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207 groups call on House and Senate leaders to reject
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Deeds Conference Room, Kettering Govt. Ctr.
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|When:||Wednesday Sept. 15, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM|
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July 8, 2015 — An important new fair housing regulation — aimed at promoting diverse, inclusive communities and overcoming the negative effects of segregation — was issued today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The regulation is designed to guide jurisdictions in complying with their existing obligations to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a key provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. It requires state and local governments and housing authorities to consider how to eliminate fair housing barriers for people of color, families with children and people with disabilities.
For the first time, HUD will provide substantial data on housing, demographics and other local conditions for state and local policymakers to assess in determining, among other things, the degree of segregation, concentrated poverty and barriers to equal housing opportunity in their communities.
“Dayton and the rest of the United States remain highly segregated, although we have made some progress,” said Jim McCarthy, President/CEO of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center. “Maps of major cities illustrate how segregated our communities are. At the same time, where you live has a big impact on how your life unfolds. It determines the schools your children attend, the jobs you have access to, the quality of your surroundings, your access to transportation and grocery stores and other important community resources. In the Dayton area, too many children are growing up in neighborhoods that lack these resources. This not only limits the life prospects of these children but also undermines our region’s prosperity.”
“This new HUD rule will help all jurisdictions in the Miami Valley to be more deliberate and strategic about how they use their housing and community development resources to expand access to opportunity for all residents of our community,” McCarthy added. “We look forward to working with local policymakers, to ensure that all people — regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, family status or disability — can chose where to live and to ensure that all neighborhoods are good places to live.”
June 29, 2015 — We at the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center offer our congratulations to Keenya J. Robertson, President/CEO of Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (HOPE), as the chair of the board of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA).
Ms. Robertson has been an advocate for fair housing and civil rights since 1994. In addition to working at HOPE—a private non-profit fair housing organization fighting housing discrimination in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in Florida—and in addition to serving on NFHA’s board, Ms. Robertson serves on the South Florida Community Development Coalition’s board, the Fair Housing/Fair Lending Litigation Reporter’s advisory board, the City of Miami Gardens Affordable Housing Committee, and the Miami-Dade County Housing Civil Rights Oversight Board.
Prior to her tenure at HOPE, Ms. Robertson was a staff attorney for the Georgia Advocacy Office’s Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights program, and she was the Project Director and Attorney for Metro Fair Housing Services in Atlanta. She is a graduate of Florida State University and the Louisiana State University Law Center.
Ms. Robertson succeeds MVFHC President/CEO Jim McCarthy who just completed his nineth term as NFHA board chair. Mr. McCarthy, who will continue to serve on NFHA’s board as immediate past chair, said, “Keenya is a woman dedicated to protecting the rights of everyone to have equal housing opportunity. She’s proven her effectiveness, and I look forward to continuing to work with her as she leads NFHA forward.”
June 23, 2015 — Today U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)—ranking member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs—called on federal
Read the senators’ letter. regulators to investigate reports of disparities between the way financial institutions manage and market foreclosed homes in communities of color compared to predominantly-white neighborhoods.
Brown joined more than a dozen senators in a letter urging the nation’s top financial, housing, and consumer protection regulators to examine allegations that bank-owned properties in white neighborhoods are better maintained and marketed than those in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. In the letter, the senators ask the regulators to take appropriate actions to stop any unequal treatment and violations of the Fair Housing Act.
“The same communities of color who were victimized by predatory lending may now be facing the double whammy of racial bias when it comes to the upkeep of foreclosed homes,” said Brown. “This is a problem that pushes down property values and erodes the quality of life in these communities. Federal agencies should ensure that the financial institutions managing these foreclosed properties use the same maintenance and marketing standards regardless of the race, color, or ethnicity of the homeowners who live in the neighborhood.”
The senators pointed to a report by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) detailing racial disparities in the upkeep and marketing of more than 2,400 Real Estate Owned (REO) homes—that is, bank-owned foreclosed properties—in 29 major metropolitan areas nationwide. Among other discrepancies, NFHA found that bank-owned properties in minority communities in the Dayton area were 2.9 times more likely to have utilities that were exposed or tampered with than properties in comparable, predominantly-white communities.
Although neither the federal Fair Housing Act nor Ohio’s state fair housing law include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, some local jurisdictions, including Dayton, do protect sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and other areas. Also, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers guidance as to how the Fair Housing Act’s protections for disability and sex may cover some situations faced by LGBT people. Finally, HUD has included LGBT protections in some of its regulations.
For more information, visit our new LGBT info page to get specifics about local jurisdictions’ non-discrimination ordinances and about the Fair Housing Act and HUD rules may protect you.
May 13, 2015 — Today the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) together with the National Fair Housing Alliance and other private fair housing organizations across the United States accused the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) of racial discrimination. In a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) the civil rights groups allege that Fannie Mae fails to maintain and market bank-owned foreclosures (also known as real estate owned or REO properties) in African American and Latino neighborhoods to the same standard as in White neighborhoods, a practice that violates the federal Fair Housing Act.
View a PowerPoint about
the investigation against Fannie Mae. “Fannie Mae was put on notice in 2009 about its failure to appropriately maintain and market its foreclosures in neighborhoods of color,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “The foreclosure crisis hit these middle and working class communities the hardest, and what we’re now seeing is an illegal pattern of neglect that creates health and safety hazards for neighbors, lowers property values, and contributes to blight in the community.”
McCarthy was one of several advocates from across the country who traveled to Washington, DC today to participate in the national news conference, held at the National Press Club, to announce the complaint.
The fair housing organizations investigated the maintenance and marketing of bank-owned foreclosures for 39 different types of deficiencies, including: broken windows and doors, broken and obstructed gutters and downspouts, accumulated trash, overgrown lawns and shrubs, missing “for sale” signs, and other issues that affect curb appeal, the security of the home, and the value of the property.
“Fannie Mae is liable for the differences in treatment between white neighborhoods and Latino and African American neighborhoods,” said Shanna Smith, President/CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), based in Washington, DC. “Despite NFHA’s efforts since 2009, including filing complaints against Fannie’s Field Service Vendors, we’ve seen no improvement in the maintenance and marketing of these Fannie Mae properties,” Smith continued. “Instead, Fannie Mae rewarded the same vendors who were failing to appropriately maintain and market properties with additional contracts and new contracts for clear boarding.”
MVFHC’s investigation of Fannie Mae-owned properties examined 71 REO properties. Of these REO properties, 26 were in predominantly African American communities, one was located in a predominantly non-White community; and 44 were located in predominantly White communities. MVFHC’s investigation found that:
REO properties in communities of color were far more likely to have certain types of deficiencies or problems than REO properties in White communities. Nationally, MVFHC and its partners found significant racial disparities in the majority of the objective factors measured in their investigations:
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.
MVFHC and its partner civil rights groups have filed similar actions against Bank of America, US Bank, and Deutsche Bank as well as some of these banks’ field service vendors.
“We want to stop the downward spiral that middle and working class neighborhoods of color are caught in,” said McCarthy. “Not only do we want Fannie Mae to improve and appropriately maintain and market their REO properties, but we also want money from Fannie Mae to begin to stabilize these communities and rectify some of the damage caused by Fannie Mae’s failures. We want to use money to provide grants and other support to people buying REOs or other homes in neighborhoods, building more diverse and inclusive communities.”
May 6, 2015 — Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, spoke yesterday at the Ohio Statehouse about the problems that proposed Senate Bill 134 would present to fair housing in Ohio.
The assistant secretary, speaking to the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission on Hispanic Legislative Day, warned that the changes proposed in SB 134 “could undermine our efforts to protect the housing rights of all Ohio residents.”
Assistant Secretary Velasquez said, “The senator who sponsored the bill claims that SB 134 and now its companion bill HB 149 would conform Ohio fair housing laws to federal standards.”
“But the fact of the matter,” continued Assistant Secretary Velasquez, “is that limiting certain civil penalties, allowing respondents to recover attorneys’ fees in certain instances, and exempting certain landlords from the housing provisions of the Ohio civil rights law would have the opposite effect of the sponsor’s intentions, forcing landlords and tenants to more expensive and complex channels to process discrimination complaints, both administratively and in court.”
The assistant secretary urged people to look closely at SB 134 and to speak out against it.
You can view the assistant secretary’s remarks on YouTube.
Learn more about how SB 134 would hurt Ohio on the fight134.org website.
