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  Initial Country Report (Sept, 2000). 

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Vernellia R. Randall
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 Housing. Both federal and state laws guarantee equal rights to housing, as mandated by Article 5(e)(iii), and they prohibit discriminatory practices in the sale and rental of housing as well as in the mortgage lending and insurance markets related to housing. The Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development have vigorously prosecuted violations of the federal civil rights statutes in an effort to reduce housing discrimination.

The Fair Housing Act, originally enacted as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. sec. 3601-19) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, or national origin in the sale or rental of housing, as well as in other real estate related transactions (i.e., lending, insurance, and appraisal practices), with some limited exceptions. The Act also includes a criminal provision, 42 U.S.C. sec. 3631, which, as discussed in more detail above, is used to prosecute cross-burnings and other racially-motivated threats and violence directed at people in their homes.

The Fair Housing Act applies not only to actions by direct providers such as landlords and real estate companies, but also to actions by municipalities, banks, insurance companies, and other entities whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status. In addition, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. sec. 1691, prohibits creditors from discriminating against any applicant for credit on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex or marital status, or age. This extends to mortgage applications, and therefore protects minority applicants from being discriminated against in the purchase of homes. This statute is enforced through litigation initiated by private parties and by the Federal government.

The Department of Justice actively enforces laws against discrimination in housing. Most recently, in 1999, the Justice Department resolved a case, United States v. Vernon, against an apartment complex for refusing to rent apartments in Albuquerque, New Mexico to Blacks. The case was resolved by a consent decree that required the owner to pay monetary damages to victims of the discrimination. Similar settlements were reached in cases brought against landlords in Richmond, Virginia and Jackson, Mississippi.

In United States v. Big D Enterprises, the Department successfully tried a case against an Arkansas landlord who discriminated against African American apartment-seekers. The court's decision awarding compensatory and punitive damages was affirmed on appeal.

In United States v. Boston Housing Authority, the Department alleged that the landlord was responsible for failing to respond to and take corrective actions to protect Black and Hispanic families who were who were subjected to racial and ethnic harassment from other tenants, including racial and ethnic epithets, threats, graffiti, vandalism, and assaults. The case was settled with an agreement for the landlord to pay damages to the victims and institute corrective policies and procedures to prevent future problems.

Also, in a case alleging discrimination in lending, the Department of Justice brought an enforcement action against a bank in Jackson, Mississippi alleging race discrimination. The complaint alleged that the bank, Deposit Guaranty, used different underwriting criteria for Black applicants than for White applicants. As a result, Black applicants for credit were three times more likely to be rejected than similarly situated White applicants. The case was resolved and the bank was required to pay $3 million in monetary damages and to institute uniform and centralized policies and procedures. Enforcement actions have been brought on behalf of Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics and others throughout the United States.

In 2000, the Department of Justice, along with the Federal Trade Commission and HUD, filed and settled a suit in United States v. Delta Funding Corporation, alleging violations of fair housing, fair lending, and consumer protection laws in making its loans. This lawsuit marks the first such combined action was taken by the federal agencies. The complaint alleged that Delta, which made loans with the assistance of mortgage brokers, violated the Fair Housing and Equal Credit Opportunity Acts by granting home mortgage loans with higher broker fees to African American females than those provided to white males, that it violated the Real Estate Settlement Practices Act by allowing unreasonable broker fees, and that it violated the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act by engaging in asset-based lending. The settlement provides for injunctive and monetary relief.

 

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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).