Landmark Civil Rights Decision

Federal Court Holds Tenant-Screening Services Must Comply with Fair Housing Act

On Monday, March 25, 2019 we received a landmark civil rights decision in our case against CoreLogic. In April of 2018 we filed suit with the National Housing Law Project alleging CrimSafe (CoreLogic’s tenant screening tool) discriminated on the basis of race, national origin, and disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act, after our client, a disabled Latino man with no criminal convictions was disqualified from moving in with his mother. The court rejected CoreLogic’s motion to dismiss, and held that because companies like CoreLogic functionally make rental admission decisions for landlords that use their services, they must make those decisions in accordance with fair housing requirements.  As automated decisions by third-party screening companies are rapidly becoming the norm, this ruling has significant implications for landlords, renters and the entire screening industry.

Over the past year, staff at the Center have worked on the Commission of Equity and Opportunity’s Re-Entry Task to propose legislation to reduce the barriers to housing encountered by individuals returning home from incarceration. Throughout this session in the Connecticut General Assembly the Center has advocated alongside the ACLU’s Smart Justice Campaign for legislative reforms to tenant screening processes. We are honored to contribute this decision to the greater cannon of civil rights work that is being done by so many Fair Housing advocates in Connecticut.

Please help us celebrate this victory at our Fair Housing Month reception at the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, April 3rd, 5 pm -7pm in the first floor atrium. https://www.ctfairhousing.org/registerlob/

Read the full press release that includes links to our complaint and the court’s decision. CFHC v. Corelogic MTD March 2019

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.

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.

 

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.

New Display at the Capitol Highlights Fair Housing Milestones

Posters about Fair Housing on the wall at the Legislative Office Building

Every April, in honor of Fair Housing Month, the Center curates a display about fair housing for Connecticut’s Legislative Office Building to educate legislators, staff, and the many advocates, students, and visitors who pass through the Capitol buildings on a daily basis.

 

 

Because 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, we decided that this year’s display would focus on the significance of this seminal piece of legislation, highlighting the events that led to its passage as well as some events that have occurred since Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law back on April 11, 1968.  We created a timeline covering 100 years of history to explain how policies and seminal court decisions created and maintain the segregated neighborhoods we see across Connecticut today.

 

For example, you may know that the 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (better known as the G.I. Bill) helped to create the largest middle class in the nation’s history after World War II.  This legislation helped millions of returning veterans attend college and buy homes, building wealth that would be passed down to future generations.

Posters about fair housing history at the Legislative Office Building concourse

However, many people don’t realize that African-American veterans were left out of the bill’s most powerful benefits.  While White veterans took advantage of new low-interest mortgage loans to buy homes in the growing suburbs, many Black veterans were unable to obtain mortgages because banks wouldn’t lend to them or underwrite loans in non-white neighborhoods, a practice called redlining that was backed by the federal government.  In fact, banks even refused to lend to White families who wanted to buy homes in diverse neighborhoods.  Black veterans who could obtain mortgages were often blocked from buying in white neighborhoods because of racially restrictive covenants, racial steering by real estate agents, and other discriminatory practices.

The rest of the display highlights similar policies, practices, and court cases that shaped neighborhoods in Connecticut and across the country – for better or for worse – all the way up to the present day.

 

Congratulations to our 2018 Student Poster Contest Finalists!

The display also includes a look at the future of fair housing from the finalists of our annual Fair Housing Poster Contest. Students in 6th – 12th grades from schools across Connecticut submitted artwork that reflected this year’s theme: Choice. Mobility. Equity.  Their artwork is fantastic!   This year’s finalists are:6 colorful posters, finalists in the Fair Housing poster contest, hanging on a wall in the Legislative Office Building

Joe Barberi, Norwich Technical High School

Ashley Edmund, Norwich Technical High School

Dewlys Maldondo, Hartford Trinity College Academy

Outdam Nuon, Norwich Technical High School

Marysabel Rivera, Connecticut River Academy

Yeji Yang, Northwest Catholic High School

 

The winners will be announced at the end of April.

The Center’s Fair Housing Month display can be viewed on the Lower Concourse between the Capitol and the LOB now through April 13th.  If you find yourself in Hartford, we encourage you to stop by and take a look!

Want more Fair Housing history?  Check out the National Fair Housing Alliance’s interactive 50th anniversary timeline of the Fair Housing Act.  Interested in what happened closer to home?  Find out about the Center’s Fair Housing Tour of Hartford!

 

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