April 6, 2015 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center’s annual report for 2014 is now available.
The report includes highlights of MVFHC’s activities and awards, details of our fair housing education and enforcement programs as well as our fair lending/foreclosure prevention program, and data from our new Inclusive Community Fund.
Information about MVFHC’s revenue and expenses as well as our donors and funders is also in the report.
Joseph LMS Green
G Yamazawa March 9, 2015 — MVFHC will host two internationally-renowned spoken word artists as part of the annual Fair Housing Month celebration being held from 11:45 am to 2 pm on Thursday, April 2, 2015 at Sinclair Conference Center. The spoken word artists will perform after the luncheon meal.
Both performers—G Yamazawa and Joseph LMS Green—were winners of the first-ever National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) 1K Poetry Slam, held last April in Washington DC. G Yamazawa was the first place winner, and Joseph LMS Green won second place. Both G and Joseph LMS will be performing the pieces with which they won the NFHA event.
Gustavo Velasquez, the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be the keynote speaker at the event. Buy tickets for the luncheon event by registering on our Fair Housing Month page.
Born in Durham, NC and raised by Japanese immigrants, George Masao Yamazawa, Jr. is widely considered one of the top young spoken word artists in the country. At 24 years old, G is the youngest poet to become a National Poetry Slam Champion, Individual World Poetry Slam Finalist, and Southern Fried Champion, and he has toured in over 40 American cities and 5 European countries.
Winner of Kollaboration DC 2012, Audience Choice Award Recipient of the Inaugural Kollaboration Star and 2013 Kundiman Fellow, G has been featured at the Sundance Film Festival, Bonnaroo Music Festival, TV One's Season 3 of Verses and Flow, the Pentagon, and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. G’s poetry has been published in Beltway Quarterly, Asian Fortune Magazine, and 27 Views of Durham, and he has shared stages with Sonia Sanchez, Michelle Kwan, Danny Glover, and VP Joe Biden.
Joseph LMS Green is a Washington, DC-based performance artist and educator with more than nine years’ professional experience. As a solo artist Joseph LMS has performed at venues and schools throughout the United States. A four-time qualifier and participant in the National Poetry Slam, he has represented the Oneonta Slam team as their Grand Slam Champion (twice, 2005 and 2006), as well as Slam Richmond (2009), and DC’s Beltway Poetry Slam Team (2011, ranked 5th in the nation). As the Beltway Poetry Slam representative at the Individual World Poetry Slam (2011), Joseph is currently the 16th-ranked poet in the world.
Andy Snow January 29, 2015 — A Dayton Daily News article, “Bank settlement fuels work in troubled neighborhoods,” tells of the work MVFHC has done so far in mitigating part of the damage done by poor maintenance of bank-owned foreclosures in local neighborhoods and also explains our collaboration with local photographer Andy Snow.
MVFHC’s program, which initially has focused on ZIP codes 45417 in the City of Dayton and 45426 in the City of Trotwood, is named the Inclusive Community Fund. Snow, who took before-and-after photos of the work as well as photos of some of the homeowners assisted, said in the article that “properties are being fixed and neighborhoods are being improved—and that’s the key.”
Dayton Daily News staff writer Thomas Gnau, who wrote the article, explains that Snow is “nationally known but locally based” and that Snow’s work has been used in many national publications. Snow used many tools to take the photos including ladders as well as a drone flown over the homes for aerial shots.
See more before and after shots on our ICF results page Gnau quotes Amy Radachi, the CEO of Rebuilding Together Dayton, one of MVFHC’s partners in the ICF program, as saying that Snow’s “talent has enabled us to put a face on this project” and that “Andy has been phenomenal to work with.”
To see some of Snow’s photos and to read more about the results of the ICF’s first year, visit our ICF results page, which explains what we accomplished in the ICF’s down payment assistance, critical home repair/rehabilitation, accessibility modification and neighborhood quality of life programs.
January 9, 2015 — If hearing the name “Romney” makes you think of the 2012 Republican nominee for president, perhaps you don’t remember that Mitt’s father George Romney was HUD secretary during President Nixon’s administration.
In 1974 HUD Secretary Romney was party to a case against the city of Black Jack, Missouri, which relied on a federal rule stating that a disparate impact claim of action existed under the Fair Housing Act. United States v. City of Black Jack was appealed in the Eight Circuit, and that circuit and ten other federal circuits have agreed that disparate impact is covered under the Fair Housing Act.
In the article “Romney was Right About Disparate Impact” on SCOTUSblog, Myron Orfield, professor of law and director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota, explains George Romney’s and the Nixon HUD department’s position on disparate impact. Orfield also gives more about the history and importance of disparate impact in fair housing and explains why the Supreme Court should and, he thinks, will uphold it.
Read the whole article on SCOTUSblog.
Gustavo Velasquez, the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will present the keynote address at MVFHC’s annual Fair Housing Month to be held Thursday, April 2, 2015 at the Sinclair Conference Center.
This year’s event, presented in conjunction with the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS®, will focus on the theme “Fostering Inclusive Communities Strengthens the Housing Market.” The event includes educational workshops approved for continuing education for REALTORS® and other housing professionals, followed by a luncheon and the keynote presentation.
December 15, 2014 — Like all jurisdictions that receive Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the City of Dayton, the City of Kettering, and Montgomery County are obligated to identify, analyze, and devise solutions to impediments to fair housing choice that may exist in the community.
This year, Dayton, Kettering and Montgomery County decided to draw upon the expertise of the professional staff at the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and have contracted with MVFHC to conduct the next Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice. The MVFHC staff began working with staff from all three jurisdictions in August 2014 and will continue to work through July 2015. The final Analysis is expected to be delivered to the jurisdictions on July 31, 2015.
An Analysis of Impediments (AI) is a review of impediments or barriers that affect the rights of fair housing choice. It covers public and private policies, practices, and procedures affecting housing choice. Impediments to fair housing choice are defined as any actions, omissions, or decisions that restrict, or have the effect of restricting, the availability of housing choices, based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. The AI serves as the basis for fair housing planning, provides essential information to policy makers, administrative staff, housing providers, lenders, and fair housing advocates, and assists in building public support for fair housing efforts.
“As part of our work on this analysis we will be seeking input from residents about their experiences with housing discrimination and other housing obstacles,” said Jim McCarthy, President/CEO of MVFHC.
“MVFHC will be engaging with residents through town halls, focus groups, and the online survey,” McCarthy continued.
Residents are encouraged to take the Fair Housing and Housing Obstacles survey. The survey is available 24/7 from now through January 31, 2015.
In addition to resident input, MVFHC staff are also engaged in conducting one-on-one interviews with elected officials, business leaders, Realtors, leasing agents, and other key stakeholders. This work will be combined with an extensive review of the laws, regulations, administrative policies, procedures and practices of Dayton, Kettering, and Montgomery County, as well as an assessment of how those laws affect the location, availability, and accessibility of housing; an evaluation of conditions, both public and private, affecting fair housing choice for all protected classes; and an assessment of the availability of affordable, accessible housing in a range of unit sizes, to form the basis of the final product that will be delivered to the jurisdictions.
“HUD has a renewed emphasis on the importance of examining barriers to fair housing choice, and we are glad to be able to assist the Cities of Dayton and Kettering and Montgomery County in preparing the best analysis possible,” McCarthy said.
MVFHC is assisting Montgomery County, the City of Dayton and the City of Kettering in preparing a joint Fair Housing Action plan identifying impediments to fair housing in our area and planning how to address them.
As part of this process, we invite you to take a survey, Housing Choices and Opportunities in Montgomery County.
We appreciate your help!
The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) in September 2014 released its report “Is the HOME Program Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing?”
PRRAC report on HOME and AFFH analyzing whether the HOME Investment Partnership Program, a block grant program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), meets its obligation to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH).
The HOME program provides funding to state and local governments to make affordable housing available to low-income households. As recipients of HUD funding, the jurisdictions in the program have a legal requirement to affirmatively further fair housing. As outlined by HUD, the AFFH goals include overcoming historical patterns of segregation, reducing racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty and reducing disparities by protected class.
PRRAC’s report identifies areas in which the HOME program can be improved to place more low-income families in high opportunity neighborhoods. In summary, PRRAC concludes, “The federal HOME program is a relatively small program, and cannot solve the problems on its own, but at the very least, it should not be contributing to segregation.”
