Center Files Federal Lawsuit Against National Tenant Screening Company

Arroyo v. CoreLogic seeks to establish precedent that screening companies must comply with Fair Housing Act

The Connecticut Fair Housing Center and the National Housing Law Project have filed a new lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut contending that CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions (“CoreLogic”) violates the Fair Housing Act by disproportionately disqualifying African-American and Latino applicants from securing housing based on discriminatory use of criminal records as rental criteria.Laptop with hands typing.

The lawsuit asserts that CoreLogic’s tenant screening tool denied a Connecticut mother’s request to move her disabled son into her apartment based on a record of a dismissed shoplifting arrest from 2014.  Although rental decisions have traditionally been made by housing providers, today many landlords contract with third-party tenant-screeners to make admission decisions for them.  This litigation seeks to ensure that CoreLogic and all tenant-screening companies who functionally make rental decisions on behalf of landlords make those decisions in accordance with fair housing requirements.

The chief plaintiff in the lawsuit is Carmen Arroyo, whose son Mikhail was injured in a July 2015 accident that left him unable to speak, walk, or care for himself.  After becoming his conservator, Carmen asked her landlord for permission to move Mikhail into her home.  But the “CrimSAFE” background report from CoreLogic stated that Mikhail had a “disqualifying [criminal] record,” denying him the opportunity to move in with his mother.

Given that Mikhail’s only “criminal record” was the dismissed charge from 2014 and that his recent disabilities rendered him incapable of posing a threat to anyone, Carmen might have been able to challenge the denial.  However, CoreLogic refused to provide the Arroyos a copy of the information it relied on to make the screening decision, information which they were entitled to receive under federal law.[1]  Nor did CoreLogic’s criminal background report provide any details about Mikhail’s underlying criminal history to the landlord—only a computer-generated notation that the application did not meet the landlord’s criteria.  Without this information, the Arroyos could not challenge Mikhail’s denial, so he remained in a nursing home for approximately a year longer than necessary.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits denying tenants on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability including practices and policies that unnecessarily disproportionately exclude members of a protected class.

Between 70 million and 100 million Americans have criminal records. Multiple studies have shown that across the country, African-Americans and Latinos are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated at disproportionate rates, even though whites report engaging in criminal behaviors (such as drug offenses, which account for over half of federal incarcerations) at similar rates to non-whites. [2],[3],[4],[5] This means policies which restrict admission for applicants with criminal records disproportionately deny housing opportunities to people of color.[6]  The federal government recognized this when HUD issued a 2016 guidance for landlords on how to evaluate criminal histories in accordance with the law.

This means that only criminal records which suggest an applicant poses a genuine and ongoing threat to persons or property should result in denial.[7]  HUD’s guidance specifically advises not to deny admission based on dismissed arrests – like Mr. Arroyo’s – or through “blanket prohibitions” that exclude applicants with any kind of criminal record without regard to the nature of the offense, how long ago it occurred, intervening changed circumstances, and other relevant factors.[8]

Instead, admissions processes should generally consider criminal records on a case-by-case basis.[9]   Automated criminal background checks with computer-generated scores and decisions—like CoreLogic’s “CrimSAFE”—are ill-suited to perform individualized assessments of applicant criminal history.  Tenant-screening software is programmed to apply standard rental admission criteria to criminal records data appearing in an applicant’s background check; the software does not evaluate whether an offense bears a meaningful relationship to housing, whether changed circumstances may significantly reduce the likelihood of an offense being repeated, or the myriad other possible factors that may relate to a criminal history admission decision.

Even so, automated tenant-screening methods—including for criminal history—are rapidly becoming the norm in rental admission screening.  Landlords commonly rely on the screening company’s determination of suitability, often—as with Carmen Arroyo’s landlord—not even receiving the underlying background information they would need to evaluate applicants individually.  Allowing computers to effectively make rental decisions will inevitably produce unjust denials for applicants like the Arroyos, whose circumstances do not fit neatly into pre-programmed screening algorithms.

A housing provider who blindly follows a screening company’s denial recommendations and has no viable process for individualized review or reconsideration thus follows a discriminatory policy under the Fair Housing Act.[10]  But the Fair Housing Act does not only apply to housing providers – it also covers individuals and companies who provide services in connection with housing, such as tenant-screening reports.[11]  When a tenant-screening company markets a criminal background report that contains only a bare “accept” or “decline” determination, and does not make underlying criminal history information available to allow a landlord to make an individualized assessment of a rejected applicant, the screening company’s “recommendation” is tantamount to the actual admission decision.

