Greater Baltimore Community Housing Resource Board, Inc. (GBCHRB).................................................August, 2007 / Vol.1, No. 4

 

 FAIR HOUSING NEWS

 

      A newsletter about fair housing, community development, & neighborhood quality of life

 

 

 

SUMMER GREETINGS!

 

Welcome to Fair Housing News!, a newsletter produced by the GBCHRB as a public service.  Contact us for a free copy of any article or if you would like this e-mailed to you: 410-453-9500 / 800-895-6302 / mail@gbchrb.org.  More info/resources: http://www.gbchrb.org.

 

IN THE NATIONAL NEWS

 

Spotlight on Lending...

Study Finds High-Cost Lending is Targeted at Minorities; Baltimore-Towson Area Ranks Poorly.  The study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) found that higher income does not help minorities.  In fact, the study discovered racial differences in lending increase as income levels increase.  In 167 metro areas, middle and upper-income African Americans were found to be twice as likely as similar whites to receive high-cost loans.  Low and moderate-income African-Americans were twice as likely as their white counterparts to receive high-cost loans in only 70 metro areas.  The study "Income is No Shield Against Racial Differences in Lending: A Comparison of High-Cost Lending in America's Metropolitan Areas" was released July 10, 2007.  In overall rank, of the 115 metros, Baltimore-Towson was 83rd - only 32 had worse records.  Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Frederick was slightly better at 75th. 

            To combat these problems, NCRC recommends: "Community groups and financial institutions should engage in more partnerships to devise counseling programs and lending products that are fairly priced and affordable for minorities and working class Americans. Congress must pass a comprehensive anti-predatory law that prohibits steering or price discrimination and that outlaws a range of equity-stripping and abusive practices. Senator Schumer’s bill (S. 1299 or the Borrower’s Protection Act of 2007) is an excellent start for an anti-predatory lending bill. Congress must also pass the Community Reinvestment Modernization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1289) that would strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and thus encourage more prime or market rate lending to minorities. Finally, federal and state regulatory agencies must significantly bolster the rigor of their anti-predatory and fair lending enforcement."  (http://www.ncrc.org, July 10, 2007)

 

HUD Settles Complaint Against First Indiana Bank, N.A., for Refusing to Make Loans in Baltimore, D. C., & Philadelphia; HUD Creates New Lending Division.  The agreement resolves a complaint filed in 2007 by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition that the bank discriminated on the bases of national origin and race by refusing to make loans on row houses or for less than $100,000 on any property.  NCRC contended that the bank's lending practices discriminated against Hispanics and African Americans because row houses valued under $100,000 are more heavily concentrated in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods.  (http://www.hud.gov/news/release.cfm?content=pr07-080.cfm)  HUD's new Fair Lending Division will "investigate discrimination complaints against lenders who have allegedly violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to make mortgage loans, refusing to provide the same information regarding loans, or imposing different terms or conditions for granting a loan, such as factors based on the race or national origin of the borrower.  The division will also conduct investigations where lending patterns or other information suggests discrimination by a lender, but no individual has come forward to file a complaint.  In addition, the division will conduct HUD's fair lending oversight of the Government-Sponsored Enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to ensure their underwriting policies and practices comply with fair lending laws."  (http://www.hud.gov/news/release.cfm?content=pr07-103.cfm, July 11, 2007)

 

Democrats Urge New Mortgage Lending Regulations.  Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) just proposed a package of regulations requiring additional disclosure by mortgage brokers, limit their ability to set lending terms, compel brokers to state their fees in plain language, require full disclosure of monthly tax and insurance costs for subprime loans, and outlaw prepayment penalties for all home mortgages.  Former Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina) has proposed establishing a bailout fund to assist homeowners facing foreclosure and easing bankruptcy rules for those in danger of losing their homes.  Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, has held hearings about predatory lending.  (http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2007/08/07/democrats-raise-heat-on-mortgage-overhaul; Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2007:A2)

 