October 15, 2014 — Through its Fair Housing Initiatives Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded a three-year private enforcement initiative grant to the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC). The grant will run through December 2017 and will be funded at $325,000 per year.
The grant enables the continuation of fair housing enforcement activities provided by MVFHC in the Dayton MSA (Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Preble counties), including helping people who feel they have faced housing discrimination by investigating and filing complaints with the Dayton Human Relations Council, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and/or HUD; documenting evidence of systemic discrimination through testing in rental, sales and accessibility design/construction; and providing education instructing people on how to recognize and report housing discrimination as well as racial or sexual harassment.
HUD has more information about the FY2014 FHIP grants on its website.
October 9, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it has reached a $5 million settlement with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the nation’s largest provider of home mortgage loans, resolving allegations that the lender discriminated against women who were pregnant, or had recently given birth, and were on maternity leave. Under its authority to enforce the Fair Housing Act, HUD has conducted an intensive campaign to end maternity leave-related discrimination. Since 2010, 190 maternity leave discrimination complaints have been filed with HUD, resulting in more than 40 settlements for a total of nearly $1.5 million prior to today’s settlement.
“The settlement is significant for the six families who had the courage to file complaints and for countless other families who will no longer fear losing out on a home simply because they are expecting a baby,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro.”
Wells Fargo will distribute a total of $165,000 among six affected families and will create a fund with at least $3.5 million to compensate other applicants who experienced discrimination because they were pregnant or on maternity leave when they applied for a loan. Wells Fargo will also change its underwriting guidelines for evaluating mortgage loan applications from those on maternity leave, ensuring the guidelines are not discriminatory.
The full press release is available on HUD’s website.
September 25, 2014 — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is ordering U.S. Bank to provide an estimated $48 million in relief to consumers harmed by illegal billing practices. U.S. Bank consumers were unfairly charged for certain identity protection and credit monitoring services that they did not receive. These services were sold as “add-on products” for credit cards and other bank
Consent order products such as mortgage loans and checking accounts. U.S. Bank will also pay a $5 million civil penalty to the CFPB and a $4 million penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
“Today’s action will provide $48 million in relief to U.S. Bank customers who were illegaly charged for identity protection services they did not receive,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We have consistently warned companies about practices related to add-on products, and we will do what is necessary to prevent further harm to consumers.”
The full text of the consent order is available on the CFPB website.
September 19, 2014 — A new playground that was partly funded by a Quality of Life grant from MVFHC’s Inclusive Community Fund has officially opened. The “Tot Lot” in Dayton’s Miami Chapel neighborhood was coordinated by the Southwest Priority Board and was the dream of neighborhood activist Pat Rickman.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured speakers including Mrs. Rickman, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Dayton school board member Hazel Roundtree, and MVFHC’s Director of Investigations and Enforcement Anita Schmaltz. Neighborhood school kids attended the ceremony and broke in the playground as soon as the ribbon was cut.
Thanks to Dayton photographer Andy Snow for providing photos of the event.
Create Dayton, a group of Dayton artists, has released its second music video, “Where the Rivers Meet,” about the importance of diversity and cultural differences among Daytonians.
A reporter working on the 1964 Project: An in-depth look at the legacy and future of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 wrote an article about the ongoing REO (real estate owned, or bank-owned foreclosures) maintenance investigation by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and partners including MVFHC.
The report, “Redlining Redefined,” is by Robin Amer and details a day this past July in Minneapolis when she followed NFHA President/CEO Shanna Smith and other NFHA staff visiting REO properties in Minneapolis. Amer’s report was a part of 1964, the 2014 summer project of Northwestern University’s Medill school of journalism.
Read the whole article to learn how NFHA, MVFHC and other partners investigate REO properties and to meet some of the homeowners affected by how foreclosed properties in their neighborhoods are maintained.
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the proposed Ohio Senate Bill 349 would throw Ohio law out of kilter with federal law and “jeopardize the substantial equivalence of the Ohio [fair housing] act.” The shift would force Ohio to forego $1 million in federal funds for investigation and enforcement of discrimination cases, and it would require both landlords and tenants to use the more expensive and cumbersome federal channels to process discrimination complaints.
SB 349 was introduced by Sen. Seitz (R-Cincinnati) in late June. It has not yet been assigned to a committee, though advocates are actively opposing it on the grounds that it “undermines civil rights and fair housing protections in Ohio,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO.
“It’s in the best interest of all of us to oppose legislation that would make it more difficult to challenge those who would discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, ancestry, military status and/or familial status,” McCarthy said. “Ohio doesn’t need a law that turns back the clock on discrimination.”
The bill would reduce the consequences of housing discrimination by lowering and capping the punitive damages that guilty landlords would have to pay. It would discourage victims from filing a complaint by making them liable for the attorney’s fees of the party they accuse of discrimination if there is not enough evidence to prove their case. Also, Ohio would lose crucial HUD funds to go after those who violate fair housing laws in Ohio.
Ohio and 37 other states have fair housing laws that are considered “substantially equivalent” to federal law. In her letter to OCRC, Lynn M. Grosso, Director of HUD’s Office of Enforcement, noted that because the bill conflicts with federal law on several important points, Ohio would lose that designation.
Grosso wrote: “Based on our general review, because SB 349 would exempt owners of single-family homes from prohibited acts, reduce the coverage of single family dwellings under the law, limit and cap the availability of damages and penalties in the administrative process, prohibit damage awards to fair housing agencies and deter aggrieved persons from filing discrimination complaints, enactment of SB 349 presents significant inconsistencies with federal requirements for substantial equivalency and will jeopardize the continued participation and receipt of federal funding by the State through the Fair Housing Assistance Program.”
“This bill is not just bad for tenants, it’s bad for landlords too,” said Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. “If Ohio were to lose its substantial equivalency it would force the complaint process into the federal arena, where everything is more cumbersome and expensive. It’ll make it harder on everyone.”
Earlier this summer in a letter to Sen. Seitz, OCRC sketched a dark image of housing reality under SB 349: “Touted as a bill to amend damages and fees,” OCRC wrote, “this legislation, if passed, would legally immunize small landlords, allowing them to tell potential renters or buyers, I am not going to [sell] or [rent] my home to you because you are: Black…female…Hispanic…blind…Jewish…a soldier…pregnant. We are certain this was not the drafters’ intent, but it will undoubtedly be the impact.”
For more information about how SB 349 would harm Ohioans, visit Fight349.org.
September 3, 2014 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC), the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), and 16 other NFHA member organizations announced the results of a major undercover investigation into the failure of banks and property preservation companies to maintain and market foreclosed homes in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. The investigation of Real Estate Owned (REO) homes in 30 major metropolitan areas found disturbing incidents of discrimination in how these banks and Fannie Mae’s preservation management companies fail to secure the doors and windows, mow lawns, fix gutters and downspouts, remove trash and provide other maintenance for REOs in African American and Latino neighborhoods, while providing these services for their REOs located in white neighborhoods.
A report detailing the findings of the investigation, “ZIP Code Inequality: Discrimination by Banks in the Maintenance of Foreclosed Homes in Neighborhoods of Color,” was released today. It details the results of the investigation of more than 2,400 REO properties located in and around 30 major U.S. cities. The report is the third released by NFHA (similar reports and results were published in 2011 and 2012) and provides information about the broadest investigation to date into REO discrimination. Both the white neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color investigated were middle and working class communities with high foreclosure rates and high owner-occupancy rates. The investigation avoided ZIP codes with high levels of renters or investor-ownership.
“This report and the investigative work behinds it shows how these lenders and Fannie Mae continue to destabilize our communities of color, and why there continues to be a story of two economic recoveries—one for affluent, mostly white communities, and one for middle-class communities of color,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO.
MVFHC, NFHA and NFHA’s other member fair housing agencies have REO-related complaints pending with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bank, and Fannie Mae’s field service vendors in charge of maintaining REOs: Asset Management Specialists, Cyprexx, and Safeguard Properties. Many of the same neighborhoods investigated are at issue in several complaints, compounding the negative health, safety and economic effects of unmaintained foreclosures on current homeowners in the neighborhoods.