And if a tenant-screening company is going to make the actual decisions about who is admitted to housing and who is denied, then it’s important for that company to make those decisions within fair housing constraints, just as we expect landlords to do.

Ms. Arroyo and the Center, together with the National Housing Law Project, have brought an action seeking to hold CoreLogic accountable for its role in unlawfully denying housing to Mikhail Arroyo based on a discriminatory criminal records policy, and for failing to provide the Arroyos a copy of the criminal background report as required by federal law. This litigation seeks to ensure that CoreLogic and all tenant-screening companies follow fair housing requirements when they functionally make rental decisions on behalf of landlords make those decisions in accordance with fair housing requirements.

To read the Complaint, click here.

For questions about this case, please contact Greg Kirschner, Legal Director, at greg@ctfairhousing.org or (860) 263-0724.

 

[1] See 15 U.S.C. § 1681g(a) (“Every consumer reporting agency shall, upon request … clearly and accurately disclose to the consumer:  (1) All information in the consumer’s file at the time of the request…”).

[2] See, e.g., Alexander, Michelle, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010).

[3] See HUD, Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions, p. 2 (Apr. 4, 2016).

[4] Taxy, Sam, et al., “Drug Offenders in Federal Prison: Estimates of Characteristics Based on Linked Data,” p. 2 (Table 1), Bureau of Justice Statistics (2015).

[5] See HUD, Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions, p. 2 (Apr. 4, 2016).

[6] See HUD, Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions, p. 2 (Apr. 4, 2016).

[7] See HUD, Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions, p. 2 (Apr. 4, 2016).

[8] HUD, Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions, p. 6 (Apr. 4, 2016).

[9] Id. at 7 (“Relevant individualized evidence might include: the facts or circumstances surrounding the criminal conduct; the age of the individual at the time of the conduct; evidence that the individual has maintained a good tenant history before and/or after the conviction or conduct; and evidence of rehabilitation efforts.”).

[10] See 24 C.F.R. § 100.500(b) (defining “legally sufficient justification”); see also HUD, Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate Related Transactions, pp. 6-7 (Apr. 4, 2016).

[11] See 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a)(b) (unlawful “to discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin”) (italics added).

The Fight for Fair Housing Goes On

Earlier this year, the Center joined fair housing advocates across the country in marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.  Unfortunately, what should have been a year of celebrating progress has turned into a year of fighting to protect central provisions of this landmark civil rights law.  It is no exaggeration to say that fair housing is under attack in 2018.

The Fair Housing Act was enacted to do two things: first, to outlaw housing discrimination against individuals, and second, to reverse the effects of decades of discriminatory policies, practices, and institutions that caused extreme racial and economic housing segregation across the country.   The second part of the law has been its least-enforced component over the past fifty years.

However, during the Obama era there were several key administrative and legal decisions that had folks in the fair housing world feeling optimistic.  In 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) issued a final rule on “disparate impact,” formalizing its interpretation of the Fair Housing Act as “prohibiting practices with an unjustified discriminatory effect, regardless of whether there was an intent to discriminate.”  In 2015, the Supreme Court upheld this interpretation in its Inclusive Communities decision.  The same year, HUD released its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule to clarify communities’ obligations to promote integration, as required by that long under-enforced second piece of the FHA. Together, these changes represented the largest step forward on fair housing since the original law’s passage. Graphic of quote: "This work is hard, but we keep going." - Betsy Julian, Inclusive Communities Project, in her 2018 Loving Civil Rights Award Keynote Speech

Unfortunately, under the new administration, HUD has apparently decided to mark the Fair Housing Act’s anniversary by working to undo nearly all of this progress. In January, the agency announced that it was suspending communities’ obligation to comply with the AFFH rule for at least two years.  In May, there was a double-whammy when HUD announced first that it was reconsidering the 2013 Disparate Impact rule and second withdrawing the online tool created to help communities analyze segregation and comply with AFFH.  Then, just last week, the agency announced plans to further overhaul and weaken the AFFH rule.  A lawsuit filed against HUD by a coalition of fair housing advocates, which aimed to stop rollback of the AFFH rule, was dismissed by a federal judge late last week when the judge decided the fair housing groups lacked standing to challenge the rule. (For more, read this excellent summary of recent events by CityLab’s Kriston Capps).

