FHCCI News and Updates – 2018

December 12, 2018 – Rent-to-own lawsuits rise in federal, state courts: Katrina Carter and Quentin Lintner are continuing to fight for their piece of the American dream even after the Indiana Court of Appeals closed the door on their attempt to get restitution from the company that put them in an uninhabitable home under a rent-to-own contract. Represented by Indiana Legal Services, the couple has filed a petition to transfer with the Indiana Supreme Court. Their lawsuit, Rainbow Realty Group, Inc. and/or Cress Trust v. Katrina Carter and Quentin Lintner, 49A02-1707-CC-1473, is one of a handful of complaints against rent-to-own companies and is the first to reach the appellate level. Read more here.

December 11, 2018 – Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana Joins Indiana Forward: Indiana Forward is a broad and bipartisan statewide campaign that includes major state employers, faith groups, nonprofits, third-party organizations, the Indy Chamber, trade groups, colleges and universities, and more. Indiana Forward is advocating for the 2019 Indiana General Assembly to pass a clear, specific and inclusive hate crimes law that allows judges to enhance criminal sentences when the crime was motivated by bias toward a victim’s characteristics that include: race; ethnicity; religion; national origin; sex; disability; gender identity; and sexual orientation. Learn more here.

December 5, 2018 – HUD gives $23 million to fair housing groups to fight discrimination: Nearly 80 fair housing groups will be receiving federal funding to fight discrimination, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week. The funding is provided through HUD’s Private Enforcement Initiative. The money, in for the form of grants, offer a range of assistance to the nationwide network of fair housing organizations so they can carry out testing and enforcement activities, HUD said. Read more here.

December 4, 2018 – HUD Awards $23 Million to Fight Housing Discrimination: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today awarded more than $23 million to nearly 80 fair housing organizations working to protect consumers from housing discrimination. Provided through HUD’s Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI), these grants offer a range of assistance to the nationwide network of fair housing organizations so they can carry out testing and enforcement activities. Read a complete project-by-project summary of the programs awarded grants today. “It’s been 50 years since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, yet the fight against housing discrimination continues,” said Secretary Ben Carson. “Today we are making another investment to support our fair housing partners and protect families from discrimination.” Read more here.

October 30, 2018 – Indiana Supreme Court Asked to Review Rent-to-Buy Agreements: Asserting the Court of Appeals’ ruling in a rent-to-own dispute will adversely impact tenants across the state, Indiana Legal Services filed a petition Monday to transfer its litigation against Rainbow Realty Group for the company’s rent-to-own practices. The petition is the latest turn in a case that began in Marion County small claims court in 2015 and worked its way to the Court of Appeals. Several organizations, including the Economic Justice Project at the Notre Dame Clinical Law Center and the National Consumer Law Center, filed amicus briefs in favor of ILS’s clients, Quentin Lintner and Katrina Carter. Read more here.

October 11, 2018 – In Indy visit, Donald Trump’s housing chief decries Facebook-based discrimination: Housing discrimination persists a half-century after landmark federal legislation to combat it, but increasingly it involves people with disabilities and social media, the Trump administration’s top housing official said Wednesday in Indianapolis. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who was Downtown attending a regional conference on fair housing law and policy, said national studies have shown complaints are declining even as the types of discrimination continue to evolve. Read more here.

October 6, 2018 – Squatters, overgrown grass, trashed lawns: Frustrated homeowners sue banks claiming bias: The Bushnells are part of a lawsuit in federal court against Bank of America asserting that the company violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to maintain its foreclosed properties in black and Latino communities to the same standards as in white communities. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, extends its claims across more than 20 states and is part of a string of legal and administrative actions that fair-housing advocates have taken nationwide against major financial institutions – including Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Fannie Mae – to reduce blight in minority neighborhoods. Note: The FHCCI is also involved in these lawsuits. Read more here.

October 3, 2018 – CBS4 Problem Solvers investigates rise in rent to own deals across Indianapolis: A CBS4 Problem Solvers investigation found companies pouring millions of dollars into some of the city’s least affluent neighborhoods, but spending very little of that money to fix them up. In some areas of the city right now, you can find yourself competing for a newly renovated home in a hot market, but in other areas the reality for families looks much different. CBS4’s Jill Glavan spent months talking to some of those families, tracking down city data, and piecing together a system you may know nothing about. Housing experts say that over the past decade, particularly since the housing crisis, the system has become a popular way to buy homes. Read more here.