“This report documents the ongoing threat to communities of color across America: that ZIP code determines whether banks properly maintain and market the homes titled in their names,” said NFHA’s President/CEO, Shanna L. Smith. “The banks and property preservation companies are under contract to maintain these homes. They are supposed to get the best price when selling a foreclosed home. Banks and Fannie Mae are obligated to make sure lawns are mowed, shrubs are trimmed, mail is stopped and flyers are removed from the porch. They are also responsible for ensuring that the gutters are cleaned to stop water or ice damage, windows and doors are secured and repaired, trash and dead animals are removed, emergency numbers that actually work are posted and professional ‘For Sale’ signs are placed in the yard. Banks fulfill these obligations in predominantly white neighborhoods but overwhelmingly fail to perform these simple routine maintenance chores in middle and working class African American and Latino neighborhoods.”
The failure to maintain homes based on the racial or ethnic composition of a neighborhood violates the federal Fair Housing Act and has a toxic effect on the health and livelihood of entire communities, according to Stephen M. Dane, a Washington, D.C., civil rights lawyer who has written on the subject and whose law firm represents NFHA and fair housing groups in several of the matters pending before HUD. The allegations outlined in the report illustrate continuing violations of fair housing law. The law is clear that banks, property preservation companies and trustees with properties titled in their names are covered by fair housing requirements.
“Rather than implement effective quality control measures or terminate vendors who fail to maintain REOs, banks assert they are not responsible for the vendors they hire because they are ‘just the trustee’ or they claim another servicer is at fault. However, the Fair Housing Act is clear that the owner of the property is liable. So when the REO is titled in the trustee’s name, it is responsible under the law,” Smith explained.
MVFHC and other REO project partners investigated the maintenance and marketing of REO properties on a 100-point scale, subtracting points for broken windows and doors, water damage, overgrown lawns or shrubs, accumulated leaves, invasive plants/weeds, no “for sale” sign, trash on the property, broken steps or handrails, holes left uncovered and other contractual maintenance items.
The investigations took into account over 30 different aspects of the maintenance and marketing of each property. Some key findings of the investigation include:
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, including the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing and selling of homes.
The newsletter has information about MVFHC’s 10th annual Waikiki Party Fundraiser wrap-up, MVFHC receives The 2014 Partner of the Year award, Banks and Fannie Mae vendors discriminate against communities of color by failing to maintain and market foreclosures, and HUD confirms that SB 349 sets up conflict in state and federal law.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
August 25, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Massillon, Ohio landlords John and Mary Ruth have agreed to pay $850,000 to settle lawsuits filed by DOJ and other parties alleging that the Ruths discriminated on the bases of race and familial status at properties they formerly owned in Massillon.
DOJ filed a lawsuit on October 31, 2011, alleging that the Ruths and the companies through which they manage their properties had discriminated against African Americans and families with children at Yorkshire Apartments, Thackeray Ledges and Wales Ridge—three apartment complexes in Massillon. Stark County, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and several former property managers and tenants at the complexes also filed related lawsuits raising similar allegations.
In an order issued on March 31, 2014, by U.S. District Judge John R. Adams, the court noted that 10 of Mr. Ruth’s former employees testified they were instructed to discriminate against African Americans and that other former employees testified they had been instructed to discriminate against families with children. The court ruled that DOJ had presented sufficient evidence of a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination by the defendants for the case to go to trial.
Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay:
For more information, read the DOJ press release.
The newsletter has information about MVFHC expanding into the Columbus area, our 10th Annual Waikiki Party Fundraiser, How to receive a $75 gift card to the Greater Dayton Recreation Center. Also included is the movie corner featuring Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
August 19, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it has charged Kent State University (KSU) in Kent, Ohio, and four KSU employees with housing discrimination for refusing to allow a student with disabilities to keep an emotional support animal in her campus apartment.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when a person with a disability requires such an accommodation, including refusing to grant waivers to “no pet” policies for persons who use assistance or support animals.
“Many people with disabilities rely on therapy animals to enhance their quality of life,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The Fair Housing Act protects their right to a service animal, and HUD is committed to taking action whenever the nation’s fair housing laws are violated.”
HUD’s charges stem from complaints filed by a KSU student and her husband and by Fair Housing Advocates Association (FHAA) of Akron, Ohio. A KSU psychologist documented the student’s disabilities and wrote a letter stating the best way for the student to cope with her disabilities was having a support animal. After KSU denied her request for a reasonable accommodation, the student and her husband moved to off-campus housing and contacted FHAA.
August 14, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the manager and owner of the Linden House Apartments in Cleveland have agreed to pay $100,000 to resolve allegations that they refused to rent to individuals who had children.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by DOJ on September 30, 2013, against the Zaremba Management Company, the Linden Apartment Company and a property manager who worked at Linden House. The DOJ alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by maintaining a policy of refusing to rent units at Linden House to families with children. It also alleged that the Linden House Apartments had a policy of evicting tenants or asking them to move if they had children while living at Linden House. While the Fair Housing Act under certain circumstances does allow housing reserved for older persons to limit residency to adults, Linden House did not meet the requirements for this exemption.
The settlement requires the defendants to pay $90,000 to the victims of their discriminatory actions and $10,000 in civil penalties to the United States. The settlement also requires the defendants to remove any restrictions on occupancy by families with children and to take steps including training employees and reporting to DOJO to ensure that such discrimination does not re-occur.
“Families deserve the legal right to live where they can afford, and DOJ will continue to protect them from housing discrimination,” said Steven M. Dettlebach, U.S. Attorney for the Northen District of Ohio.
The consent order between DOJ and Zaremba is available on the DOJ website.
August 12, 2014 — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action against Amerisave Mortgage Corporation, its affiliate Novo Appraisal Management Company, and the owner of both companies, Patrick Markert, for engaging in a deceptive bait-and-switch mortgage-lending scheme that harmed tens of thousands of consumers.
Consent order CFPB found that Amerisave lured consumers by advertising misleading interest rates, locked them in with costly up-front fees, failed to honor its advertised rates, and then illegally overcharged them for affiliated “third-party” services.
Amerisave and Novo must provide $14.8 million in refunds to the consumers harmed by the false advertising, impermissible fees, and illegal referrals during the period covered by the order. A third-party settlement administrator will contact eligible consumers once a restitution process has been established. In addition, Amerisave and Patrick Markert both will make penalty payments of $4.5 million and $1.5 million respectively to CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.
The full text of the consent order is available on the CFPB website.
July 28, 2014 — Today the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and partners announced a campaign to oppose Ohio Senate Bill 349, introduced by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) in late June. MVFHC and its partners denounce SB 349 as an attack on civil rights and an erosion of strong fair housing laws in Ohio. The campaign’s website is fight349.org.
Among other regressive measures, the bill would lower the penalties for housing discrimination and damage the important safeguards provided by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). Ohio residents would either need to use the administrative process provided on the federal level through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or be forced to use attorneys to sue violators in state court. In addition, Ohio law would no longer be “substantially equivalent” to federal law, thus ending substantial HUD funding to Ohio.
“SB 349 would rob Ohio of its substantial equivalent status and its ability to investigate and adjudicate housing discrimination claims on the state level,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “Proponents of SB 349 are just plain wrong if they believe that they will have an easier time complying with civil rights laws administered from the federal level as opposed to at the state level.”
Specifically, SB 349:
“SB 349 would significantly undercut the work of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and force housing discrimination complaints to the Federal level,” said Elizabeth Brown, Executive Director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal in Cincinnati. “Why would Ohio want to give up its control of civil rights issues? Does the real estate industry really think it is better off facing Federal investigators and Federal attorneys? This is not the time for the state of Ohio to gut its civil rights laws.”
Michael Marsh, President/CEO of Toledo Fair Housing Center, said, “SB 349 is a step backwards for Ohioans. Instead of ensuring equal opportunity, it renders civil rights laws virtually unenforceable within the Buckeye State and turns away $1M in annual funding from the federal government to enforce the fair housing laws. It is fundamentally un-American to deny equal opportunity to families with children and persons with disabilities. Senator Seitz should be ashamed, and Ohioans embarrassed, by his buffoonery.”
WASHINGTON, DC — The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced that a non-prosecution agreement with SunTrust Mortgage Inc. has been reached that resolves a criminal investigation of SunTrust’s administration of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).
SunTrust has agreed to pay $320 million to resolve the investigation, to be divided as follows:
For additional information, read the full press release on the SIGTARP site.
