dollars, and featuring measures that prop up their predatory practices, experienced stunning defeats in both states, as voters recognized the deception in the industry and its advertising. Payday lenders outspent the Ohio grassroots coalition by over 60 to 1, and still lost by a 2 to 1 margin in the vote. In Arizona, the grassroots campaign was outspent about 90 to 1.
“These two citizens ballots are really a mandate for cracking down on payday lending throughout the nation,” said Uriah King, policy associate for Center for Responsible Lending. “You can get no clearer message than a huge majority of voters rejecting 400 percent interest loans. A reasonable two-digit cap is sensible, fair, and it works to keep bad apples out of the consumer lending arena.”
Combating millions of dollars of deceptive advertising, spirited grassroots campaigns in each state took on a national industry that depends on making high-interest loans repeatedly to customers who cannot afford to pay them off for good.
Payday loans are systematically converted into long-term, high-cost debt for working families. The average payday borrower has more than eight transactions per year, costing them more in interest than the original loan. Congress passed a 36 percent cap protecting military families from this practice, and 15 states plus the District of Columbia have chosen to control predatory lending by enforcing interest rates in that range.
Ohio’s new law had no sooner passed when the industry initiated a ballot measure that would have repealed the interest rate cap of 28 percent. Arizona’s current law exempting payday loans from the state’s 36 percent cap on small loans is due to expire in 2010, and lawmakers are unlikely to renew it given its negative impact on borrowers and the economy.
The failure of the payday industry to circumvent state lawmakers in Ohio and Arizona suggests not only that citizens are in the mood to crack down on irresponsible lending practices, but also that people are catching on to the deceptive practices of the industry.
The conventional wisdom for ballot measures is “when in doubt, vote no.” Thus the payday lending industry in Ohio had a big advantage by having the “No” vote. This is only the second time in history of Ohio referenda, established in 1856, that the “Yes” vote won, and victory in this bellwether state sends a strong message to policymakers everywhere.
In Arizona, the payday lenders tried to capitalize on the trend toward reform, going so far as to attack their own practices as unethical. Community groups, business leaders, political leaders of all parties, faith groups, military and consumer advocates endorsed the “No” vote, and news reports and internet bloggers helped spread the word that the reform was false.
To learn more about the payday lending debt trap, visit the Center for Responsible Lending’s web page.
are so many services available on the internet to help you find a roommate, each offering slightly different things. One service might offer to let you write whatever you want, and another service might help you filter out matches based on individual criteria — such as rent amount or location. With any of these roommate services, what might not be clear are your obligations under the Fair Housing Act, a federal law.
Check out equalhousingonthenet.com to learn how the Fair Housing Act covers advertisements for housing or services related to the provision of housing.
Payday Lenders Charge 391% Annual Interest!
Is 391% too high? Yes! Vote Yes on Issue 5!
2008 Community Reinvestment Institute programNow is your chance to participate in the Community Reinvestment Institute's 2008 program where you can learn about the Community Reinvestment and Home Mortgage Disclosure Acts and participate in a forum for dialogue about capital, credit and insurance needs in Dayton neighborhoods and small businesses. Learn more and register today!
*Visitability is an international movement to change home construction and rehab practices. Visitability features make homes easier to access for people with mobility impairments. These features also provide a basic shell of access to permit people to remain in their homes if they develop a disability, rather than forcing them to do expensive renovations, relocate to a different house, live in an inaccessible home which endangers their health and safety, or move from the community into a nursing home.
Apartment complex faces fair housing complaint
by Nancy Bowman, Dayton Daily News
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Troy — The Ohio Civil Rights Commission has filed a fair housing complaint against the developers and operators of the 204-unit Towne Park Apartment Homes, claiming the complex's apartments and common areas are not accessible to the disabled.
The action filed in Miami County Common Pleas Court claims an inspection done in November following a complaint by the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center found inaccessible features such as knob-type hardware on front entry doors to ground-floor units and common areas; inaccessible shower stalls in a common area; thresholds exceeding the maximum allowable change in level; and parking spaces exceeding the maximum allowable surface, among others.
The commission said the preliminary investigation showed "it is probable unlawful discriminatory practices have been or are being engaged in." It said conciliation was attempted, but failed to resolve the claims, leading to the court action.
The apartments were built during the past five years. The complex includes nine apartment buildings, clubhouse, fitness center, tanning room and billiards room.