September 27, 2018 – Appeals court reverses ruling for purchasers in rent-to-buy home case: Would-be homebuyers who won a fraud decision against a company that sells “rent-to-buy” fixer homes after they were evicted lost at the Indiana Court of Appeals on Thursday. An appellate panel reversed a ruling against Indianapolis-based Rainbow Realty, ordering Marion Superior Court to rule in its favor instead in Rainbow Realty Group, Inc., and/or Cress Trust v. Katrina Carter and Quentin Lintner, 49A02-1707-CC-1473. The case attracted multiple amicus briefs from the state and legal aid groups urging the court to affirm a ruling for the plaintiffs, Katrina Carter and Quentin Lintner. The case posed the question of whether plaintiffs were homebuyers or renters under the rent-to-buy contract for the uninhabitable Indianapolis home signed with Rainbow. Read more here.

September 19, 2018 – Lawsuits charge Rainbow Realty’s rent-to-buy contracts target the most vulnerable: This is at least the third pending suit involving Rainbow Realty and its rent-to-buy program. The Indiana Attorney General filed a complaint in Marion Superior Court in January 2013, and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana filed a class action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in May 2017. Read more here.

August 20, 2018 – Fair Housing Groups Offer Comment on Disparate Impact Regulation: Several civil rights, faith-based, consumer advocacy, housing, and community development organizations, fair housing practitioners, and local governments/agencies offered comments in response to the docketed notice (“Notice”) concerning the disparate impact standard as interpreted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). The Disparate Impact Rule functions to eliminate policies that wrongly keep people from obtaining safe housing and accessing opportunities they need to be successful in life. Read the full letter here.

July 11, 2018 – Federal Judge Orders Marion County Landlord to Pay Over $200,000 in Fair Housing Lawsuit: Today, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) announces a ruling in a fair housing case addressing disability and familial status discrimination by an Indianapolis landlord. The FHCCI and Carolyn McGuffin, represented by attorneys from Indiana Disability Rights and Brancart & Brancart, previously filed a lawsuit against Carolyn Smitley and the Smitley Family Trust in April 2016 alleging that the Defendants discriminated against Ms. McGuffin in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. Last week, on July 3, 2018, Judge William T. Lawrence in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana entered judgment requiring the Defendants to pay $219,747.75 as a result of the discrimination. To read more:    Press Release      Court Ruling       Previously Filed Complaint

June 27, 2018 – Lawsuit alleges housing discrimination by Bank of America in Indianapolis, other cities: Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, told IndyStar that the vacant homes affect the quality of life of neighbors and the surrounding community. Read more here.

June 26, 2018 – National Fair Housing Alliance, 19 Fair Housing Organizations, and Two Homeowners Charge Bank of America and Safeguard Properties Management with Violating the Federal Fair Housing Act: Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), 19 fair housing organizations including the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, and two homeowners in Maryland filed a federal Fair Housing Act lawsuit against Bank of America, N.A., Bank of America Corp., and Safeguard Properties Management, LLC (“Bank of America/Safeguard”). The lawsuit alleges Defendants intentionally failed to provide routine exterior maintenance and marketing at Bank of America-owned homes in working- and middle-class African American and Latino neighborhoods in 37 metropolitan areas, while they consistently maintained similar bank-owned homes in comparable white neighborhoods. Read more:    Press Release     Filed Complaint   Information on the previously filed HUD complaint, including Indianapolis based data, can be found on the FHCCI Advocacy Page.

June 25, 2018 – FHCCI Joins CFPB Sign On Letter: The FHCCI joined several other organizations to submit comments in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Request for Information (RFI) concerning regulations and rulemaking authorities that it inherited. Our comments focus primarily on the importance of maintaining Regulation B (Reg B) and the use of the long-established disparate impact doctrine in enforcement actions, examinations, and complaint investigations that have Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) implications. Read more here.

June 5, 2018 – FHCCI Files Amended Complaint Against Casas Baratas Acqui: Today, the FHCCI announces an amendment to its filed complaint against Casas Baratas Acqui, et al to include allegations of violation of the Indiana Home Loan Practices Act, to add additional plaintiffs, and to add additional defendants. Download a copy of the amended complaint here.