WASHINGTON, DC — A proposed bill in the Ohio Senate would make it easier for landlords and others to discriminate in housing and not to be held accountable for their actions. It would also cost the State at least $1 million in lost federal funding. Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, issued the following statement calling for the Ohio Senate to reject this radical measure:
“All people should have equal access to housing they can afford. Senate Bill 349 would replace Ohio’s long standing strong law with only a slap on the wrist for banks, real estate companies, landlords, and apartment owners who discriminate. Senate Bill 349 would weaken the ability of Ohio’s civil rights organizations and neighborhood groups to hold accountable those who discriminate against neighborhoods, people with disabilities, families with children, women, people of color, and many others.
“In addition, this sweeping change would put Ohio’s fair housing law out of alignment with the federal statute that protects equality of opportunity for all Americans in housing. As a result, the State would lose at least $1 million in federal funds.
“In 2013 alone, Ohio fair housing organizations investigated more than 1,600 complaints of housing discrimination. This discrimination includes failures by banks to maintain foreclosed homes they own. As these neglected properties deteriorate, cities are forced to use tax payer dollars to fix damage and provide increased police and fire protection. Does the Ohio Senate really want to leave cities to clean up after bad banks without any recourse to recover those burdensome costs? Rather than making the banks clean up the mess they have made, this bill would shift the burden to the tax payer. The National Fair Housing Alliance urges Ohio lawmakers to side with Ohioans and hold companies that violate the law accountable for their acts of discrimination.”
Youth age 17 and younger residing in ZIP code 45417 are eligible to receive a free $75 gift card to the Greater Dayton Recreation Center at Roosevelt Commons.
To register for gift cards, go in person to the Greater Dayton Recreation Center at Roosevelt Commons, 2021 West Third Street. You must present proof of residence in ZIP code 45417.
For more information, visit our page about the gift card program.
June 19, 2014 — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is ordering GE Capital Retail Bank (GE Capital), now known as Synchrony Bank, to provide an estimated $225 million in relief to consumers harmed by illegal and discriminatory credit card practices. GE Capital must refund $56 million to approximately 638,000 consumers who were subjected to deceptive marketing practices. As part of the joint enforcement action by the CFPB and Department of Justice, GE Capital must also provide an additional $169 million to about 108,000 borrowers excluded from debt relief offers because of their national origin. This order represents the federal government’s largest credit card discrimination settlement in history.
For additional information, read the full press release on the CFPB site.
Oak & Ivy Park is located at 163 Edwin C. Moses Boulevard in the Wright Dunbar neighborhood near the Miami River. Parking is available at the Opportunity Center, 907 West Fifth Street.
The cleanup is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Food and beverages will be provided. To volunteer, please contact Kolita Hollins of the Miami Valley Urban League at 937-226-1513 or Mary Ellington of the Innerwest Priority Board at 937-333-6544.
Download an application (PDF format) The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) is soliciting applications from groups proposing Quality of Life projects in neighborhoods in ZIP code 45417 in the City of Dayton and ZIP code 45426 in the City of Trotwood, for a second round of funding.
Groups eligible to apply are non-profit organizations, neighborhood associations and social or fraternal organizations as well as, for this program only, unincorporated groups that may not have a formal structure or tax exempt status.
Examples of projects that could be funded include modifying a vacant lot into a pocket park or urban garden; repairing recreational trails used by the neighborhood or adding accessible features or routes for people with disabilities; public arts projects such as murals promoting diversity, civil rights, or fair housing; neighborhood beautification projects; or other new, innovative projects.
Applications must be project-specific. MVFHC is not able to consider any applications for general operating support or for events such as neighborhood festivals, block parties or meetings. Please read the grant application package carefully to make sure you understand its instructions.
Proposals may be for any amount up to $5,000 for a project up to six months in duration. Full proposals are due by 4:30 pm, Friday, June 6, 2014, and must be hand-delivered or sent by email. No faxed copies will be accepted.
Questions about your application are encouraged and accepted until June 4, 2014. Contact Jim McCarthy by phone at 937-223-6035 or by email at email@example.com.
April 8, 2014 — Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC), in conjunction with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and six other NFHA member agencies, announced a federal housing discrimination complaint against Safeguard Properties, headquartered in Ohio. Safeguard is the nation’s largest privately-held mortgage field service property preservation company, also known as a field service vendor. The company is hired by Fannie Mae and major banks to maintain and market their bank-owned, foreclosed homes (aka REO properties).
View a PowerPoint about
the investigation against Safeguard. The complaint, which has been filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is the result of an investigation into how Safeguard Properties is failing to maintain foreclosed homes in African-American and Latino neighborhoods in Dayton, Toledo, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Memphis.
Safeguard Properties was recently named in a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Federal Housing Financy Agency that describes how the preservation companies reviewed by the OIG provided inaccurate information and manipulated photographs in their reports to Fannie Mae. The Illinois Attorney General also has a lawsuit pending against Safeguard.
For more information, read the complaint or view a PowerPoint about the investigation against Safeguard.
Edie Rasell, Ph.D. The Congregation for Reconciliation (CfR) is holding a free workshop Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at Memorial Hall in downtown Dayton launching a new movement to challenge economic injustice.
CfR invites those in the Dayton community who wish to join them in integrating conscience with action to challenge economic injustice in Dayton. Edith Rasell of the United Church of Christ and formerly of the Economic Policy Institute will be the workshop’s guest speaker.
For more information, read this flyer.
Download an application (PDF format) The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) is soliciting applications from groups proposing Quality of Life projects in neighborhoods in ZIP code 45417 in the City of Dayton and ZIP code 45426 in the City of Trotwood.
Groups eligible to apply are non-profit organizations, neighborhood associations and social or fraternal organizations as well as, for this program only, unincorporated groups that may not have a formal structure or tax exempt status.
Examples of projects that could be funded include modifying a vacant lot into a pocket park or urban garden; repairing recreational trails used by the neighborhood or adding accessible features or routes for people with disabilities; public arts projects such as murals promoting diversity, civil rights, or fair housing; neighborhood beautification projects; or other new, innovative projects.
Applications must be project-specific. MVFHC is not able to consider any applications for general operating support or for events such as neighborhood festivals, block parties or meetings. Please read the grant application package carefully to make sure you understand its instructions.
Proposals may be for any amount up to $5,000 for a project up to six months in duration. Full proposals are due by 4:30 pm, Friday, April 25, 2014, and must be hand-delivered or sent by email. No faxed copies will be accepted.
Questions about your application are encouraged and accepted until April 23, 2014. Contact Jim McCarthy by phone at 937-223-6035 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 13, 2014 — The Dayton Business Journal has named Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) as one of its “Best Places to Work” in 2014.
MVFHC was one of 25 Dayton-area companies selected for the 2014 awards. Winners were chosen by Quantum Research, who surveyed company employees on staff engagement, team effectiveness, manager effectiveness and other workplace best practices.
The exact ranking of Dayton’s top 25 places to work will be announced at a celebration on April 24, 2014, in the Schuster Center Wintergarden.
|Sponsored by City of Kettering Community Development in collaboration with the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center|
John Zimmerman, Vice President, MVFHC
Questions? Call John at 937-223-6035
Deeds Conference Room
Kettering Government Center
3600 Shroyer Road
Kettering, OH 45429
|When:||Wednesday, May 7, 2014 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.|
|How:||Just show up and find a seat. No reservation needed unless you want CE credit for REALTORS®, in which case you should email John Zimmerman at email@example.com.|
This course focuses on both the basics of fair housing and advanced information on working with people with disabilities.
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 3, 2014
Sinclair Conference Center
National Fair Housing Alliance
The event includes three fair housing workshops accredited for continuing education for REALTORS® and other housing professionals, the Fair Housing luncheon, keynote speaker Shanna Smith of the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the Marie Kindrick Fair Housing Awards presentations.
December 11, 2013 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) announced the beginning of its Inclusive Community Fund (ICF), an effort to reinvest in Miami Valley neighborhoods of color and to counteract the devastating damage resulting from the foreclosure crisis and its aftermath.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status, as well as the race or national origin of the residents of a neighborhood. This law also applies to housing-related activities, including the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing and selling of homes.
Funds for the Inclusive Community Fund come from the settlement of a federal fair housing complaint against Wells Fargo Bank. The complaint alleged that foreclosed homes owned by Wells Fargo (also known as real-estate owned homes or REOs) in predominately white communities were much better maintained and marketed by Wells Fargo than were homes in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. MVFHC’s subsequent agreement with Wells Fargo required that Wells Fargo provide funds to promote home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, property rehabilitation, and development in communities of color.
