Greater Baltimore Community Housing Resource Board, Inc. (GBCHRB)                  May-June, 2007 / Vol.11, No. 3

 

 

FAIR HOUSING NEWS

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

Focus on Lending...

 

National Community Reinvestment Coalition Files Lawsuit Against NovaStar Financial for Discrimination, Including in Baltimore.  The Coalition's civil rights lawsuit in U. S. District Court for D. C. charged the subprime lender with discriminating against minorities seeking housing in row house neighborhoods and adult foster care in urban areas and American Indian reservations.  The complaint alleges that NovaStar discriminates against African Americans and Latinos through a "no row house policy" in Baltimore.  Urban rowhouses are shunned by many lenders with a net effect of denying mortgages to African Americans and other minorities, who live in these areas is disproportionate numbers.  The suit states that "nearly two-thirds of all rowhouses in Baltimore are occupied by African Americans, and the majority of rowhouses are located in African American neighborhoods."  Copies of the complaint are at http://www.ncrc.org.  (NCRC Press Release, May 9, 2007; Baltimore Sun, May 18, 2007:1E)

 

Data Confirms Minority Homebuyers Pay Higher Rates; FHA Commissioner Says Homeowners Need a Safer Alternative to Risky Mortgages.  According to 2004 HMDA data, 40% of African Americans and 23% of Hispanics pay an interest rate three percent higher than the market rate.  Some 51% of refinancing loans in African American neighborhoods are subprime loans, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.  Meanwhile, Commissioner Brian Montgomery said the FHA should be modernized by the passage of Congressional legislation enhancing FHA's government-insured mortgage products.  "Modernization" would involve creating new, risk-based insurance premiums keyed to the borrower's credit standing, and increasing loan limits. (http://www.hud.gov; News Release 07-029, March 15, 2007)

 

One of Top Mortgage Lenders Agrees to Change Its Lending Restrictions on Row Homes, Group Homes, Tribal Communities, & Low-Moderate Areas.  The National Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and Aegis Mortgage Corporation have settled the NCRC complaint filed with HUD, which alleged that Aegis' "policies have the effect of discriminating against African Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, and Native-American homeowners."  (http://www.ncrc.org, May 17, 2007)

 

Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Modernization Act Proposed.  The Act (HR 1289) calls for expansion of the CRA to include bank lending through brokers, mortgage companies, insurance firms, and securities companies.  Currently, the CRA of 1977 only applies to banks, requiring them to meet credit needs of low & moderate-income communities.  The Act importantly would also include an Insurance Disclosure Act, which would direct the Secretary of HUD "to establish requirements for insurers to submit information annually regarding noncommercial insurance, rural insurance, and investments by insurers, ...requires the Secretary to make such information public," and "Directs the Financial Institutions Examination Council to maintain a comprehensive database containing the hierarchical structure of financial holding companies, bank holding companies, depository institutions, and non-depository institutions."  On March  1st the bill was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.  (http://www.ncrc.org; March 2, 2007; www.washingtonwatch.com)

 

New Brochure on Mortgages Released by NAR & Advocacy Groups.  The brochure, "Learn How to Avoid Foreclosure & Keep Your Home," was released by the National Association of Realtors in cooperation with the Center for Responsible Lending and NeighborWorks America.  The brochure cautions about predatory lending practices, shows mortgages that can be dangerous, identifies housing counseling agencies, and has steps to be taken when a monthly mortgage payment cannot be met.  The brochure is available for purchase at the NAR store.  (http://www.nar.org, May 14, 2007)

 

Study Finds Most Bank Branches are in Upper-Income & White Areas.  The study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition of the largest 25 metro areas in the US (including Baltimore) mapped bank branches and then compared this to the income level and minority level of the census tracts.  To the NCRC, "This disparity has an impact on the ability of families in these neighborhoods to access financial services and thus build assets and climb out of poverty."  The study also found that the mainstream banking industry provides superior and more affordable services than the "fringe" banking outlets - the check cashers, payday loan stores, and pawnshops.  (http://www.ncrc.org, March, 2007)

 

 

Also in the National News...

