Greater Baltimore Community Housing Resource Board, Inc. (GBCHRB)                      December, 2007 / Vol.1, No. 6 

 FAIR HOUSING NEWS

 

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

 

 

 

GREETINGS!

 

Welcome to this edition of 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 regularly e-mailed to you: 410-453-9500 / 800-895-6302 / mail@gbchrb.org.  More info/resources: http://www.gbchrb.org.

 

 

NATIONAL NEWS

 

Mortgage Lending News.....

 

In Early November, the Mortgage Reform And Anti Predatory Lending Act Of 2007, Aimed at Combating Abuses In the Mortgage Lending Market & Provide Basic Protections to Mortgage Consumers & Investors, Cleared Rep. Barney Frank's House Financial Services Committee Supported by Nine Republicans.  Reps. Brad Miller (D-NC), Mel Watt (D-NC), and Barney Frank (D-MA) were the co-sponsors.   H.R. 3915, “The Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007,” will reform mortgage practices: (1) the bill will establish a federal duty of care, prohibit steering, and call for licensing and registration of mortgage originators, including brokers and bank loan officers; (2) it will set a minimum standard for all mortgages that borrowers must have a reasonable ability to repay; (3) it attaches limited liability to secondary market securitizers who package and sell interest in home mortgage loans outside of the standards, but individual investors in these would not be liable, and (4) the bill expands and enhances consumer protections for “high-cost loans” under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act and includes protections for renters of foreclosed homes.  According to The Nation, "It's far from perfect, but it represents a small step in the right direction. The mortgage industry is fighting it tooth and nail."  Read the full bill:  http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/financialsvcs_dem/press102207.shtml (October 22, 2007)

 

U. S. Foreclosure Filings Soar 94% in October, 2007.  U.S. foreclosure filings nearly doubled in October from last year.  A total of 224,451 foreclosure filings were reported in October, up 94 percent from 115,568 in the same month a year ago, according to RealtyTrac Inc., a mortgage research company, said Thursday.  The number of filings in October rose 2% from September's 223,538.  The U.S. had one foreclosure filing for every 555 households in October, RealtyTrac said, with Nevada, California, Florida and Ohio having the highest foreclosure filing rates last month.  One alarming trend in October was an increase in the number of homes that were repossessed by lenders after they failed to sell at trustee auctions.  "About 35% of the total filings we collected this month were notices of bank repossession," Sharga said. "Historically, on average, that number is more like 20%."  Translation: more borrowers who entered foreclosure ended up losing their homes.  (Associated Press / The Washington Post,  November 29, 2007)

 

Foreclosures Higher in States with High Housing Costs as Housing Costs Consumed More of Paychecks in 2006.  Housing costs were more of the monthly paycheck for millions of Americans in 2006 than 2005, despite a slowdown in the housing market, according to figures by the Census Bureau. The Bureau reported that more Americans over age 65 were continuing to work last year, by choice or from economic necessity.  Half of renters and over a third of mortgage holders - 37%, up from 35% in 2005, or a rise of more than 1.5 million households - spent at least 30% of their gross income on housing costs, the level many government agencies consider the limit of affordability.  Some 14% of mortgage-holders spent at least half their income on housing in 2006, up from 13% last year; renters had little change. In both years, 25% of renters spent half their income on housing.  The rising housing burden limits funds available for other expenses and anticipated the rise in foreclosures.  “It’s not an accident that the states that are leading in foreclosures, including California, Nevada and Florida, are also on top of the list for the proportion of mortgage borrowers paying more than 30% of their income on housing,” commented Matt Fellowes, a scholar in metropolitan policy at the Brookings Institution, adding, “Take away the four top states, and there’s actually a decrease in foreclosures.”  (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/12/us/12housing.html, September 12, 2007)

 

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition Files Discrimination Complaint Against Wall Street Securitizer and Subsidiary Mortgage Originator.  The NCRC's civil rights complaint against Morgan Stanley, Morgan Stanley Mortgage Capital Holdings, LLC., Saxon Mortgage, Inc., Saxon Asset Securities Company and Saxon Capital, Inc., (collectively, “Morgan Stanley’) to the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development and the United States Securities & Exchange Commission is the first challenge against a Wall Street securitizer alleging redlining under the Federal Fair Housing Act.  NCRC alleges that that Morgan Stanley intentionally discriminated against minorities seeking mortgages in predominantly African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander communities.  This complaint holds Morgan Stanley accountable for fair lending and SEC violations that it has implemented since acquiring Saxon in 2006. The complaint states that Morgan Stanley’s lending policies contain three discriminatory types of exclusion, often characterized as “redlining”: (1) policies that restrict the availability of loans by requiring applicants to satisfy minimum property values, preventing borrowers with homes valued less than $100,000 from obtaining a loan from Morgan Stanley, whatever credit worthiness; (2) policies that deny loans to residents of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands; and (3) prohibiting lending to Native American communities.  “Morgan Stanley & Saxon intentionally structured underwriting to deny homeownership to qualified African American, Latino, Pan-Pacific and Native American communities across the country,” said NCRC President/CEO John Taylor. (http://www.ncrc.org/pressandpubs/press_releases/documents/2007/MS-Saxon PRFINAL.pdf, September 24, 2007)