Named in the complaint are S.C. Bodner Co. Inc. of Indianapolis, identified as a real estate developer involved in development and initial manager of the property; Michael E. Cope of MECA Design Group of Greenwood, Ind., project architect; MBA Construction Corp., a corporation dissolved in 2005 and listed in care of Bodner, involved in project construction; Towne Park PML of Columbus, current manager; and Towne Park SPE of Marion, Ohio, current owners.
Bodner did not return a call for comment.
Towne Park PML and Towne Park SPE are included in the suit as possible participants in any retrofitting ordered, according to the claims.
The commission asks the court to:
Federal Jury Finds Racial Discrimination in Zanesville Water Case
Ohio Attorney General, Ohio Civil Rights Commission Praise Jury's Verdict
July 11, 2008 — A federal jury has issued a verdict in a case against the City of Zanesville, East Muskingum Water Authority, and Muskingum County. The jury determined that the defendants discriminated against 67 residents living in a predominately African-American neighborhood located just beyond the Zanesville city limits by failing to provide the residents with public water service.
"This decision speaks firmly about the importance of treating citizens with equal respect, regardless of race," said Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers. "We are pleased that relief was provided to those who suffered as the result of discrimination."
The jury determined the city and the county violated state and federal civil rights laws in the provision of water services. The jury awarded a total of more than 10 million dollars in damages to the plaintiffs.
The case began in 2002 when residents of Coal Run, filed a charge of discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). The residents alleged they had been denied access to public water service since the 1950's on the basis of their race.
The residents initiated the case after repeated requests, over several decades, for public water service. Each request to the city, county, and township public water service authorities was denied. However, during that same time period, similar requests for public water service were granted and made available to white families located further away.
The OCRC determined in 2003 that these families had been denied public water service due to consideration of their race and issued a formal complaint of discrimination. The OCRC's investigation confirmed that several nearby white neighbors, also residing beyond the city limits, had been enjoying access to public water service from the City of Zanesville for several decades. During that same year, after the complaint of discrimination had been filed, Muskingum County made the provision of public water service available to these residents.
"We are pleased the jury has reaffirmed the principle that all citizens are equal before the law and should not be marginalized or treated as invisible in the provision of governmental services," said OCRC Executive Director G. Michael Payton. "The plaintiffs, like other citizens in Zanesville, are decent, honest, and hard-working persons who wanted nothing more than to be accorded the same privileges and services as their neighbors. No citizen should have to suffer the humiliation and indignity suffered by the plaintiffs in this case."
Payton commended the work of Attorney General Nancy Rogers and her staff in successfully prosecuting this case. "This is precisely the kind of professionalism and commitment that has earned her staff a state-wide reputation for providing high quality legal representation," said Executive Director Payton. "We also commend our investigative staff who worked on the case for their hard work."
"It was an honor and privilege to represent the Commission in this case and to play a role in bringing public water service to the residents of the Coal Run neighborhood," said Steve Schmidt, Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Section. "I remember being in the kitchen of one of the residents when the water service started and thinking this is why I went to law school."
The residents were represented by Relman & Dane PLLC and Jones Day, and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission was represented by the Ohio Attorney General before Honorable Judge Algernon Marbley in the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center sues developer of
the Greene for discrimination against people with disabilities
Investigation reveals violations by Steiner + Associates, et al.
April 30, 2008 – The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council and the National Fair Housing Alliance today filed a housing discrimination lawsuit against Steiner + Associates, a national developer of town centers that contain retail, residential and office spaces. The lawsuit alleges that Steiner, et al., failed to comply with federal accessibility standards in the design and construction of their properties.
Anniversaries of the Federal Fair Housing Act and of Miami Valley Fair Housing Center commemorated in local newspapers
A special commemorative insert celebrating the 40 years since the passage of the Federal Fair Housing Act and the 15 years since the founding of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center Inc. (MVFHC) was produced by Cox Ohio Publishing for distribution March 27, 2008, in the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News-Sun.
Reproducing letters of congratulation from Congressman Mike Turner and Senator Sherrod Brown, the insert has articles on the history of the enactment of Civil Rights Act of 1968 as well as the history of MVFHC and of the Fair Housing Movement in general.
MVFHC paralegal Nicole Wilson (left) and Enforcement Coordinator Anita Schmaltz discuss work in the office
MVFHC Vice President
of Education and Outreach
In addition the insert includes an article about accommodations landlords are required to make for companion and service animals for the disabled.