May 13, 2018 – National Sign On Letter Opposing Housing Benefit Cuts: A group of almost 1,250 organizations, including several Indiana organizations, distributed a sign on letter to strongly oppose the Trump administration’s harmful proposal to slash federal housing benefits by imposing work requirements and rent increases that would leave even more low income people without a stable home and make it harder for them to climb the economic ladder and live with dignity. President Trump’s proposal to impose work requirements and rent increases on housing benefits is at best counterproductive and at worst dangerous to the low income families who receive these benefits—the majority of whom have a disability or are seniors. See the full letter here.

May 8, 2018 – Civil Rights Groups Sue HUD over Suspended Implementation of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule: The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Texas Appleseed, and Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (Texas Housers) today asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to order the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reinstate a federal requirement that local and state governments address segregated housing patterns as a condition of receiving HUD funding.  The complaint alleges that HUD unlawfully suspended the requirement in January 2018, effectively removing civil rights oversight of as much as $5.5 billion per year until 2024 or later for almost 1,000 jurisdictions. In its place, HUD proposes that funding recipients revert to a fair housing planning process that HUD itself and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have found is ineffective. Read the full press release and download a copy of the filed complaint here.

April 30, 2018 – New Report Analyzes 50 Years of the Fair Housing Act and Calls for Stronger Enforcement of Fair Housing Laws: Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) released its 2018 Fair Housing Trends Report: Making Every Neighborhood a Place of Opportunity. This year’s report comes at a historic juncture, as the Fair Housing Act marked its 50th anniversary on April 11. On this occasion, housing rights advocates, elected officials, grassroots leaders, lawyers, academics, and others are reflecting on our nation’s progress toward fair housing over the last 50 years, as well as assessing the obstacles that have prevented fair housing from being fully realized. The report provides insights into current fair housing needs that require more attention from housing advocates, housing providers, industry, and the federal government.  It also highlights recent obstacles to fair housing, such as Facebook’s enabling of discriminatory ads by housing providers and HUD’s suspension of implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, intended to address the ongoing historical and systemic segregation that exists in virtually all communities in the United States. The 2018 report provides an overview of the state of fair housing in the United States and what we must consider in order to advance fair housing rights over the next 50 years. Read more here.

April 27, 2018 – Freddie Mac Examines Loan to Possible Rent-to-Own Housing Provider: Freddie Mac, the huge government housing-finance company, is reviewing whether it inadvertently lent support to a company that specializes in a type of rent-to-own program that critics call predatory. Freddie Mac said it was examining a loan it effectively guaranteed under a pilot program meant to bolster the market for affordable single-family rental homes. The review began after a housing advocacy group filed a lawsuit on April 12 in federal court, contending that an Indianapolis investor group was selling rundown homes through a rent-to-own arrangement that’s prohibited by the program. Chris Spina, a spokesman for Freddie, said the company “is reviewing the transactions referenced in the complaint” by the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana against an investor group operating under the name Casas Baratas Aqui – or “Cheap Homes Here” in Spanish. Read more here.

April 26, 2018 – Housing discrimination impacts quality of life: Housing discrimination and segregation are linked to every major issue affecting individuals and families nationwide, including access to quality housing, health care, education, healthy foods, a clean environment, mainstream credit and more. This month marks 50 years since the enactment of the federal Fair Housing Act, which passed one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act was the last piece of the civil rights legislative package. Now, half a century later, it’s important to mark the advances that have been made in combating housing discrimination and segregation, while also acknowledging the real challenges that remain ahead. Read more here.

April 12, 2018 – Fair Housing Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Filed Against Indianapolis Rent-to-Own Companies: Today, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) and six Indianapolis residents announce the filing of a federal lawsuit against Marshall Welton, who operates and manages a collection of limited liability companies doing business as Casas Baratas Aqui (Casas). Casas is a trade name under which Welton advertises houses for rent-to-buy in Indianapolis. The complaint alleges that the Defendants violated civil rights and consumer protection laws, including the federal Fair Housing Act, the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and several Indiana state laws. The complaint involves almost 1,000 houses in Marion County, Indiana. Welton is sued in his personal capacity and as the manager or president of the defendant LLCs. Other defendants are also named. Read the full press release or download a copy of the filed complaint.