Here in Connecticut, one of the most segregated states in the country, we’ve also had some recent setbacks.  In 2017, the legislature voted to weaken the state’s affordable housing statute, C.G.S. 8-30g, which requires municipalities to approve affordable housing proposals if less than 10% of their units are affordable and there are no health or safety issues. About 81% of Connecticut municipalities do not meet this modest threshold. The 2017 change makes it easier for these towns to avoid or put off new development.  “NIMBY”ism continues to thrive in our state – or at least it feels that way if you attend many local zoning board hearings on affordable housing.

 

It’s hard to find a bright spot in all of this, but fair housing advocates across the country are fighting back.  Our movement includes the nation’s top legal minds on fair housing and civil rights law.  From Washington, DC, to Texas, to New York, to communities across the country and here in Connecticut, we are committed to defending the Fair Housing Act in its entirety, and we won’t back down.  We will continue fighting in the courts, in state houses across the country and in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.  While there have been some recent disappointments in the courts, we’ve also seen some victories, like Open Communities Alliance et al vs Carson, where a judge ruled that HUD must implement a rule that will increase housing choice for voucher holders.  Senator Cory Booker and Rep. Maxine Waters have both introduced bills this year to advance fair housing and counter HUD’s regressive actions. More journalists are covering fair housing issues, raising public awareness like never before.

I also remain optimistic that we can move forward at the state and local levels. In 2017, under the leadership of CT Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein, the state formed its first-ever Fair Housing Working Group, a bipartisan group of legislators, housing and land use policy experts, fair housing advocates (including me), and developers.  In just a few short months, we developed a bill, HB 5045, aimed at requiring towns to develop inclusionary zoning to allow for affordable housing development in order to get state funding.  The bill didn’t pass this year, but transformative legislation like this almost never passes on the first or second try.  The Fair Housing Working Group will continue to push for policies that promote equal access to housing and opportunity.

We’re lucky that Connecticut is home to so many incredible fair housing champions: not only the Center (yes, we’re tooting our own horn!), but also legislators like Roland Lemar, public officials like Commissioner Klein, other nonprofit advocates like the Open Communities Alliance, the Connecticut Housing Coalition, the Partnership for Strong Communities, the Fair Housing Association of CT, and local organizations fighting for fair housing in their own communities.  Across the board, Connecticut’s federal elected officials are all fair housing supporters and have championed fair housing in Congress.

 

During times like these, it’s easy to feel powerless.  But working together, we can make Connecticut a place where all people have equal access to housing opportunities, free from discrimination.

Here are some ways you can fight for fair housing:

  • Become a YIMBY! (Yes In My Back Yard!): Pay attention to the housing talk in your town.  Attend zoning hearings on proposed affordable housing and let your town officials – and your neighbors – know that you support a variety of housing types in a variety of neighborhoods, and that you welcome all kinds of people.
  • Know your rights and report housing discrimination if it happens to you.  Often, a single case can reveal systemic issues that are impacting hundreds or even thousands of other people.
  • Do you work for a social service agency or other organization helping clients find housing? Host a fair housing training for staff at your organization.
  • When considering who to vote for in the next election, find out candidates’ positions on fair housing-related issues. Watch this blog and the Partnership for Strong Communities’ website for information on the affordable housing positions of the candidates for governor. The Connecticut Association of Realtors also plans to host a gubernatorial debate where housing will be discussed.
  • When the 2019 state legislative session opens, let your state senator and representatives know that you support affordable housing development in your district. (Find your legislators here.)
  • While our current federal delegation is supportive of fair housing issues, they’re juggling hundreds of different issues at a time. It can’t hurt to write to them to let them know that you support protecting fair housing rights and federal funding for fair housing enforcement and to thank them for their past support.
  • If you live in a city, watch for signs of gentrification which creates high-cost housing at the expense of housing for long-term residents and talk with your local elected officials about your concerns. Fight food deserts by advocating for grocery stores with healthy, affordable food.
  • Recent research reveals that addressing blighted properties and creating small “pocket parks” in densely populated areas with high crime rates creates a sense of community, reduces crime, and encourages community investment. Perhaps you can work with your neighbors to create a pocket park in your neighborhood.
  • Donate to nonprofit advocacy organizations fighting for fair housing.  Of course, we’d love it if you would donate to the Center, or any of the other organizations mentioned.