 

 

In Other Fair Housing News.....

Pew Research Center Survey Finds Black Pessimism About Racial Progress in America Is the Worst It in Over 20 Years. The new study showed that growing numbers of Blacks are not satisfied with their lives and do not expect any improvements.  The survey by the Pew Research Center, a Washington-based research organization, paints a mixed picture of race relations following Hurricane Katrina and the Jena Six case, in which six black teens were charged with beating a white student at a high school in the town of Jena, Louisiana.  It found that just one in five Blacks, or 20%, said things were better off for Blacks compared to five years ago. Another 29% said things had actually gotten worse as opposed to staying the same, the largest number since 30% made that claim in 1984.  (Prauda / Associated Press, http://www.ap.org, November 13, 2007)

HUD Charges Alabama Landlord With Violating Fair Housing Act.  HUD has charged Neysa C. Crim of Decatur, Alabama, with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to rent her home to an African-American man, making unlawful and discriminatory statements, and falsely representing that a house was unavailable to rent.  According to HUD's investigation, Jimmy Lewis Crump responded to an advertisement for a two-bedroom home on East Moulton Street and left several messages for the landlord.  After telling his white supervisor about the situation, she offered to call for him, and as she was leaving a message, Crim answered the phone and identified herself as the owner. The supervisor explained that she was inquiring about the rental property on behalf of a friend. Crim allegedly asked, "What color is he?"  Crim also allegedly asked the supervisor whether her friend was "black or white."  When the supervisor told the owner that it was illegal to ask this, Crim allegedly said she could ask it and that she did not want to rent to an African-American because she did not want her neighbors damaging her property because she rented to a black person.  (HUD News Release 07-174, November 29, 2007)

 

According to the "Year In Review" For HUD’s Office Of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity, in FY 2007, HUD & State & Local Government Agencies in HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) Received 10,154 Housing Discrimination Complaints.  This was a slight decrease from the all-time high of 10,328 complaints filed in FY 2006.  Disability and race continued the most common bases of alleged discrimination, cited 43% and 37%, respectively.  Housing discrimination complaints most often alleged discrimination in the terms and conditions in the sale or rental of property or refusal to rent, cited in 58% and 26% of complaints, respectively.  In FY 2007, HUD launched 15 Secretary-initiated investigations, more than in the past ten years combined.  Since 2003, FHIP has funded Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST, a program that instructs architects and others on the Fair Housing Act accessibility requirements, and during FY 2007, FIRST trained 1,351 individuals in 22 training sessions in 17 states.  (http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/newsletterfall07.pdf)

 

It Is Time For The United States To Stop Treating Every American Muslim As Somehow Suspect, Leaders of the Faith Said At Their Largest Annual Convention. “Muslim Americans feel an increasing level of tension and scrutiny in contemporary society,” said Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim organization in the United States.  The image problems were among the topics most discussed by the 30,000 attendees. A recent example was an open letter from two Republican House members, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Sue Myrick of North Carolina, attacking the Justice Department for sending envoys to the convention because, the lawmakers said, the Islamic Society of North America was a group of “radical jihadists.”  American Muslims say they expect the attacks to worsen in the presidential election and candidates to criticize Islam in an effort to prove that they are tough on terrorism. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/04/us/04muslims.html, September 4, 2007)

 

Immigration at Record Level, Analysis Finds.  Immigration over the past seven years was the highest for any seven-year period in American history, bringing 10.3 million new immigrants, more than half of them without legal status, according to an analysis of census data released today by the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington.  One in eight people living in the United States is an immigrant, totaling 37.9 million people, the highest level since the 1920s. A large proportion of recent immigrants, both legal and illegal, are low-skilled workers and one-third have not completed high school.  “This is a one-eyed portrait,” said Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California who has studied immigrants’ use of public services. “It is a profile of immigrants’ dependency without any profile of their contributions.”  Myers said his research shows that within a decade, new immigrants in California moved up quickly to steadier jobs with more benefits, and the rates of uninsured immigrants dropped sharply.  (http://www.nytimes.com/, November 29, 2007)

 

 

DID YOU KNOW?