The insert is available online here, either in its entirety in PDF format or page-by-page in JPG or PDF formats by clicking the links to the right.
MVFHC's building, located at 21-23 E. Babbitt St.
New Book Details Housing Discrimination's Harmful Effects on Communities and the Nation's Economic Vitality
Jim McCarthy, President/CEO of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc., participated in a news briefing with Texas Congressman Al Green at the House of Representatives on March 11, 2008, on the release of the book Segregation: The Rising Costs for America, edited by Jim Carr and Nandinee Kutty. The book, a collection of essays, details residential segregation's devastating effect on minority homeowners as well as the economic vitality and global competitiveness of the United States.
McCarthy will be participating in a similar news briefing on April 16, 2008, with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.
Click on the links below to view video clips (requires Windows Media Player) from the news briefing:
MVFHC awarded 3-year performance-based HUD grant
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced December 12, 2007, that Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) has been awarded a three-year performance-based grant for its work against housing discrimination and helping victims of predatory mortgage loans. At MVFHC's 2007 annual meeting, HUD Cincinnati Field Office Director James Cunningham presented MVFHC President/CEO Jim McCarthy with a check for the first year's installment of the grant.
The grant awarded to MVFHC is one of only thirty-nine multi-year grants awarded to the highest performing of HUD's more than 100 Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) agencies. Multi-year funding allows groups that maintain excellent performance ratings to continue their activities without interruption. Groups not in this category must submit requests for funding each year.
HUD's grant to MVFHC of $275,000 per year for three years, for a total of $825,000, will enable MVFHC to provide complaint intake, investigation and referral for alleged victims of discrimination. Read more and see photos.
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton present:
Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders, a feature-length documentary directed by James Scurlock.
Maxed Out takes viewers on a journey deep inside the American style of debt, where things seem fine as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time. With coverage that spans from small American towns all the way to the White House, the film shows how the modern financial industry really works, explains the true definition of "preferred customer" and tells us why the poor are getting poorer while the rich keep getting richer. Hillarious, shocking and inciscive, Maxed Out paints a picture of a national nightmare which is all too real for most of us.
Fair Housing Month Celebrated by Photo Exhibit at Sinclair
National Fair Housing Alliance president to speak in Dayton about discrimination in housing sales
Shanna L. Smith, President/CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, will speak about NFHA's national sales investigation at the Dayton Area Board of Realtors® annual expo on April 10, 2007, at 1 p.m., at the Dayton Convention Center.
NFHA published the results of the investigation in their 2006 report Unequal Opportunity — Perpetuating Housing Segregation in America. Ms. Smith will provide illustrations of the discriminatory practices found and their impact on communities, and she will offer direction and guidance to real estate agents about ways to comply with the Fair Housing Act.
The presentation, which is open to the public, costs $30 per person; real estate agents can receive CE credit for attendance. For more information and to register, contact DABR at 937-223-0900.
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center
hopes that you will join us
Thursday, April 5, 2007
11:45 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Annual Fair Housing Luncheon
celebrating Fair Housing Month 2007
Featuring keynote speaker Kim Kendrick
and civil rights photographer Bernard J. KleinaThe David H. Ponitz Sinclair Center
on the campus of Sinclair Community College
444 West Third Street
Dayton, OH 45402-1460
Tickets for the event are $20 and may be purchased from the Dayton Area Board of Realtors at 937-223-0900.
for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, DC
Presentation on predatory loans is now availableAt the "Developing Solutions to Ohio's Foreclosure Crisis" summit in Toledo, MVFHC Vice President of Legal Affairs Kimberly Kilby gave a presentation on "How to Recognize a Predatory Loan" and possible ways to help clients with predatory loans. You can view the presentation online in HTML or PowerPoint.
National Fair Housing Alliance releases housing discrimination data and denounces crisis of segregation
The National Fair Housing Alliance released its annual trends report this month, which paints a comprehensive and alarming picture of how illegal housing practices by real estate companies perpetuate residential segregation in America. The report details an egregiously high incidence of racial steering across the United States even now, almost forty years after the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act.