 

As the great Betsy Julian of Inclusive Communities Project said in her keynote speech at this year’s Loving Award Dinner, “This work is hard, but we keep going.”  Where we live is the foundation of everything else in our lives.  It determines where our children will go to school, the kinds of jobs we can get, even the water we drink and the air we breathe.  With so much at stake, there’s really no choice: we must keep going. Join us.

Center Joins NFHA & Co-Plaintiffs in Lawsuit Alleging Housing Discrimination by Bank of America

Earlier this week, the Center joined the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), 18 other fair housing organizations, and two Maryland homeowners in filing a lawsuit against Bank of America and Safeguard Properties Management alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit accuses Bank of America and Safeguard Properties of failing to maintain bank-owned properties in communities of color to the same level as their properties in white areas, amounting to discriminatory treatment that is illegal under federal fair housing law.

A rotted wooden porch railing, with view of yard in background showing trash on the ground.

One of the Bank of America-owned homes in New Haven.

For example, 45% of BOA-owned properties in communities of color had major maintenance problems – such as unkempt lawns, pests and rodents, boarded-up windows, and trash in the yard – compared with just 11% of the bank’s properties in white neighborhoods.  Their neglect affects property values, health & safety in these communities.

The lawsuit is the result of a multi-year investigation by NFHA and fair housing agencies across the country, including the Center. Together, we investigated more than 1,600 Bank of America-owned homes in working- and middle-class white, African-American, and Latino neighborhoods in 37 metropolitan areas nationwide, including in Connecticut.

Lisa Rice, the CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said, “Bank of America and Safeguard’s intentional failure to correct their discriminatory treatment in African American and Latino neighborhoods—the same communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis—is systemic racism. The purposeful neglect of bank-owned homes in communities of color devalues the properties and the lives of the families in the neighborhoods around them. The health and safety hazards created by these blighted bank-owned homes negatively affect the residents, especially the children, living nearby. We have asked Bank of America and Safeguard to provide the same standard of routine exterior maintenance and marketing for all of its bank-owned homes, regardless of the age, value, or racial composition of the neighborhood in which they are located.”

Other key findings from the investigation:

  • 64% of Bank of America properties in communities of color had trash or debris visible on the property, while only 31% of the bank’s properties in predominantly white neighborhoods had trash visible on the property.
  • 37% of Bank of America properties in communities of color had unsecured or broken doors, while only 16% of their properties in predominantly white neighborhoods had unsecured or broken doors.

Read the full details and view more photos from the investigation in NFHA’s press release. 

Read the Washington Post’s recent coverage of this case.

 

This post summarized and paraphrased a press release from the National Fair Housing Alliance.

2017 Annual Report Now Available

Cover of the 2017 Annual Report; woman standing in front of car, smiling with arms crossed.We are proud to share the Center’s 2017 Annual Report.  Thanks to your support, last year we continued our work to provide legal help to thousands of individuals facing housing discrimination and home foreclosure statewide while expanding our work to expose systemic discrimination and unfair practices in Connecticut’s housing markets.

In 2017, we processed nearly 1,200 calls from Connecticut residents reporting housing discrimination, facing home foreclosure, or dealing with related issues.  In this report, you’ll meet just a few of the clients we helped – clients like Rosa, who was denied housing when she was nine months pregnant because a landlord refused to accept her voucher, or Sheila, Don, and Sheri, whose housing providers refused to make reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, or Carolyn and Tim, whose mortgage servicer botched their loan modification and wrongly placed their home into foreclosure.

In addition to assisting individual clients, we continued our work to investigate and expose systemic fair housing and lending issues in Connecticut.  In September, we published the findings of an 18-month investigation into how zoning policies and the marketing and tenant selection policies of affordable housing providers contribute to segregation in the greater Hartford region.  We also concluded a research project on lending discrimination in the state, which found that many people of color continue to experience differential treatment when compared to whites when applying for mortgage loans.

We also continued our statewide education and outreach work to ensure that residents, community organizations, housing professionals, policymakers and others understand their rights and obligations under the fair housing laws.  In 2017, we directly trained nearly 1,000 people on the fair housing laws and distributed over 12,000 copies of our educational brochures, guides, reports, and other materials across the state.

We hope you will take a few minutes to read through our 2017 Annual Report and learn more about our accomplishments last year.   This work would not have been possible without your support.  Thank you.