 

There will be Fair Housing Accessibility First training by the Baltimore Field Office, U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on February 21st from 12:30 pm – 5:00 pm at the University Student Center, Auditorium, Morgan State University, 1700 E. Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore.  To register, visit http://www.fairhousingfirst.org and click on the “CALENDAR” link.  According to the HUD website: "Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST is an initiative designed to promote compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. The program offers comprehensive and detailed instruction programs, useful online web resources, and a toll-free information line for technical guidance and support."


The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Support Center Has an Informative Fair Housing Rights of Seniors with Disabilities Handbook.  The 25-pager includes improper housing ads, applying for housing, discriminating against residents, reasonable accommodations, direct threat to safety of others or of damage to property, reasonable modifications, accessible new multifamily housing, harassment and retaliation, and much more.  Read a copy at: http://www.jmls.edu/fairhousingcenter/resources/FHRts-SR-Hndbk2.pdf.

 

HUD Has Published Proposed Rule on Assistance Animals for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities.  On October 15, 2007, HUD published a proposed rule on assistance animals in the Federal Register. HUD published the proposed rule to improve the consistency between its pet ownership regulations that cover public housing and assisted housing programs.  The proposed rule would revise HUD regulations that apply to HUD-assisted housing, such as housing programs that serve the elderly and disabled, to make their assistance animal exceptions similar to the requirements and procedures for other HUD public housing programs.  First, the proposed rule would broaden the definition of assistance animals in HUD-assisted housing to include animals that “assist, support, or provide service to persons with disabilities.” The current regulation is limited to animals that “assist persons with disabilities.” This broadened definition would be reflected in the prohibition against project owners and public housing authorities applying or enforcing pet ownership policies against assistance animals.  Finally, the proposed rule would remove the requirement for tenants of HUD-assisted housing to certify that the tenant or a family member is a person with a disability and that the assistance animal has been trained to assist persons with that specific disability.  The deadline for public comments is December 14, 2007.  (http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/newsletterfall07.pdf)

 

There's an Excellent Summation/Resource for Civil Rights Info at http://www.civilrights.org.  A collaboration of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, the site has a wealth of info.  Included is a chronology; detailed briefs on school desegregation, housing, employment, voting, etc.; as well as special foci on women, people with disabilities, gays, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, and more.  Go directly to the housing part of "Civil Rights 101" here: http://www.civilrights.org/research_center/civilrights101/housing.html

 

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 or email us at mail@gbchrb.org for days and times - or for a copy of a show.

 

 

INTERESTING BOOKS

 

Inventing Human Rights: A History by Lynn Hunt.  This work follows the development of human rights from its conceptual roots in the Enlightenment to its expression in the United Nation's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Hunt takes the reader through 250 years of rights legislation, covering the French Revolution's Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, various anti-torture measures and 20th century campaigns against human rights violations, among many others.  New York: W. W. Norton, 2007.  272pp.  $25.95.

 

The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era by Micheline Ishay.  Micheline Ishay recounts the dramatic struggle for human rights across the ages in a book that synthesizes historical and intellectual developments from the Mesopotamian Codes of Hammurabi to today's globalization. Ishay chronicles the clash of social movements, ideas, and armies that have played a part in this struggle, and illustrates how the history of human rights has evolved from one era to the next through texts, cultural traditions, and creative expression. Ishay also incorporates notable documents--writings, speeches, and political statements--from activists, writers, and thinkers throughout history.  Berkeley: University of California, 2004.  459pp.  $27.50.

 

 

REST IN PEACE

 

Augustus "Gus" Hawkins, Civil rights Advocate and Legislator, 100.   Hawkins was the first Black from California to be elected to Congress and a champion of workers, Fair Housing and civil rights, representing South Los Angeles nearly 30 years.  He sponsored the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark civil rights law that effectively ended legally sanctioned segregation and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  He also helped win the first major education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of l965, and with Sen. Hubert Humphrey, D. Minn., wrote the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978, designed to reduce unemployment and inflation.  Hawkins also helped form the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 and mentored many Black legislators.  "As a life-long friend and advocate of the civil and human rights community, Gus Hawkins helped lead the successful battle for the landmark civil rights laws of the 1960s; and helped to preserve and restore these laws when they were under attack in the 1980s.  The civil rights community has lost a hero and a real champion," said Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR).  (http://www.civilrights.org, November 10, 2007)