Baltimore, MD

Partial deal made on housing suit against city

July 01, 2004
In a partial resolution of a 2 1/2 -year-old lawsuit filed on behalf of low-income disabled Baltimore residents, the city has agreed to allocate several hundred thousand dollars annually in federal funds it receives over the next decade to create new accessible and affordable housing.
     Under the terms of the agreement, the city will set aside 11.5 percent of its annual federal HOME grant for the next 10 years to create new or renovated rental housing units for poor disabled residents under the age of 62. The grant, which is designed to increase the supply of housing to low-income tenants and which varies from year to year, is currently $7.8 million.
     Also, the city will dedicate another $500,000 of HOME funds over the next five years to retrofit apartments leased by disabled tenants and will give preference in its selection of developers to those whose projects will make at least 10 percent of the units available to people with disabilities.

City home grants for Hispanics raise legal doubts

May 04, 2004
Legal scholars and others are questioning the legality of the city's plan to offer a limited number of $3,000 grants to Hispanics buying houses in Baltimore.
     The grants are part of Mayor Martin O'Malley's efforts to increase Baltimore's immigrant population, which has dwindled for decades. The grants have no income limits and can be used to buy a house selling for up to $300,000.
     "They're going to revitalize our city," said Jose O. Ruiz, O'Malley's liaison to the Hispanic community. "They're hard workers. They pay taxes and never complain. Let's reach out to them

Group objected to use of only white models in ads

March 22, 2004
A fair housing advocacy group has settled a complaint accusing the owner of several Baltimore-area senior citizen housing communities of discriminating against potential black applicants by using only white models in advertisements.
     Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. filed the complaint in September on behalf of Edna E. Pruce, 70, against The Shelter Group of the 200 block of N. Charles St.
     The complaint was filed with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations and accused Shelter of only using white models in printed advertisements for four of its senior complexes in Baltimore, Timonium and Rosedale. In the settlement, announced last week, Shelter will pay BNI $85,000 and Pruce $3,500 and agreed to use multicultural models in future advertisements.

Fundamentally flawed

March 01, 2004
As a state legislator, social worker, teacher and African-American who grew up in Baltimore's segregated public housing, I followed with more than academic interest the court proceedings of Thompson et al vs. HUD et al - the case brought by 14,000 public housing families because of seven decades of government discrimination and segregation.
     Their claim that both Baltimore City and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development continue to segregate them in concentrated poverty rings true.
     Final arguments in the lawsuit, which was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, were heard in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Dec. 23.

New light on area's housing

January 08, 2004
While a discrimination lawsuit brought by public housing residents against the city and the federal government was being heard last month in U.S. District Court, two research reports were issued that shed light on broader issues of housing affordability and vacancies in Baltimore and the region.
     One report, "Rethinking Local Affordable Housing Strategies: Lessons from 70 Years of Policy and Practice," touches on many issues raised during the 3 1/2 - week trial - not as matters of legal recourse but rather as sound state and metropolitan public policy.
     For example, the report, a joint effort by prominent Washington think tanks the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, makes the point that since housing markets are regional, affordable housing policies should be regional as well - a key goal of the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland on behalf of tenants that is now awaiting a decision by U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis.

Former Baltimore mayor testifies in housing trial

December 19, 2003
As dean of Howard University's law school, former mayor Kurt L. Schmoke early this year co-authored a friend-of-the-court brief in the case University of Michigan affirmative action case then before the U.S. Supreme Court.
     That brief, filed in February, included a description of the negative affect of segregation in public and private housing that sounded very similar to the allegations in a federal public housing case now on trial in U.S. District Court.
     But when questioned about those views during testimony in the housing case Thursday, Schmoke took a much more carefully nuanced position on segregation and its effects.

Ex-city housing chief denies discriminatory policies

December 17, 2003
City officials "absolutely" did not pursue policies designed to concentrate low-income blacks in certain neighborhoods during a nearly 20-year span that ended in the mid-1980s, a former top Baltimore housing official testified in federal court yesterday.
     City policies such as urban homesteading and the development of Coldspring New Town, created integrated communities where none had existed, said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, who served as the housing department's deputy commissioner and commissioner from the late-1960s until the mid-1980s.
     Brodie, who now heads the Baltimore Development Corp., was the city's first witness in its defense in the trial on discrimination claims brought by public housing residents against the city and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Move is focus of public housing case

December 14, 2003
When city officials had to find new homes for residents displaced by a shuttered public housing complex, they initially considered converting a vacant school in Canton in Southeast Baltimore. But they finally decided on Johnston Square on the east side, buying and rehabilitating 10 abandoned rowhouses.
     How and why the city decided in the early 1990s to put public housing in an almost all-black neighborhood and not a mostly white one has become one of the focal points in the trial in federal court here on discrimination claims brought by public housing residents against the city and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
     The decision also encapsulates issues being raised by the trial, which enters its third, and potentially most intense, week tomorrow -- and illustrates the often complex mix of fact and motive that the case presents.

Secret Service removes Muslim waiter from Bush fundraiser

December 11, 2003
The Secret Service took responsibility yesterday for sending an Arab American waiter home from his job at a Baltimore hotel before a presidential fundraiser last week. But it said the decision resulted from confusion over his work schedule, rather than from ethnic or religious discrimination.
     While expressing regret over the incident, the Secret Service also stopped short of offering the apology that the waiter, Mohamad I. Pharoan, 58, has sought.
     Pharoan, a Syrian-born Muslim who immigrated to the United States in 1992 and became a citizen in 1996, was told to go home shortly after he arrived Friday morning at the Hyatt Regency at the Inner Harbor, where he has worked for seven years.
     He had expected to help serve lunch to 550 people at a banquet at which President Bush raised $1 million for his reelection campaign. Instead, he says, he was given a few minutes to change clothes and was escorted off the premises after a manager asked him one question: "Is your name Mohamad?"

Jewish congregation begins new chapter in Roland Park

December 07, 2003
When Allen L. Schwait moved here from Philadelphia in 1960, he never thought about buying a house in Roland Park. He knew the reputation: Real estate there was off limits to Jews.
     "We didn't even consider Roland Park as a possibility," said Schwait, who moved to Mount Washington and went on to serve as chair of the University of Maryland's Board of Regents and as a Baltimore Circuit Court judge. "People want to live where they are wanted."
     Today, Schwait and several hundred fellow Jews will celebrate the opening of Bolton Street Synagogue, the first full-fledged synagogue in the Roland Park area. Congregants will mark the occasion by carrying their Torah scrolls across Cold Spring Lane to their new home, a renovated, red-brick building once owned by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

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