To stay up-to-date on our work throughout the year, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@ctfairhousing) and sign up for our email list (scroll down to the bottom of this page for the sign-up form!).  Want to support the Center’s work in 2018 and beyond?  Please donate here.

Download the 2017 Annual Report here.

 

 

Courant Editorial Highlights Need for Continued Foreclosure Help in CT

House with a front porchDespite the fact that foreclosures have declined since the height of the housing crisis a decade ago, Connecticut still has the 5th highest number of foreclosures in the nation.

 

 

An editorial in today’s Hartford Courant states:

Foreclosures haven’t ended, sadly. More people will lose their homes without this remarkable service.

The program was set up to “prevent preventable foreclosures,” in the words of Jeff Gentes, a lawyer with the Connecticut Fair Housing Center. It helps those who have fallen behind in mortgage payments work out a solution with lenders without having to learn arcane property law, he says. […]

The state provides mediators who guide borrowers through the document-gathering phase and meetings with lenders. […]

One indication of the program’s success is that 73 percent of the borrowers who go through it do end up keeping their homes. Often the mediator helps them negotiate a loan modification so they get a lower interest rate and more time to pay the debt.

During the last year, the Center has been contacted by seniors, people with disabilities, and others who have lived in their homes for years asking for help to stop a foreclosure.  When the Center assures the family that the Foreclosure Mediation Program can help them determine if there is a way to prevent foreclosure or alternatively, to provide a graceful exit there is an almost audible sigh of relief.  Unfortunately, the program is scheduled to end (“sunset”) in mid-2019 unless the legislature extends it or makes it permanent.

Removing the sunset provision and keeping the foreclosure mediation program alive for the thousands of Connecticut homeowners who still need it will help prevent homelessness and save the state money in the long run.

Read the full Courant editorial. 

Learn more about the Center’s work to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

 

Coded Language in Response to Affordable Housing Bill

I was driving home and listening to our state legislators debate an additional amendment to H.B. 5045, An Act Establishing Accountability for Fair and Affordable Housing through Zoning Regulations, and what I heard made my heart sink.

The bill was proposed by the Fair Housing Working Group, a bipartisan group of legislators, housing and land use policy experts, fair housing advocates (including our Executive Director), and developers formed last fall under the leadership of CT Dept. of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein.

The bill’s original intention was to enforce current state law which requires every municipality to permit the development of multifamily housing to help integrate our neighborhoods. Currently, twenty municipalities in Connecticut do not permit any multifamily housing anywhere in their towns.  Arguably, many more have a written provision for inclusion, but often any proposed multifamily development never materializes past the planning stage, unable to get planning and zoning approval.  All of the towns without multifamily zones are disproportionately White.

The bill does not require towns to develop multifamily housing, and it does not even require any multifamily housing developed to be deed restricted as affordable. The bill only requires municipalities to include provisions for multifamily housing (either by right or special permitting process) – something that has already been a requirement for twenty-five years!

However, the law currently on the books has no real consequences for municipalities that choose not to comply.  The main difference in this new bill would have been the inclusion of an enforcement measure: towns who do not allow multifamily housing development could lose state discretionary funding.

Unfortunately, long before the vote, the debate was already focused on the removal of any such enforcement measure.

One representative described the bill as “draconian,” while another explained that the bill “would make it impossible to maintain the character of his town.” Given that multifamily housing is the least expensive way of promoting integration, it is clear that there is limited political will to move in this direction. The debate on H.B. 5054 suggests that some Connecticut leaders believe that making all 169 municipalities in our state available to everyone is a cruel directive to impose on the communities that have ignored the current law for twenty-five years. It suggests that rural areas should only be made available to individuals and families who have the economic means to purchase homes, and that the preferred “character” of these communities means excluding diversity.

I often say that we need to remember that people write policy, and that policy does not write itself.  People make decisions that determine how we develop Connecticut, and the debate among our state representatives was extremely disheartening, and clearly indicated why we remain an extremely segregated state.

Don’t miss this year’s Loving Civil Rights Award Dinner!

It’s hard to believe that this year is the Center’s 10th annual Mildred & Richard Loving Civil Rights Award Dinner!  Whether you’ve been coming since the beginning or you’re thinking about joining us for the first time, here are a few frequently asked questions about this annual event:

What’s with the long name? 