MVFHC’s President/CEO, Jim McCarthy, explains, “Poorly maintained REOs in communities of color exacerbate the multitude of racial and ethnic disparities in the highly-segregated Dayton area. We are grateful to be able to bring these resources to the community and to address the blight created by these problems.
To begin the work of the Inclusive Community Fund, MVFHC is announcing the allocation of a combined $553,000 to six partnerships. These groups of partners applied for the funding through a competitive process and will be able to apply to renew these grants when all funds awarded in this first round are exhausted. The first program year is January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014.
MVFHC has been one of the leaders in helping homeowners deal with the foreclosure crisis. From helping to avoid and to fix predatory loans to helping struggling homeowners renegotiate mortgages so that they are affordable, MVFHC has been central to minimizing the impact of the mortgage crisis in Dayton and the Miami Valley.
The goal of ICF is to begin reclaiming neighborhoods that have been disproportionately impacted and destabilized by predatory mortgage lending, resulting foreclosures, and the blight of vacant, abandoned and neglected REO properties. In order to do so, ICF is working to address the needs of various residents of the neighborhoods:
Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley said, “With the funding from the Inclusive Community Fund, MVFHC will become a leader in the effort to repair the damage from the mortgage crisis. Piloting this project in the Westwood neighborhood and the surrounding 45417 ZIP code, this effort will move from limiting damage to helping a neighborhood heal from the disinvestment and other negative consequences of the mortgage crisis.
“Dayton is fortunate,” Whaley continued, “to have MVFHC, its CEO Jim McCarthy, and the rest of MVFHC’s staff, who are on the cutting edge nationally of minimizing the impact of the mortgage crisis. Now they are leading the way nationally in efforts to recover from the mortgage crisis. Westwood and the entire community will benefit from this innovative pilot project. As mayor-elect, I look forward to working with MVFHC during my administration to address this and other housing issues in Dayton.”
One of the key components of the Inclusive Community Fund includes a capacity-building initiative with the Wesley Community Center (WCC) to stabilize WCC and move it forward in its mission. For the past 47 years, WCC has served the West Dayton community and the Miami Valley with the mission of “Helping Others through God-centered Principles.” WCC has earned its reputation as a reliable, committed, faith-based organization that cares for families and individuals experiencing personal crises.
“For decades Wesley Community Center has worked to uphold the community safety net by pressing for environmental and economic justice. The Inclusive Community Fund speaks to opportunity and hope for Dayton’s social economic future by investing in families’ most foundational needs,” said Harry Tay, WCC’s executive director.
ICF has been warmly embraced by residents, local organizations and local elected officials, as demonstrated by the additional statements of support below.
Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge said, “I applaud the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center for diligence during the Dayton region’s foreclosure crisis. The communities that were most affected will now be able to reap the benefits of MVFHC’s perseverance and foresight through the Inclusive Community Fund.”
“The City of Trotwood is deeply grateful to MVFHC for its organizational commitment, perseverance, and ongoing pursuit off remedies which will over time begin to reverse the devastating neighborhood impacts in Trotwood, resulting from egregious mortgage lending practices and culminating with the current foreclosure crisis,” said Trotwood City Manager Michael J. Lucking.
Lucking continued, “A result of the leadership put forth by MVFHC is the development of the Inclusive Community Fund, which will serve to begin the long-term process of neighborhood reinvestment and renewal. In addition, ICF will also serve as an important reminder to our institutional lending community that they must always embrace practices which support neighborhoods.”
“Reaching a resolution with Wells Fargo is a tremendous accomplishment for MVFHC and the Dayton region but pales in comparison to the good work that is being done right here in the neighborhoods most affected by predatory lending and the resulting foreclosures,” said Debbie Lieberman, Montgomery County Commissioner.
“As a former County Clerk of Courts and as County Commissioner, I know MVFHC has been the most effective agency battling the foreclosure crisis on behalf of the county’s citizens,” said Dan Foley, Montgomery County Commissioner. ”Today's creation of the Inclusive Community Fund by MVFHC will result in stronger families and stronger neighborhoods.”
The partnerships and their grant activities are:
The newsletter has information about grants awarded to MVFHC and Dayton fair housing groups, our seminar at the Home Improvement Show, New guidance on Design and Construction Requirements under the Fair Housing Act, and practice tips for rental screening. Also included is the book corner featuring This is Our House.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
November 7, 2013 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded more than $390,000 over a 24-month period to Dayton organizations to further the city’s Welcome Dayton initiative, educational workshops, and other programs meant to stop unfair and discriminatory housing practices.
Part of grants provided nationwide by HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program, the funds will bolster the following agencies’ activities in the region:
HUD provided nearly $979,000 to Ohio organizations.
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.
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!
September 25, 2013 — Through its Fair Housing Initiatives Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded a $325,000 lending discrimination grant to the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) and its partner HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton.
The grant augments both organizations’ existing fair lending enforcement and complaint activities. It also allows the continuation of the Predatory Lending Solutions and Foreclosure Prevention project, which provides legal services to individuals who are victims of lending discrimination and assists homeowners facing foreclosure by offering intervention services to attempt to keep them in their homes whenever possible.
In addition, HUD also announced the continued funding of a 3-year private enforcement grant that was originally awarded to MVFHC in 2011 and that runs through December 2014.
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.
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
Our one bedroom apartments are a great bachelor pad for any single man looking to hook up.
This apartment includes a large bedroom, walk in closet, patio, gourmet kitchen, washer dryer hook up and so much more…
“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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
|Sponsored by City of Kettering Community Development in collaboration with the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center|
|Instructor:||John Zimmerman, Vice President, MVFHC|
Deeds Conference Room
Kettering Government Center
3600 Shroyer Road
Kettering, OH 45429
|When:||Wednesday, May 8, 2013 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.|
|How:||Just show up and find a seat. No reservation needed unless you want CE credit for REALTORS®, in which case you should email John Zimmerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
This updated course is a survey of the major components of the Fair Housing Act in its first 45 years of existence in the United States as it relates to property management.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com for more information.
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 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective,
by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. In February the CFPB issued a Federal Register Notice outlining the CAB’s responsibilities and the duties of its members and soliciting recommendations for nominees.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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,
The Anna Louise Inn wishes to renovate the Inn but faces opposition from the Western & Southern Financial Group, which has filed a lawsuit opposing zoning approval of the Inn’s renovation and expansion plans.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Shaun Donovan January 28, 2012 — Shaun Donovan, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), announced a rule that will protect LGBT people against discrimination 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.”
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.
Read the entire report (PDF format) Swesnik, NFHA’s Director of Public Policy and Communications, and Soto, a Public Policy Associate for NFHA, argue that “[d]iscrimination stands in the way of establishing fair housing choice for all people” and that “[w]here we live and our access to fair housing choice directly affect our education and health outcomes and life opportunities.”
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.
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.
Katy Crosby Crosby is currently HRC Assistant Director and is a seven-year City of Dayton employee. As Acting Director, she will assume management responsibilities for the agency charged with investigating discrimination complaints and other responsibilities related to equal opportunity in Dayton.
“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.
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 central mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans—whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
The central mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans—whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products. That’s why Ohio is sending out an all-points bulletin for protection against abusive practices in the financial marketplace. Research shows that these high foreclosure rates are more a function of the risky features of the loan than any characteristics of the borrower.
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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 News! September 26, 2011, Dayton, OH. The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) announced that Saturday October 1, 2011 will be its first Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. On that Saturday morning from 9:30 am to Noon, a group of volunteers will walk Trotwood neighborhoods distributing information about where and how homeowners having mortgage trouble can get help. The day of service honors Dr. King because he was a great proponent of fighting poverty through increasing the dream of homeownership. Trotwood is an area hard hit with foreclosures and loss of homeownership. Many homeowners are behind on payments due to job loss, an unforeseen medical crisis or an unaffordable predatory loan. Some of these homeowners later become prey to a mortgage rescue scammers who give them false promises of a loan modification for a large upfront fee, and then, they never hear from the scammer again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Outing Registration Form! April 13, 2011 — Come out for The 2nd annual 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
Ms. Pratt, who has served in her present position since September 2010, oversees HUD’s enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws, the Fair Housing Assistance Program, the Fair Housing Initiatives Program and HUD’s enforcement of Section 3 of the Housing and Urban Development Act. She has worked as an attorney, trainer, and fair housing and civil rights expert for thirty-four years.
