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

A Historic Fair Lending Settlement for Connecticut Residents

The Center is delighted to announce the settlement of the fair lending complaint against Liberty Bank. This historic settlement will bring more than $16 million dollars in access to credit, homeownership subsidies, and economic development loans into low and moderate income communities of color. Many of these communities have not had access to credit for home buying or for home repairs. Furthermore, small businesses have not had access to credit or capital to spur economic development in these communities. Included in the settlement, Liberty Bank will open a loan production office in a neighborhood that continues to be underserved by banking institutions.

We look forward to working with our partners in the communities that will be affected by this settlement to ensure its success. We applaud Liberty’s commitment of time, energy and resources to a wide range of programs that will help promote financial education, expand opportunities for access to credit, and financially support programs developed to revitalize the housing market in communities in Connecticut that have traditionally had difficulty accessing credit.

Our congratulations to Center staff, Attorney David Lavery and Fair Housing Specialist Maria Cuerda who worked the case. We are grateful for their commitment to pursuing fair lending practices across Connecticut in all communities regardless of race or national origin.

See coverage in today’s Hartford Courant 

Read the full press release here. Press Release Final – CFHC v Liberty Bank

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.

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