Mildred and Richard Loving - Man with arm around woman

Mildred and Richard Loving

In 1958, just five weeks after they were married, Mildred and Richard Loving were arrested in their Virginia home in the middle of the night.  Their crime? Living together as an interracial couple.  A judge gave them a choice: go to jail or leave the state of Virginia.  They chose the latter, leaving behind friends and family and the close-knit community where they’d spent their entire lives.  It was the ultimate form of housing discrimination.  For years, the Lovings lived in exile in Washington, D.C., barred from even visiting their hometown.  They started a family of their own and tried to move on, but never stopped dreaming of the day they could return home.

By the mid-1960s, the Civil Rights Movement was making national headlines, and Mildred Loving was inspired to write to Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask for help.  He directed her to the ACLU, which took on the Lovings’ case – eventually all the way to the Supreme Court.  The landmark 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia effectively overturned bans on interracial marriage in 16 states.

Like most of the clients we serve here at the Center, the Lovings were regular people who never intended to become civil rights activists.  They simply wanted to live their lives together in the place they chose to call home.  But thanks to their courage and persistence, they not only won the right to move back home to Virginia, but ensured that no other family in America would face the same kind of discrimination – at least not legally – again.  It seemed quite fitting to name our annual civil rights award after them.

Learn more about the Lovings in the Oscar-nominated 2016 feature film or the 2012 documentary by 2014 Loving honoree, Susie Ruth Powell.

 

Two women smiling, holding a length of raffle tickets

Be sure to get your House of Wine tickets at the dinner!

Where does my money go?

All proceeds from the Loving Award Dinner benefit the Center’s work to ensure that all people have equal access to housing opportunities in Connecticut, free from discrimination.  When you register for the dinner, bid on our live auction items (more on those in a minute), buy a roll of tickets for a chance to win our House of Wine ($20 gets you an arm’s length of tickets to win 50 bottles!), or donate in other ways throughout the night, you’re helping us to:

  • Provide information and free legal assistance to over 1,100 Connecticut residents each year facing housing discrimination or home foreclosure – people like Towanna, Natalie, Charles, Mavis, and so many others.   We continue to see housing discrimination against people with disabilities, people of color, families with children, people with housing vouchers, and other protected groups every day, in every corner of the state.  CT’s foreclosure rate remains in the top 10 in the country.
  • Conduct research, testing, and analysis to assess systemic barriers to fair housing in Connecticut’s housing markets, and we challenge those barriers when we uncover them.
  • Provide education and outreach on the fair housing laws to thousands of residents, housing providers, social service providers, and others, and organize foreclosure prevention clinics statewide.
  • Advocate for policies and practices that protect equal access to housing, defend homeowners’ rights, and promote integrated, inclusive communities.

 

Two women hold bid numbers in the air at an auction.

What will you bid on this year?

What will I see in this year’s auction?

If you’ve attended in past years, you’ll find a mix of old favorites and new items to bid on!   Here are just a few:

  • Winner’s Choice – Authentic Mexican Dinner for 8 in Your Home *OR* Mexican Cooking Class in Your Kitchen!
  • Family ticket pack to Hershey Park + $250 gift card towards your lodging or meals!
  • Champagne Brunch in a Treehouse – a perennial favorite!
  • Family Fun packages – sporting events, museum memberships, ski passes, and more!
  • Local Theater & Dinner Packages
  • And more unique and fun items!

Plus, don’t forget about our famous House of Wine – a chance to win a hand-selected mix of 50 reds and whites, enough to stock your wine cellar (everyone has one of those, right?) for a year… or maybe just for the summer – we won’t judge.

 

Who’s being honored this year?

Betsy Julian

Betsy Julian, 2018 Loving Award honoree

This year, we’re commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.   Because this work is far from over, our 2018 honorees are continuing the fight for fair housing today.