NFHA's 2006 Fair Housing Trends Report describes its multi-year real estate sales testing program in twelve metropolitan areas, which revealed striking patterns of racial steering nationwide through hundreds of tests. In fact, NFHA's tests found racial steering to be the norm, with a steering rate of 87 percent, when testers were given an opportunity to see homes. Whites were limited to viewing homes in predominately White neighborhoods and discouraged from visiting homes in interracial neighborhoods. African-Americans and Latinos lost their right to see homes of their choosing across a wide spectrum of White communities. They were limited to seeing homes in neighborhoods in which their race or national origin predominated.
Read the entire report in Adobe Acrobat PDF format here.
Guide to Predatory Lending now available for Realtors®
A brochure is now available for Realtors® that explains what predatory lending is and tells Realtors® how they can help their clients avoid predatory loans.
(Homeowners and home buyers should visit www.dontriskyourhome.com or
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. (MVFHC) is seeking independent contractors to be part of our testing program. If you are interested, you can apply online.
Fair Housing Impediments analysis availableThe 2004 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice - Montgomery County, Ohio and Kettering, Ohio report is now available online.
Montgomery County Consolidated Plan availableThe Montgomery County, Ohio FY 2003-2007 Consolidated Plan is now available online.
Predatory Lending Solutions study released
Nov. 15, 2001, 2:30 pm: The study is now available by clicking here.
The Predatory Lending Solutions project has released the results of a study designed to examine the local impact of predatory lending in Montgomery County, Ohio. The study, conducted by University of Daytons Center for Business and Economic Research, examined foreclosures in Montgomery County from 1994 - 2000, and the associated activity among lenders who offer sub-prime mortgages.
Objectives of the study were to:
The study found that foreclosures in Montgomery County increased by a factor of two and one half times between 1994 and 2000, and that sub-prime lenders were responsible for a disproportionately high share of that increase. A substantial number of the sub-prime foreclosures sampled showed signs of predatory lending, including high interest rates, pre-payment penalties and balloon payments.
Telephone surveys also revealed that many of the tactics associated with predatory lending at the national level are occurring in the sub-prime market in Montgomery County. These tactics include new fees and different loan terms revealed at loan closing, encouragement to borrow more money, steering people with good credit into sub-prime loans, and inflated appraisals.
Lenders associated with sampled mortgages that showed predatory characteristics are noted in the report. The Citigroup subsidiaries (Associates, Citifinancial, Ford Consumer Finance) and Household International (Household Realty, Beneficial Mortgage, Decision One) dominated the loan sample with 26.27 percent and 24.2 percent. City Loan Financial was third with 12.3 percent.
The study indicated that most of the sub-prime lenders are doing three to four as many loans with African American borrowers, and two to five as many loans with borrowers whose household income is 50% or less of the median household income, when compared with the overall market. Mapping of the mortgage foreclosures between 1994 and 2000 illustrates the rapid spread across jurisdictions of Montgomery County. While the City of Dayton has the largest percentage, suburban communities have experienced an increase in their share of foreclosures as well as those associated with sub-prime loans.
Predatory Lending Solutions is a collaborative project by the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Consumer Credit Counseling Service, and the Legal Aid Society of Dayton. Montgomery County has provided strong financial support for the projects initiatives, including a public information campaign that rolled-out in September. The Dayton Foundation provided financial support for the research component, which was coordinated by the project partners with Dr. Richard Stock from the University of Dayton.
Copies of the complete study, and appendices are available at www.mvfairhousing.com/cber.
City of Dayton passes Predatory Lending ordinance
The Dayton City Commission passed a predatory lending ordinance on Wednesday, July 11, 2001. It prohibits practices by some companies which have lead to some properties being over-mortgaged causing homeowners to lose their houses through foreclosure.
Commissioner Dean Lovelace, who proposed the ordinance, said that if it pushes out abusive, high-cost lenders, then the ordinance will have done its job. "I think youre going to see some of the sub-prime lenders that have dominated our market step back," he said.
The city will not monitor all property transactions in the city. Instead homeowners who are signed into home-equity or refinancing loans that violate the provisions of the ordinance can have the terms modified so their loans are no longer in violation.
"At last this sets a tone for the citys position," said Jim McCarthy, director of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC). MVFHC has added five staff members through a $350,000 grant from Montgomery County to handle complaints from residents who think they may be in an abusive loan. The county administration has pledged to fund two more years of the expanded effort as well, McCarthy said.
Consumers in Montgomery County with questions about whether their loans are abusive can
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