Before her return to HUD, Ms. Pratt staffed the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, co-chaired by former HUD Secretaries Jack Kemp and Henry Cisneros, helping to prepare a report on the future of fair housing, issued in December 2008. She assisted with the development of the report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, “Residential Segregation and Housing Discrimination in the United States," issued in January 2008. She was a member of the faculty of the National Fair Housing Training Academy and the National Fair HOusing Alliance’s Fair Housing School and served on the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Fair Housing Task Force. Her recent publications also include "Disparate Impact under the Fair Housing Act: A Proposed Approach" (December 2009), co-authored with Robert Schwemm.
Pratt has been an expert witness in a number of fair housing cases, including United States ex rel. Anti Discrimination Center v. Westchester County, NY, United States v. Village of Island Park, and National Fair Housing Alliance v. Prudential Insurance Company.
From May 1999 to December 2000, Ms. Pratt served as Director of Enforcement and Compliance for the National Fair Housing Alliance. In the past she has been outside counsel for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for which she provided fair lending advice and consultation. From 1991–1993 she served as Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Fair Housing in HUD’s office of General Counsel. She also practiced civil rights law in Louisville, KY, held a variety of positions with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and has served as a national and international consultant on fair housing matters. Ms. Pratt is editor and primary author of Damages for Embarrassment and Humiliation in Housing Discrimination Cases (published by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, 1982–1983).
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.
MVFHC originally filed this case as an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) on January 6, 2009. OCRC investigated the case and on September 30, 2009, based upon the evidence obtained in its investigation, determined that there was probable cause to conclude that Defendants Joseph and Jolene Walker engaged in discriminatory housing practices in violation of Ohio Revised Code § 4112. From September 2009 through July 2010, MVFHC attempted to conciliate the matter, in accord with Ohio Revised Code § 4112.3.03(C). Conciliation was unsuccessful. As a result, MVFHC withdrew its administrative complaint on July 9, 2010.
On July 28, 2010, Steve Dane of Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC filed the case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division. In its complaint, MVFHC alleged that as part of their business of renting dwelling units, Defendants Joseph and Jolene Walker adopted a policy and practice of discrimination against people with disabilities in violation of the FHA 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. MVFHC also alleged that Defendants also categorically made statements with respect to the rental of dwellings that indicated an unlawful limitation or discrimination based on disability or handicap.
On September 28, 2010, the Defendants Joseph and Jolene Walker made an Offer of Judgment to MVFHC in the amount of $5,000.00, plus non-monetary relief demanded by MVFHC, including:
The case was based upon random testing conducted in March 2008 and involved a denial of reasonable accommodation to keep a companion animal. Mr. Joseph Walker is an attorney with the law firm of Joseph W. Walker & Associates, which according to the firm’s website is a “full service law firm serving the Miami Valley for over 25 years.” Mr. Walker told MVFHC that he has been a landlord and owned rental property for 31 years.
The testing evidence in the case indicated that on March 25, 2008, a tester working on behalf of MVFHC responded to an advertisement in the Dayton Daily News regarding a dwelling unit available in Germantown. MVFHC later determined that the dwelling unit advertised was owned and managed by Defendants Joseph and Jolene Walker.
On March 26, 2008, the tester received a voicemail message from Defendant Joseph Walker, in which Mr. Walker encouraged the tester to call for an appointment if the tester was still interested. Later that afternoon, the tester proceeded to set up an appointment to view the unit at 4 p.m. on March 27, 2008.
On March 27, 2008, the tester arrived at 907 W. Market Street in Germantown for her appointment at 4 p.m. and met with Defendant Joseph Walker. After viewing the available unit, the tester explained to Defendant Walker that she was looking for a dwelling unit on behalf of her sister, adding that her sister had a mental disability which caused her to continually fear about someone breaking in. The tester further explained that her sister had a dog to help her cope with her disability, and asked if that would be a problem. Defendant Walker stated that it was a problem, because he did not allow dogs. The tester reiterated that the dog was for her sister’s disability. Defendant Walker inquired if the sister is blind, and the tester responded no. Defendant stated that “if she is blind, then I can’t even deny a dog,” but “if she is not blind, then it is not a disability.” The tester reiterated that the dog was at the suggestion of her sister’s therapist. Defendant responded that he does not accept pets on four legs. The tester stated that was unfortunate, because she really liked the place and was going to ask for an application, but now figured there was no reason to complete an application. Defendant Joseph Walker concurred. The tester then left.
In its complaints, MVFHC alleged that the Walkers’ actions had frustrated the MVFHC’s mission to eradicate discrimination in housing, and undermined the effectiveness of the programs and services it provides, including encouraging integrated living patterns, providing assistance to individuals and families looking for housing or affected by discriminatory housing practices, and eliminating discriminatory housing practices. MVFHC further alleged that the Walkers’ actions forced MVFHC to divert scarce resources to identify, investigate and counteract the Walkers’ discriminatory practices, and such practices have frustrated MVFHC’s other efforts against discrimination, causing MVFHC to suffer concrete and demonstrable injuries.
Print this coupon and bring it with you so that MVFHC gets credit for your meal on November 10th. Join us at T.G.I. Friday’s, 2022 Miamisburg-Centerville Road (in the South Towne Shopping Center, just east of the Dayton Mall) anytime on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010, and T.G.I. Friday’s will donate 20% of your total bill to the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Homeowners who are currently in foreclosure can contact the PLS Hotline at 937-222-9671 Update 8/23/2012 — new phone number: Homeowners who are currently in foreclosure can contact MVFHC at the main MVFHC number, 937-223-6035. Homeowners who are not currently in foreclosure can contact the HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton at 937-853-1600.
President Announces Foreclosure Prevention Program
On February 18, 2009, President Obama announced a comprehensive plan to help responsible homeowners avoid foreclosure by providing affordable and sustainable mortgage loans. The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan provides for a sweeping loan modification program targeted at borrowers who are at risk of foreclosure because their incomes are not sufficient to make their mortgage payments. It also includes refinance opportunities for borrowers who are current on their mortgage payments but have been unable to refinance because their homes have decreased in value.
Under the Homeowner Stability Initiative, Treasury will spend up to $75 billion to make mortgage payments affordable and sustainable for middle income American families that are at risk of foreclosure.
Borrowers who are delinquent on the mortgage for their primary residence and borrowers who, due to a loss of income or increase in expenses, are struggling to keep their payments current may be eligible for a loan modification.
Treasury, HUD and other Federal Agencies are working with lenders and nonprofit housing counselors to put all the systems in place to implement this massive program by March 4, 2009. In the meantime, borrowers can get additional information at www.financialstability.gov. This site includes questions and answers that will help homeowners determine if they are eligible for modification assistance.
There is no fee to borrowers for assistance through the Homeowner Stability Initiative. Beware of any organization that attempts to charge a fee for housing counseling or modification of a delinquent loan, especially if they ask for money in advance.
Under the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, borrowers who are current on their mortgage but have been unable to refinance because their house has decreased in value, may now have the opportunity to refinance into a 30 year, fixed rate loan. Through the program, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow the refinance of mortgage loans that they hold in their portfolios or that they guarantee in their own mortgage-backed securities. Lenders will be able to begin accepting refinance applications on March 4, 2009. To determine if your loan is owned or has been securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and is eligible for this refinance, you should contact your mortgage lender after March 4.
In the meantime, borrowers can get additional information at www.financialstability.gov. This site includes questions and answers that will help homeowners determine if they are eligible for refinance assistance. Information is also available at www.fanniemae.com and www.freddiemac.com.
Borrowers should beware of any organization that attempts to charge a fee for housing counseling or "assisting" you in finding a lender that will provide a refinance under the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, especially if they ask for money in advance.
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 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.
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:
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.
Would you like a great way to expand your market and create new opportunities for long-term residents?
Have you ever considered what keeps residents in apartments?
Turnover costs average $497 per unit.
Modifications that allow people with disabilities to live comfortably can reduce turnover!
|Download this Accessible Housing brochure to learn how to make your housing more welcoming to people with disabilities.|
Contact the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center
or the Access Center for Independent Living
Looking for accessible housing? Visit
or call the National Accessible Apartment Clearinghouse Database
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.