  • Betsy Julian is our 2018 Loving Civil Rights Award recipient.  In 2015, her organization, Inclusive Communities Project, won one of the most important fair housing cases to reach the Supreme Court in years.  The decision ruled that policies which even inadvertently cause racial segregation or negatively impact a protected class – such as when a city concentrates all of its affordable housing in a neighborhood of color (“disparate impact”) – are illegal under the Fair Housing Act.  This landmark ruling will help to fully realize the original goals of the Fair Housing Act to not only prevent individual housing discrimination but also address the decades of systemic discrimination that led to segregated communities across the country–paving the way for more integrated communities that welcome all people.  Ms. Julian will also be this year’s keynote speaker.  Read more about the Inclusive Communities case here.
  • CT Dept. of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein and State Rep. Roland Lemar are the recipients of this year’s Edward M. Kennedy Legislative Advocacy Award.  They are co-chairs of the state’s new Fair Housing Working Group, bipartisan group of legislators, housing policy experts, fair housing advocates (including the Center) and developers formed in September 2017. The goal of the working group is to help remove systemic barriers to fair housing choice that have been in place for decades.  Under the leadership of Commissioner Klein and Rep. Lemar, the working group has already sent multiple proposals to the state’s general assembly aimed at improving accountability and enforcement for fair and affordable housing policy, promoting inclusionary zoning and supporting transit-oriented development.  The group will continue its work and hopes to address more systemic barriers to fair housing choice in the future.
  • Open Communities Alliance (OCA), Crystal Carter, and Tiara Moore are the recipients of one of this year’s Empowering Communities Awards.  In October 2017, they were co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against HUD after it suspended its Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) Rule, which had been adopted in 2016.  The rule was designed to give families with housing choice vouchers greater access to higher-opportunity neighborhoods and promote residential integration.  The previous formula for calculating the value of housing vouchers had “effectively confined low income families to under-resourced neighborhoods by capping rents using a regional ‘average’ rent,” according to OCA.  The new rule was created to provide voucher holders with access to a wider range of housing options outside of segregated areas, by instead using average rents within zip codes to calculate the vouchers’ value.  In December, a federal judge ordered HUD to implement the SAFMR rule as of January 1st of this year.  The Center applauds  this important win, which will promote integration and give low-income families across the country greater access to opportunity. We especially recognize the courage of Ms. Carter and Ms. Moore, voucher holders directly impacted by the new rule, in standing up not only for their own fair housing rights, but for the rights of housing choice voucher holders across the country.
  • The Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library is the other Empowering Communities Award recipient this year.  The HHC provided invaluable assistance to the Center when we were developing our Fair Housing Tour of Hartford, an educational project of the Center that takes participants on a bus tour of Hartford to see the way policies and decisions over the past 100 years created the segregated region we see today.  Without access to the HHC’s treasure trove of Hartford photos, maps, and records, and help from their expert staff, the Center would not have been able to bring this project to life.

We guarantee you’ll leave feeling inspired to keep fighting for the rights of all people to live where they choose, free from discrimination because of who they are.

Crowd of people in a ballroom

Join us May 10th at the Bond Ballroom!

That all sounds great.  But what is there to eat?

This year, we’re excited to be able to offer new menu choices:

  • Flatiron Steak with Demi Glaze
  • Chicken Artichoke
  • Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa
  • Stuffed Portabello Mushroom w/Spinach & Boursin

…All served with warm bread, a mesclun greens salad with poached pears, feta, and balsamic, scalloped potatoes with caramelized onions, grilled asparagus, and in case you’re still hungry, New York cheesecake with cherries & whipped cream.  Yum!  Feel free to let us know about any allergies or dietary restrictions when you register.

A cash bar will be available throughout the event, or you can just wait to take home the House of Wine (good luck!).

 

Learn more about this year’s Loving Dinner and register here by May 4th!  Hurry, seats are filling up fast and tickets won’t be sold at the door!  

More questions about this year’s event, or prefer to register by phone?  Call Letty Ortiz at 860-247-4400.  

A Home to Call Our Own

Stacks of boxes in an office

Packing up our old office at 221 Main Street

It’s moving day!

For nearly 25 years, the Center has worked to ensure that everyone in Connecticut has equal access to the housing of their choice. Now, for the first time, we have a home to call our own!

Today, the Center is moving out of our longtime Hartford office at 221 Main Street and into our very own building at 60 Popieluszko Court (don’t worry – it’s going to take us a while to remember how to spell it, too).

 

The Center's building at 60 Popieluszko Court. A 3-story brick building.

Our new home at 60 Popieluszko Court, Hartford

It may be just around the corner, but this move is a huge change for the Center.  When we moved into our previous office nearly twenty years ago, the Center had a staff of three.  Today, we have a staff of fifteen and reach thousands of Connecticut residents each year.  Our conference room couldn’t fit our entire staff, and we had nowhere to host trainings or community events.  Now, we’ll have the space we need to meet with clients privately, host fair housing and foreclosure prevention classes, and yes, even sit together for those monthly staff meetings!

