Norwalk fair housing officer proposes testers to root out housing discrimination

April 16, 2015
air Housing Officer Margaret K. Suib made her case Thursday evening for launching a "systemic testing" program to root out housing discrimination in Norwalk.
     During an event at City Hall recognizing April as "Fair Housing Month," Suib said she can perform "some testing" on reported cases of discrimination.
     "If you come to me and say, 'I think I've been discriminated against,' then I'm going to investigate what you've just told me happened to you," said Suib, an attorney. But "I can't go out and do systemic testing without testers. … I just don't have the money, the program, the people. I can't be the white woman and the black woman and the Latino woman."

M&T Bank responds to accusations of lending discrimination

April 15, 2015
M&T Bank wants a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed earlier this year accusing the bank of discriminatory lending practices.
     The Fair Housing Justice Center filed the suit in federal court in Manhattan in February. It accused the bank of using racial criteria to direct borrowers to particular neighborhoods and to determine their eligibility for mortgages.
     In a new response to the suit, M&T said its lending actions and decisions were based on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons and not race, color or national origin, according to the Buffalo News.
     An investigation by the fair housing center found that minority buyers were often steered to minority neighborhoods by M&T, according to the Buffalo News. The center also found differences in loan amounts minority buyers were told they would qualify for.

Civil rights complaint seeks to stop cities from concentrating low-income housing in high-poverty neighborhoods

April 14, 2015
A civil rights attorney based in Washington, D.C., thinks he has the method for forcing changes in how and where St. Paul and Minneapolis locate low-income housing.
     Michael Allen did not file a lawsuit against the cities and their joint Housing Finance Board. Instead, he filed a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that, if successful, could put tens of millions of dollars in block grant and other federal poverty grants at risk.
     That’s not the result that Allen and the local complainants — the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing and three Minneapolis neighborhood organizations — necessarily want. Rather, the groups bringing the complaint want the two cities to stop over-concentrating low-income housing in already impoverished neighborhoods. Doing so, even while assuring the federal government that they are not, is in violation of both the federal Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, the complaint says.

HUD looks to end housing discrimination, Predatory lending against minorities

April 10, 2015
If you thought housing discrimination was dead — you thought wrong.
     According to HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, housing discrimination is still alive and kicking. In 2014, HUD has handled discrimination cases dealing with:
     Race/national Origin Maternity Lending Disability Domestic Violence Survivors Families with Children
     HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is working hard to combat unlawful housing discrimination. Of the 8,850 complaints that were received in Fiscal Year 2014, 8,281 were resolved, resulting in almost $33 million in compensation for victims and victims’ funds.

St. Landry Council agrees to allow addiction center to operate in rural subdivision near Sunset

April 02, 2015
Bowing to the pressure of a federal lawsuit, the St. Landry Parish Council agreed Wednesday to have its attorney sign a consent decree allowing an addiction treatment facility to operate in a rural subdivision near Sunset.
     Nine of the 13 council members voted to have attorney Chad Pitre sign the agreement, which cancels the lawsuit filed March 10 in U.S. District Court by Acadiana Addiction Center, LLC.
     The lawsuit names parish government, parish president Bill Fontenot and the 13 council members as plaintiffs.
     Council member Wayne Ardoin cast the lone no vote. Council members Dexter Brown and Gary Courville were absent. Council Chairman Leon Robinson does not vote unless to break a tie.
     Ardoin said he has been told by several attorneys that the council had a 65 to 85 percent chance of winning in the lawsuit.

Pit bull rules modification considered

April 01, 2015
Minot's ordinance outlawing pit bull dogs in the city should be modified to allow the breed in cases where a pit bull is used as a service dog.
     That was the vote of the Public Works Committee of the City Council today.
     City staff recommended the change that would cover both pit bulls and other prohibited animals under city ordinances.
     Staff members say the city would be in danger of being sued under provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act if it maintains an absolute ban on pit bulls and other animals.
     Wording to the city's ordinances would be changed to provide exceptions in cases where a pit bull could be present if required by the ADA, FHA, or other federal or state law. It would require such a pit bull to be confined in a fence at least six feet high, or, if outside the fence, to be muzzled and on a leash.

Yeshiva's $100M suit vs. Ramapo villages dismissed

March 30, 2015
A federal judge has again ruled that a yeshiva failed to prove that several villages in the town of Ramapo opposed a housing development based on anti-Hasidic sentiments.
     Friday's decision involved a nearly decade-long legal action by Mosdos Chofetz Chaim against the villages of Pomona, Chestnut Ridge, Wesley Hills and Montebello.
     The yeshiva accused the communities of incorporating as villages to curtail the expansion of Hasidic neighborhoods through restrictive zoning. It also claimed the villages hid behind environmental laws to oppose the town of Ramapo's adult student housing zone and singled out the yeshiva's housing and study center on Grandview Avenue, just outside the village of New Hempstead.
     Chofetz Chaim sought $100 million in damages, attorneys for the villages said. The yeshiva and Ramapo have also battled those villages in state court since 2004, with accusations of zoning and fire violations at the development.

Bill would transfer Wyoming housing discrimination complaints to state, nonprofits

March 26, 2015
The House of Representatives advanced a housing anti-discrimination bill Thursday that sponsors say would let the state or local agencies investigate claims of unfair treatment.
     Currently, Wyoming falls under federal law that prohibits discrimination, said Rep. Tom Walters, R-Casper, a co-sponsor of Senate File 132.
     SF132 would be similar to the federal law, prohibiting discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin, Walters said

Alleged discrimination lawsuit at Kansas and Missouri apartment complexes settled

March 25, 2015
The Justice Department announced Tuesday that Brisben Chimney Hills Limited Partnership and JRK Residential America LLC, the owners and the former manager of the Reserve apartment complex in Lenexa, Kansas, together with their named partner and agents, have agreed to pay $170,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The lawsuit alleged that defendants instituted policies at the Reserve and at other properties in Kansas and Missouri that discriminated against families with children. The lawsuit also alleged that a family was forced to leave the Reserve after they complained to management about the overly-restrictive policies.
     Under the proposed consent decree, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court of Kansas, the defendants will pay $60,000 to the family that initiated the original complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), $100,000 into a victim fund to compensate other aggrieved families and $10,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. In addition, the proposed consent decree prohibits the defendants from discriminating in the future against families with children and requires the defendants to receive training on the requirements of the FHA.

Human rights panel finds grounds for discrimination in Camden housing case

March 23, 2015
A divided Maine Human Rights Commission voted Monday morning that there were reasonable grounds to believe a Camden rental company refused to rent a home to a Bangor family because some members of the household were black.
     The commission voted 3-2 to find reasonable grounds against Megunticook Realty Corp. and co-owner Jeffrey Weymouth in a case filed by Shirley Kelderhouse and Shaun Patton of Bangor. The commission staff will now work with the two sides to reach a settlement. If none is reached, the commission will authorize Kelderhouse to file a civil lawsuit against the business and its owner.
     Co-owner Rosemary Weymouth said Monday after the vote that she and her husband would not settle the case.
     “I don’t believe in paying anything for something we didn’t do,” she said.


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