Minnesota ACORN Educates About Predatory Loans.  With the nation’s strongest laws against predatory lending taking effect in Minnesota Aug. 1, a delegation from Minnesota ACORN visited the national headquarters of GMAC, ResCap, and Homecomings Financial to share with them the requirements spelled out in the ACORN-backed new legislation, and to demand a three-month moratorium on foreclosures and a reassessment of predatory mortgages held by ACORN families in Minnesota and Denver.  According to the law, mortgage brokers in Minnesota will now be required to act in customers’ best interests, and lenders are prohibited from issuing mortgages that borrowers cannot repay.  The Minnesota laws ban prepayment penalties on subprime loans among other consumer protections.  The Minnesota law is among the first formidable legislative responses to the nation’s ongoing foreclosure crisis, and is being used as a model for federal legislation.  (http://www.acorn.org, )

 

National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) Urges Protections Against Abusive Lending.  The NCRC called on the Federal Reserve to use its authority under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act.  Bank regulatory agencies estimate that almost two million families face foreclosure or financial chaos when interest rates on their adjustable rate mortgages reset and soar higher in 2007 and 2008.  The NCRC favors passage of the Borrower's Protection Act of 2007 (S. 1299) by Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York), which would include appraisers and brokers under tougher anti-predatory rules.  (http://www.ncrc.org, June 13, 2007)

 

 

Also in the National News...

 

Housing Segregation Growing, Says Study by National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA).  The study found that more than 3.7 million Fair Housing violations occur annually.  HUD issued but 34 "charges" of discrimination in 2006.  With 40 housing attorneys, the Department of Justice filed only 31 Fair Housing cases in 2006 & 42 in 2005, down from 53 in 2001.  Two-thirds of Fair Housing complaints - 17,347 of the 27,706 - were processed by private centers in 2006.  Shanna Smith, NFHA executive director, commented: “Contrary to the rosy portraits painted by some who extol America as a land of unbridled opportunity, the facts are unequivocal: our cities remain segregated - indeed hypersegregated - thanks in large part to individual and systemic racial discrimination in our nation’s housing markets and the lack of political will to intervene and stop these practices.”  A copy of the NFHA's 2007 Fair Housing Trends Report is available at http://www.nationalfairhousing.org.

 

Interfaith Clergy Website Formed to Support New Federal Hate Crimes Bill; Bill in Limbo in Senate.  Located at http://www.ClergyAgainstHate.org, the site is a project of religious groups including the Interfaith Alliance (TIA), the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA), and the Religious Action Center (RAC).   "Endorsement of this bill by faith leaders is especially important because opponents have all-too often implied that the legislation is hostile to religion.  The voices of a broad range of clergymen and women who preach that tolerance, acceptance, and kindness are essential religious values are needed more than ever," said Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel at RAC.  The gay and transgender inclusive bill will stay stalled in the U. S. Senate until at least September, and could delay longer, according to http://www.civilrights.org.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she will bring another gay rights bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to the House floor for a vote in September, 2007.  This bill would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  (http://www.civilrights.org, August 7, 2007)

 

National Housing Trust Fund Moves Closer to Passage.  On July 31st, legislation strongly supported by the National Low Income Housing Coalition to establish a National Housing Trust Fund (H. R. 2895) was reported out of the House Financial Services Committee.  The Fund - which would not depend on annual appropriations - would be focused on the production and preservation of rental housing affordable to extremely-low-income renting families.  Funds would be directed from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration.  The bill will be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives sometime in September.  (http://www.nlihc.org, August 3, 2007)

 

US Department of Justice Settles Pennsylvania Apartment Lawsuit.  In Pennsylvania, DOJ filed a consent order settling a case where six apartment complexes were designed & constructed without proper access.  The order requires extensive retrofitting, including widening doorways, removing steps, & adding new accessible sidewalks & curb ramps, replacing round door knobs with lever hardware, moving light switches & thermostats to accessible heights, and reconfiguring kitchens & bathrooms.  (http://www.doj.gov, July 19, 2007)