 

 

We’re proud to make this investment in Hartford’s vibrant Sheldon/Charter Oak neighborhood and excited to be a part of the ongoing redevelopment of the old Capewell Horse Nail Factory complex.  (Update: thanks to Ken Gosselin from the Hartford Courant for covering the building purchase!).

The new office opens on Monday, April 23rd. Here’s to the next chapter of the Center’s work!

 

Want to see our new home and learn about what’s in store for the Center’s future?  We’ll be hosting an Open House on Thursday, June 7th from 5:30-7:30pm.  Join us!  

 

P.S. – Are you a first-time homebuyer, too?  Download our free Moving Forward Homebuyers’ Guide to learn everything you need to know to buy a home and protect your fair housing and lending rights in the process.

Executive Director on the 50th Anniversary of the FHA in CT Mirror’s Sunday Conversation

The Center’s Executive Director, Erin Kemple, was interviewed for The CT Mirror‘s Sunday Conversation this week, discussing where we are fifty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act. Here are a few key quotes from the interview:

“The Fair Housing Act was passed to do two things: One was to outlaw discrimination, and the second was to promote integration. And it’s the promoting integration part that we have not made much headway in. If you look at the statistics, Connecticut is one of the most segregated areas in the country. Bridgeport is number four. When you look at white-Latino segregation, Hartford’s number seven. And all of Connecticut ranks in the top 10 percent for white-black segregation. […]

We have done a study, and it’s on our website, that shows that African-Americans who are high income, African-Americans making over $170,000 a year, are denied mortgages at twice the rate of whites making less than $70,000 dollars a year. So it’s not just about the money. And certainly when we do fair-housing testing, it’s not just about the numbers, and it’s not just about the money. We’re finding consistently that the African-Americans are not quoted the same mortgage rates as white people.  […]

We did some testing where we just had people walk into a bank branch. It was in an all-white neighborhood. A Latina says, ‘I’m on my lunch hour. I just need some information about what kinds of loans you have. Do you have anything in writing?’

‘No, we don’t do loans in this branch. You need to go to this other branch. We don’t have any information here.’

A white tester goes in about a half hour later. They have written information. They have offered to call a loan officer so that she can set up an appointment, and they are encouraging her. […]

We are segregated. We have housing, especially affordable housing, placed where it is because of decisions that were made by the government, by local governments, federal and state governments. So they are the ones that have to fix this, and this is why the zoning [legislation] that the governor was talking about [Wednesday at a celebration of the 50th anniversary] is so important. It is putting the onus back on the cities and the towns to open up their communities to people other than the people who have always lived there or who live there now.”

 

Read the rest of Erin Kemple’s interview with The CT Mirror here.

Special thanks to Mark Pazniokas from The CT Mirror for taking the time to chat with Erin.

Governor Malloy Proclaims April 11th “Fair Housing Day”

Executive Director Erin Kemple accepting “Fair Housing Day” Proclamation from Governor Malloy

In front of a small and dedicated bipartisan group of legislators, state officials, and fair housing advocates, Governor Dannel Malloy proclaimed today, April 11th, to be recognized as “Fair Housing Day” in the state of Connecticut. The proclamation commemorated the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act.   Upon accepting the proclamation, the Center’s Executive Director, Erin Kemple, explained that the discriminatory practices and policies of our past continue today, pointing out that “high income families of color are denied mortgages at twice the rate of low income white families.”  She also noted that discriminatory practices in housing today are typically not as overt as they were at the time of the FHA’s passage, but are now often cloaked in different dress. 

 

The Governor answered questions from the press about HB 5045, the bill he proposed this year that would promote housing choice and ensure local accountability by attaching municipalities’ access to discretionary funds to their compliance with fair housing and inclusionary zoning regulations.  Some reporters questioned whether attaching zoning to discretionary funding is going to be a “hard sell” for lawmakers. Governor Malloy explained that municipalities in Connecticut have had fifty years to do the right thing, and the requirements of C.G.S. 8-2 have been in place for 27 years. It is time for communities to follow the requirements. The Center provided written testimony in support of H.B. 5045.

 

Fifty years since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, Connecticut remains one the most segregated states in our country. Ending housing segregation and enforcing the Fair Housing Act is the work we are all proud to do at the Center. Today reminds us all that there is still so much work to do.

 

Read the Governor’s press release about today’s event here.

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