April 5, 2018 – ‘Significant’ housing discrimination found in Marion County, study says: It’s been 50 years since passage of the landmark federal Fair Housing Act.  However, an audit of rental discrimination in Indianapolis uncovered “significant levels of discrimination” against African-Americans and Hoosiers with disabilities, a fair housing advocacy group said this week.  The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana said otherwise qualified African-American applicants saw discrimination 76 percent of the time in tests conducted in Marion County by the organization. It also found Hoosiers who needed an animal to help them live with a disability experienced discrimination 15 percent of the time. Read more here.

April 3, 2018 – Fifty Years of Fair Housing to be Celebrated Through Annual Conference: Each year, April is celebrated around the country as Fair Housing Month. This year, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) celebrates the month with our annual conference. The FHCCI’s 6th Annual Fair Housing Conference, entitled Celebrating 50 Years of Fair Housing, will be held at the Marriott East in Indianapolis from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM on Wednesday, April 4, 2018. This year’s conference will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968 as well as honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was killed 50 years ago on April 4, 1968. Read the press release here.

April 3, 2018 – FHCCI Releases 2017 Annual Report: Today, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana announces the release of its 2017 Annual Report highlighting major accomplishments in its four main programs: Advocacy, Education, Inclusive Communities, and Public Policy.  Some highlights from the report:

  • Served 874 clients recording 182 fair housing allegations
  • Opened 84 new fair housing investigations
  • Conducted over 290 fair housing tests
  • Filed 5 enforcement actions to address housing discrimination
  • Conducted 60 fair housing trainings for 2,335 persons
  • Participated in 42 community exhibits directly reaching 3,296 persons
  • Distributed over 39,500 publications
  • Resolved 17 cases impacting over 10,750 housing units

You may download a copy here or choose the report from the “Reports” box to the right on this page.

April 2, 2018 – FHCCI Releases Report Showing Significant Levels of Housing Discrimination in Marion County: A report released today by the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) reveals many Hoosiers continue to experience significant levels of housing discrimination 50 years after the landmark federal Fair Housing Act became law. The FHCCI conducted a total of 45 fair housing tests for the audit. In Marion County areas that are predominantly Caucasian, otherwise qualified African Americans encountered discrimination 76% of the time. For those with disabilities, the audit demonstrated barriers to enjoying their housing like those without disabilities. If a person needed an animal to help in coping or dealing with a disability, s/he encountered discrimination, such as additional verification or policy restrictions, in 15% of the tests conducted. Read the Press Release or download the Final Report here.

March 29, 2018 – Fair Housing Groups File Complaint Alleging Familial Status Discrimination: The Fair Housing Center of Southeast and Mid Michigan and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana have filed a familial status complaint with HUD against Management Resources Development, Inc. (MRD). According to the complaint, MRD owns and/or manages apartment complexes in a number of states, including Michigan and Indiana. The complainants allege that MRD has violated the familial status provisions of the Fair Housing Act by enforcing a strict two-person-per-bedroom occupancy policy at a number of its properties, regardless of the size of a unit’s bedrooms or other living areas, the age of the children, or any other factor. The complainants state that MRD’s occupancy policy is more restrictive than occupancy limitations imposed by local law and that its policy discriminates against and has a discriminatory impact on families with children. Review the filed complaint here.

March 21, 2018 – Judge Advances Fair Housing Suit Against Fannie Mae: Fair housing advocates can move forward with claims that mortgage lender Fannie Mae systematically fails to maintain foreclosed properties in minority neighborhoods, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. The National Fair Housing Alliance and 20 other groups (including the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana) brought a federal complaint two years ago against the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae, after a four-year investigation concluded that the 68-year-old government-sponsored financier of mortgage loans violates the Fair Housing Act by neglecting foreclosed properties in communities of color. Read more here.

March 1, 2018 – Fair Housing Groups File Complaint Alleging Familial Status Discrimination: HOPE Fair Housing Center, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, and a woman with three children have filed a HUD administrative complaint, alleging that Marquette Management Inc. discriminates on the basis of familial status in properties it manages in Illinois and Indiana by enforcing unduly restrictive occupancy policies. Review the filed complaint here.