 

Commemorating 17th Anniversary of the Passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the US Department of Justice Signs Two Civic Access Agreements with New Orleans.  This is part of DOJ's national Project Civic Access directed at getting all local governmental entities to comply with the ADA, including emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.  (http://www.doj.gov, July 26, 2007)

 

Federal Legislation Introduced to Triple Funding for Fair Housing Initiatives.  Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) proposed the Housing Fairness Act of 2007, which would increase Fair Housing Initiatives Program funding, include funding for HUD to conduct national testing & housing discrimination investigations, & authorize HUD to conduct a national media campaign.  Similar legislation will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas).  This legislation follows a letter by Durbin & nine other Senators requesting the inclusion of $26 million for the FHIP in FY2008.  (http://www.knowledgeplex.org; States News Service, June 29, 2007)

 

 

DID YOU KNOW?

 

The Website of Thurgood Marshall Law Library Offers Historic Civil Rights Historical Publications & Baltimore Civil Rights Info.  The Thurgood Marshall Law Library, University of Maryland School of Law, has been scanning hundreds of publications provided by the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights into digital form.  The documents are accessible at: http://www.law.maryland.edu/marshall/usccr/index.asp.  The project is a partnership between the Commission, the Library, and the U. S. Government Printing Office.  The collection includes a timeline of Baltimore civil rights events, additional reading resources, and a focus on Hairspray.

 

Antero Pietila Writes a Very Informative Column in the Baltimore Examiner, Occasionally Treating Civil Rights Issues.  For example, in his June 20th "When Jim Crow Played in Baltimore," Pietila relates some history of segregated music venues in Baltimore.  Always worth reading.  (Baltimore Examiner, June 20, 2007:19; http://www.examiner.com/baltimore)

 

Contact the GBCHRB for FREE Fair Housing Info, Brochures, & Posters in English, Spanish, Korean, and Russian.   We have brochures, Self-Help Guides to Fair Housing for individual counties, curricula for renting & buying housing, and much more!  Quantities available for no charge!  Contact us at: 410-453-9500 / 800-895-6302 / mail@gbchrb.org.

 

The GBCHRB's Neighborhood Beat TV Show Is on Cable Stations Across Maryland! Hosted by Dr. Bill Kladky, the 30-minute interview show runs in Baltimore City, the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Calvert, St. Mary's, Talbot, Prince George's, and Montgomery, and the City of Takoma Park.  Call 410-453-9500 for days and times - or for a copy of a show.

 

 

INTERESTING BOOKS

 

Here are two of the National Fair Housing Advocate's recommendations for the disability aspects of housing discrimination law (http://www.fairhousing.com):

 

Digest of Cases and Other Resources on Fair Housing for People with Disabilities by Michael G. Allen.  Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, 2003.  Lists and analyzes the most significant fair housing decisions in 35 states, territories and all federal circuits and cites sources for and commentaries on fair housing laws. 93 pp.  (http://www.bazelon.org/publications/housing/index.html)

 

What "Fair Housing" Means for People with Disabilities by Michael G. Allen.  Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, 2003.  Updated edition of the Bazelon Center's popular booklet explaining in plain language how three federal laws protect the housing rights of people with mental or physical disabilities. 48 pp.

 

 

REST IN PEACE

 

Parren J. Mitchell, Congressman & Rights Leader, 85.  Once described as "one of God's angry men," Mitchell was the first African-American elected to Congress from Maryland and a leader in civil rights in our state.  After winning a suit, Mitchell was the first black graduate student at the University of Maryland at College Park, and was director of two state human relations committees.  After being elected to Congress in 1970, he led the Congressional Black Caucus and fought for programs to aid minority-owned business.  Mitchell was among the first in Congress to urge Vietnam War withdrawal and to call for Nixon's resignation.  (New York Times, May 30, 2007:A19; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parren_Mitchell)