 

Website Held Liable for Its Users' Postings.  The San Francisco-based United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found http://www.roommate.com may be liable for what its users say about their preferences, for example, "must be a black gay male."  Whether the site violated the Fair Housing Act, however, has yet to be legally determined.  However, the ruling refused the major defense, the 1996 Congressional granting of immunity to Internet service providers for tranmsmitting unlawful material supplied by others.  The judges here said that the site is liable because the site offered choices for the users to employ.  For example, the site asked users whether they would prefer a gay or straight roommate, without providing other options.  The court sent the case - originally brought by the San Fernando Valley and San Diego Fair Housing Councils - back to a trial judge for determining whether this was a violation of the Fair Housing Act.  Stay tuned.  (New York Times, May 16, 2007:A-15; http://www.advocate.com, May 17, 2007)

 

HUD Charges Virginia Beach Landlord with Violating the Fair Housing Act.  HUD has charged Dr. James Crockett Henry, owner of a 30-unit complex with subjecting African American tenants to stricter rules, using racial slurs, and retaliating against them.  A hearing will be held by a U. S. Administrative Law Judge on July 24, 2007 in Virginia Beahc unless the case is prferred to be held in U. S. District Court.  HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity Kim Kendrick commented that "Tenants should not have to put up with such offensive racial statements in the place they call home.  We will enforce the law against all landlords who discrinminate, and make sure our federal dollars don't go toward this kind of injustice."  (http://www.hud.gov; HUD Press Release No. 07-067, May 17, 2007)

House Passes Hate Crimes Bill Protecting GLBT Americans, Women, & People with Disabilities.  The passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HR 1592) would expand coverage to include gender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and individuals with disabilities.  It also provides grants to localities to fight violent related crimes and assisting prosecutions of bias-motivated crimes.  Nearly 14% of hate crimes in 2005 were committed against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals.  HR 1592 has been endorsed by 230 law enforcement, civil rights, civic, and religious organizations.  (http://www.civilrights.org, May 4, 2007)

Study Finds American Muslims Hold More Moderate Political Views.  The Pew Research Center study found American Muslims hold "more moderate political views than Muslims elsewhere," are mostly middle-class, and is "well-integrated in the society."  Muslim Americans, according to Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, "are very much like the rest of the country."  The U. S. Muslim population, according to the study, is one of the world's most diverse, with the nearly two-thirds who are immigrants coming from 68 countries.  (http://www.cair.com, May 23, 2007)

And In New Orleans...

New Orleans Fair Housing Center Finds Bourbon Street Discriminatory Treatment.  The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), along with the New Orleans Human Relations Commission, released the results of an investigation into discriminatory practices by Bourbon Street nightclubs and bars.  GNOFHAC paired Black and White testers, and sent them to 28 Bourbon Street nightclubs and bars within minutes of one another.  GNOFHAC compared and contrasted testers experiences to determine whether or not discrimination had occurred, and confirmed that the investigation did uncover discrimination.  The release of the Audit however, is the first opportunity for the public to learn of the extent of the discriminatory treatment, commenting, “The New Orleans community will be surprised by the results of this study.  One would think that more than 40 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination against African-Americans in public accommodations would have subsided.  The Audit, however, provides concrete evidence that it has not.”  (http://www.gnofairhousing.org)

Katrina Anniversary Marked with Anti-Discrimination Campaign.  In commemoration of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) unveils a new fair housing advertising campaign.  The campaign features one print public service announcement (PSA), one 30-second television PSA, and one 30-second radio PSA.  (http://www.gnofairhousing.org)

 

DID YOU KNOW?

 

Congratulations!  The ACLU of Maryland Celebrates Its 75th Anniversary on June 3, 2007!  Founded in 1931, the ACLU will hold its celebration on June 3rd from 5-8 p.m. with a $75 dinner at the M & T Bank Stadium.  Featured are Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the National ACLU, and Laura W. Murphy, former director of the ACLU's legislative office.  More info: http://www.aclu-md.org.

 

HUD's Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity Introduces "Franklin, the Fair Housing Fox."    Designed to appeal to children & their parents, Franklin will encourage the public to "Dare to Be Fair" by promoting the message that "Fair Housing Is Not an Option; It's the Law."  Children (and adults, too!) can visit Franklin at www.hud.gov/kids, and get easily understood facts about the Fair Housing Act and learn about how fighting housing discrimination is everyone's responsibility.  Parents are encouraged to use the website to get tips on how to talk with children about housing bias.  (http://www.hud.gov; HUD News Release No. 07-040, April 10, 2007)

 

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

 

 

BOOKS FROM THE CIVIL RIGHTS BOOK CLUB

 

For a change, today we look at most of the featured books for May in the "Civil Rights Book Club" of http://www.civilrights.org:

 

Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace by Nancy MacLean (Harvard University Press, 2006, 496 pp., $35 hardb.) - a study of how equal access to employment was legally obtained.

 

And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress by Charles Rangel (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007, 320 pp., $24.95 hardb.) - memoir of the 19-term Harlem Congressman, including his work for affordable housing and employment for underprivileged youth.

 

Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for the Control of the Supreme Court by Jan Crawford Greenburg (Penguin Press, 2007, 368 pp., $27.95 hardb.) - interview-based examination of the country's most powerful court.

 

The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U. S. Racial Divide by Meizhu Lui et. al. (New Press, 2006, 320 pp., $19.95 paperb.) - multicultural history of American wealth, showing influence of government.