February 1, 2018 – Deutsche Bank, Ocwen Financial, and Altisource Accused of Racial Discrimination in 30 U.S. Metro Areas – National Fair Housing Alliance and 19 Civil Rights Groups File Federal Lawsuit Over Neglected Foreclosures in Communities of Color: Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and 19 fair housing organizations from across the country, including the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, filed a housing discrimination lawsuit in federal district court in Chicago, IL against Deutsche Bank; Deutsche Bank National Trust; Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas; Ocwen Financial Corp.; and Altisource Portfolio Solutions, Inc. Ocwen and Altisource are the servicer and property management company responsible for maintaining and marketing a large number of Deutsche Bank’s properties. Read the full release here. Review the federal complaint here. Indianapolis Specific Data is here.

January 30, 2018 – Indiana Refuses to Pass Comprehensive and Inclusive Hate Crime Law: Today, with the lack of vote in the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, SB 418, a bill to pass a hate crime law in Indiana, died in Committee. Despite statewide polls prior to the session showing 65% of Hoosiers support the passage of hate crimes legislation, and calls from businesses and economic development leaders, and nearly a hundred community organizations, a majority of Indiana Senators listened to only those who oppose protections for LGBTQ+ Hoosiers. The Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate is profoundly disappointed that for another year, issues that largely centered around the inclusion of LGBTQ+ Hoosiers in a proposed list of identified characteristics, has prevented the Indiana Senate from passing an identical bias crimes bill to the one they passed in 2016. Read full release here.

January 29, 2018 – FHCCI Urges No Vote on SB 240: The FHCCI opposes passage of SB 240. The bill narrows the rights of persons with disabilities from federal guidance who have need of an animal to provide support, service, or assistance. Passage of this bill would only result in confusion given that federal guidance will still apply that differs from this pending bill. View the FHCCI Testimony here.

January 29, 2018 – Alliance Urges Senate Committee to Pass Inclusive Hate Crime Law Without Bad Amendments: The Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate (Alliance) urges passage of a comprehensive and inclusive hate crime law by the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law. On Tuesday, January 30th, the Committee will debate passage of two bad amendments to SB 418. The inclusion of either of these bad amendments would send a message of bigotry across our country that would negatively impact Indiana’s economic development. See full press release here.

January 23, 2018 – HUD Awards $37 Million to Fight Housing Discrimination: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today it is awarding $37 million to fight housing discrimination under its Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP). These grants will support more than 150 national and local fair housing organizations working to confront violations of the Fair Housing Act (see grantee list below and read individual summaries of the work of these organizations). The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana was honored to receive two FHIP grants in this highly competitive process.

January 23, 2018 – Alliance Urges Passage of Hate Crime Law: The Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate (Alliance) urges passage of a comprehensive hate crime law. Today, the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law heard testimony from over a dozen Hoosiers in support of passage of SB 418 – a bill which would remove Indiana from one of the five states that does not have a bias crimes statute. The hearing today had supportive testimony, phone calls, and emails urging SB 418’s passage; however, the Committee has chosen to delay a vote to consider potentially harmful amendments. Read the full press release here.

January 23, 2018 – Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate Supports Passage of a Comprehensive and Inclusive SB 418: The FHCCI and the Alliance support passage of SB 418 as originally drafted. By passing a fully inclusive bill this session like SB 418, and removing Indiana from one of the five states that does not have a bias crimes statute, we can send a strong message to businesses that Indiana is where they should call home. Read the full testimony here.

January 22, 2018 – Hate Crime Law/Bias Motivated Crimes (SB 418) Committee Hearing Alert: This Tuesday, January 23, 2018, SB 418 to pass a hate crime law/bias motivated crimes bill in Indiana will be heard before the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law. By passing a fully inclusive bill this session like SB 418, and removing Indiana from one of the five states that does not have a bias crimes statute, we can send a strong message to businesses like Amazon that Indiana is where they should call home. The Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate (Alliance) supports passage of SB 418 as currently drafted. Read the full release here.

January 16, 2018 – Statehouse Rally to Urge Passage of a Indiana Hate Crime Legislation: The Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate (CIAAH) joins with supporting organizations and fellow Hoosiers to host a Hate Crime Law Statehouse Rally Press Conference on Tuesday, January 16, 2018. The rally will take place on the third floor of the Indiana Statehouse between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Read more here.

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