The organizations investigated apartment units at Gilbert Court at the Greene in Beavercreek, Ohio, Lofts at Zona Rosa in Kansas City, Missouri, and Bayshore in Glendale, Wisconsin. All of the properties, including 272 individual apartments, were developed by Steiner + Associates and failed to meet the accessibility requirements of fair housing and disability laws. Steiner is developing additional properties in Virginia, Texas and Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit also names Mecham & Apel, Architects, Inc., Development Design Group, Inc., Torti Gallas and Partners, Inc., Messer Construction Co., Corna/Kokosing Construction Co., and others. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex or familial status.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 51 million Americans (nearly one in five) have some form of disability. Of that number, more than 2.7 million people over the age of 15 years use a wheelchair. Another 7 million use a cane, crutches, a walker or other mobility aid. These numbers are expected to increase as the population ages and wounded veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The lawsuit alleges that Steiner + Associates, et al., have engaged in a continuous pattern and practice of discrimination against people with disabilities by designing and/or constructing multifamily dwellings inaccessible to people with disabilities. Architectural barriers at these properties include insurmountable thresholds, steps to the bedrooms, narrow hall widths and bathrooms with insufficient clear floor space — all of which prohibit the maneuverability of people in wheelchairs. Apartments also had environmental controls beyond the reach of wheelchair users. In addition, common use areas had accessible routes and passageways, abrupt level changes at thresholds and counter tops that were too high for use by people with wheelchairs.
After an investigation of Gilbert Court at the Greene found multiple units out of compliance with the Fair Housing Act, the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in March 2007. The complaint was referred to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which found probable cause to conclude that discriminatory practices had occurred at the property and referred the case to the Ohio Attorney General for prosecution. After the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council and the National Fair Housing Alliance identified units at Bayshore and Zona Rosa that were inaccessible to people with disabilities, the fair housing groups joined to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
"Steiner was founded over a decade after the passage of the Fair Housing Amendments Act, yet after all these years, people with disabilities continue to face discrimination because of Steiner's inaccessible designs. We will not allow them and their partners to continue harming the community and denying housing to people with disabilities by designing and constructing inaccessible housing." Jim McCarthy – President & CEO, Miami Valley Fair Housing Center
"Town centers are being developed and built all over the country with the benefit of integrating housing and retail in one place. People with disabilities cannot be left out. Accessible housing is an essential means of ensuring that people with disabilities are able to fully participate in community life. It is time for builders and developers to recognize their responsibility and comply with the law and construct housing units that are accessible for everyone." William Tisdale – President & CEO, Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council
"It has been twenty years since the Fair Housing Act was amended to include disability. There cannot be a single valid reason for architects, developers, and builders to continue designing and building inaccessible housing. Steiner + Associates must undo the harm they have caused to these communities." Shanna Smith – President & CEO, National Fair Housing Alliance
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.
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.
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:
Jim McCarthy, Miami Valley Fair Housing Center
The Hon. Al Green (D-TX)
Jim Carr, co-editor
Nandinee Kutty, co-editor
Suzanne Sangree, City of Baltimore
Lisa Rice, National Fair Housing Alliance
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.
Vectren Foundation awards grant to Miami Valley Fair Housing Center
The Vectren Foundation has awarded a grant to the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) to support the work of the Fair Housing Center and specifically in support of its celebration of Fair Housing Month next April. April 2008 will mark the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the passage of the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Locally MVFHC and the Dayton Area Board of Realtors will celebrate the anniversary and Fair Housing Month on April 3, 2008. A conference will be held at the David H. Ponitz Sinclair Center on the campus of Sinclair Community College. The theme of the conference is "Equal Housing Opportunity for All - Reflecting Back and Moving Forward" and will be reflected through educational workshops, a luncheon and a keynote address, with more than 300 individuals expected to attend.
The conference will include workshop presentations from:
The keynote speaker for the event will be Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University, offering her insights on solutions to help our communities grow and prosper.
"We're thrilled that Vectren has honored our work and plans for the 40th Anniversary Celebration with this grant," said Jim McCarthy, President/CEO of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center. "We're also excited that 2008 will mark the 15th anniversary of the founding of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center.
"Over the past fifteen years, the Fair Housing Center's staff and board of directors have worked diligently to improve fair housing services in the Miami Valley and to assist homeowners facing foreclosure as a result of predatory mortgage lending through the Predatory Lending Solutions (PLS) project," McCarthy continued.
"Our work has been supported with great vision by the Montgomery County Commissioners," McCarthy noted. "It is rewarding to have private donations also recognize our planning and achievements."
With the grant, Vectren joins Wright Patt Credit Union, Coldwell Banker Heritage Realtors, Real Living Realty Services, the Dayton Area Board of Realtors, the National Association of Realtors, 5/3 Bank, and Huntington Bank, all of whom have signed on to support the April 2008 event.
Senior Attorney hired for Predatory Lending Solutions project
Randall J. Smith has been hired by the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) as Senior Staff Attorney to work on MVFHC's Predatory Lending Solutions (PLS) project, effective Monday, December 17, 2007. He brings 25 years of legal experience with him to this new position, made possible in part by our recent Fair Housing Initiatives Program grant from the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development.
MVFHC's new senior staff attorney Randy Smith
In conjuntion with existing PLS staff members, Mr. Smith will be able to increase the capacity of the PLS project and to continue its great work on behalf of Montgomery County residents who, having fallen victim to predatory lenders, now face foreclosure.
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.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
7:30 p.m. • $3 per person
The NEON Movies
130 East Fifth Street • Dayton, OH 45402
Tickets are available at the NEON's box office.
The Chicago Freedom Movement — Remember Why You're Here, Brother, an exhibit of over 50 of civil rights photographer Bernard J. Kleina's images of civil rights marches in Chicago in the mid 60s, will be on display in Sinclair Community College's new library April 4–14. April is National Fair Housing month, and the exhibit kicks off the month's celebration in Dayton.
The exhibit will open on April 4 with an opportunity to meet the artist at 7:30 p.m. Read more about Kleina, the exhibit and the Marquette Park march.
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.
Fair Housing Month
40th Anniversary of the passage of the Federal Fair Housing Act
1968 — 2008
Equal Housing Opportunity for All
Reflecting Back and Moving Forward Integrating America
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the Dayton Area Board of Realtors are hosting a special day commemorating the promises of equal housing opportunity embodied in the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
David H. Ponitz Sinclair Center
Sinclair Community College
Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell
Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell
Terry W. Watson
One low price of $59 included three hours of continuing education plus the Fair Housing Luncheon, Keynote Address and Awards presentation! Registration is now closed.
For more information about the speakers and workshops,
check the program page.
TO OHIO’S FORECLOSURE CRISIS
November 14, 2006
Wyndham Hotel, 2 Seagate, Toledo, Ohio
Tools for Implementing Effective Counseling Programs
Predatory Lending Enforcement
Foreclosure Prevention Best Practices
Improving Communications Between Lenders, Counselors and Consumers
Policy, Legislation and Regulatory Issues
More information on who should attend and how to register is available here.
Dayton community members participate in foreclosure solutions workshop
Over 50 community members including fair housing advocates, realtors, lenders and law enforcement professionals participated in a foreclosure solutions workshop held Tuesday, May 25th, 2006 at the Zion Gateway Transit and Cultural Center in Dayton, Ohio. Facilitated by Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) President/CEO Jim McCarthy, the workshop was one of six held around the state and organized by Lisa Rice, President/CEO, and Lisa Lawson-LaPointe, Development Director, of the Toledo Fair Housing Center (TFHC). Read about the workshop and see photos from the event.
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.
Annual Fair Housing Luncheon celebration marks
the 38th Anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act
More than 135 people enthusiastically turned out for the 2006 Fair Housing Luncheon in Dayton, Ohio, held Thursday, April 6, 2006 and featuring keynote speaker Michael Allen, Senior Staff Attorney and Director of Housing Programs with Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Read about the luncheon and see photos from the event.
2006 FAIR HOUSING MONTH LUNCHEON CELEBRATION
The Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® and the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. invite you to join us in our celebration of April 2006 as Fair Housing Month by attending our annual luncheon to be held Thursday, April 6, 2006 at the Dayton Marriott.
Michael Allen, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, will present the keynote address, What "Integrated" Housing Means to People with Disabilities.
For more information and to order tickets, click here.
MVFHC President/CEO Jim McCarthy's presentation done for Pima County, Arizona on the Predatory Lending Solutions project is now available online: revised 3/16/2006
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.
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
contact the predatory lending hotline at 222-9671 Update 8/23/2012 — new phone number: contact MVFHC at the main MVFHC number, 937-223-6035. Residents in other counties can contact their local legal aid societies.
Copyright 2003–2015 Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc.