FHCCI News and Updates – 2019

December 9, 2019 – FHCCI Announces Staff Promotions: Today, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) announces promotions for two of its long-term staff, Brady Ripperger and Noe Rojas. Read the full press release here.

December 3, 2019 – ‘A dream destroyed’: How a homeownership deal left an Indianapolis couple homeless: The east-side house where a married couple lived for about a year was barely habitable. It had just a few working electrical outlets, exposed wiring, several broken windows, most of which didn’t even open, and water damage in the kitchen, dining room and basement. Still, for Katrina Carter and her then-husband, Quentin Lintner, the home — which they were renting but working to purchase — was special. So when the couple finally vacated the home, Carter summed up her feelings simply. “I was devastated,” she testified at a court hearing. “This was, to me, our first house as a married couple. It was a dream destroyed completely.” Read the full story here.

November 18, 2019 – Federal Court Greenlights Fair Housing Discrimination Claims Against Major Financial Services Companies: In a victory for fair housing advocates, a federal judge has largely denied Deutsche Bank Trust companies’, Altisource’s, and Ocwen’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit concerning discrimination against communities of color. The court allowed the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and 19 other fair housing organizations, including the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, to proceed with their disparate impact and intentional discrimination claims against the financial giants. The fair housing groups allege in their lawsuit that the financial companies failed to maintain foreclosed bank-owned (also known as Real Estate Owned or “REO”) properties in Black and Latino neighborhoods in 30 metropolitan areas throughout the country. For more info:

November 12, 2019 – Real estate business owner accused of discriminating against Latino community to pay $395K: A business owner accused of targeting Latino communities in Indianapolis with what fair housing advocates describe as a predatory real estate scheme that saddles vulnerable buyers with overpriced, uninhabitable homes has settled a federal lawsuit against him. The complaint filed last year against Marshall Welton took aim at the “rent-to-own” deals he offered through his business, Casas Baratas Aqui. Such agreements, which aren’t unique to Indiana, combine features of landlord-tenant arrangements and land contracts, often providing uninhabitable homes to renters/buyers with the promise of eventual homeownership. Read the full story here.

November 11, 2019 – FHCCI and Casas Baratas Aqui Agree to Resolution of Fair Housing Litigation: Today, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) announces a precedent setting settlement of fair housing litigation 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 has over 1,000 single family homes for rent-to-own or through land contracts in Indianapolis. The Defendants admitted to no fault or liability as part of the settlement. Read the full press release here.

October 11, 2019 – HUD rule will make it harder to fight discrimination: Letter to the Editor in the Indianapolis Business Journal by FHCCI Executive Director Amy Nelson opposing HUD’s disparate impact rule changes. Read more here.

October 10, 2019 – Study: Black renters have some of the heaviest burdens in Marion County: A study from the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy (CRISP) at IUPUI reveals nearly half of renters in Marion County are rent burdened, and it’s even worse for Black and Latino renters. A renter is considered to be burdened, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, when more than 30% of gross household income goes toward housing costs. Spending more than 50% is considered a severe rent burden. Read more here.

October 9, 2019 – African American Coalition of Indianapolis Community Concerns and Recommendations: Statement of concerns and recommendations which includes housing. Read more here.

October 2, 2019 – Letter to the editor – Support key rule to curb housing discrimination: In today’s Indiana Lawyer, a letter to the editor from the FHCCI Executive Director was published. The letter highlighted the changes proposed to HUD’s Disparate Impact Regulation and that the FHCCI opposes such changes. Review the letter here.

October 2, 2019 – Justices’ rent-to-own ruling helps consumers, lawyers say: The Indiana Supreme Court reviewed a dispute over a rent-to-own contract and determined the family who had been living in the home were renters, not buyers. The unanimous 19-page decision was somewhat a victory in a protracted battle that began in 2013 with Indianapolis residents Katrina Carter and Quentin Lintner signing a rent-to-own contract for a house that was missing toilets, plumbing, electrical wiring and door locks in addition to being infested with animals. Rainbow Realty Group and Cress Trust, the housing provider, had contended it was selling the home to the couple and, therefore, was under no obligation to refurbish or maintain the property. Read more here.

September 26, 2019 – FHCCI Submits Comments Against Disparate Impact Regulation Changes: The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana offered comments in response to the docketed notice (“Notice”) concerning proposed changes to the disparate impact standard as interpreted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). The existing Disparate Impact Rule serves the American public by providing an incentive for municipalities, large corporations, and others to modify policies that wrongly and unnecessarily keep people from the opportunities they need to be successful in life. We strongly oppose any changes to HUD’s current Disparate Impact Rule. Read the comments here.

September 13, 2019 – Supreme Court grants partial victory for would-be buyers in Rainbow Realty dispute: Would-be homebuyers secured a partial victory from the Indiana Supreme Court against Rainbow Realty Group after it concluded the parties’ rent-to-buy agreement was not a land-sale contract. However, relief awarded to the tenants under Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act was reversed. Read the full story here. Read the Indiana Supreme Court ruling here.

August 29, 2019 – FHCCI Resolves Complaints to Ensure Housing Options for Families with Children: Today, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) announces the resolution of two fair housing complaints which will ensure fair housing opportunities for families with children. Read the full press release here.

August 19, 2019 – FHCCI Condemns HUD’s Changes to Vital Fair Housing Rule: Today, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) published in the Federal Register its proposed rulemaking regarding the Discriminatory Effects Standard (also known as Disparate Impact). These changes would dismantle key longstanding civil rights protections built on preventing housing discrimination. The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) joins the National Fair Housing Alliance and a diverse array of civil rights, consumer protection, and community development groups to challenge these proposed changes. Read the full press release here.

August 14, 2019 – Court Denies Fannie Mae’s Motion to Dismiss in Fair Housing Discrimination Lawsuit: Late Monday, August 12, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California largely DENIED Fannie Mae’s Motion to Dismiss a fair housing lawsuit concerning housing discrimination against communities of color. The lawsuit, brought by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and 20 local fair housing organizations, including the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, charged Fannie Mae with failing to maintain foreclosed properties (also known as Real Estate Owned or “REO” properties) in Black and LatinX neighborhoods, even as Fannie Mae simultaneously was keeping foreclosed properties in predominately White communities well-maintained. The fair housing groups allege that Fannie Mae’s poor and improper maintenance policies and practices in Black and LatinX communities contributed to blight and other challenges in these areas. Read the decision or the press release here.

July 22, 2019 – Judge Denies Bank of America’s Motion to Dismiss in Critical Fair Housing Lawsuit: Last week in Maryland, a federal judge denied Bank of America and Safeguard’s motions to dismiss a fair housing lawsuit concerning housing discrimination against communities of color. In June 2018, the National Fair Housing Alliance, along with 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., and Safeguard Properties Management, LLC (“Bank of America/Safeguard”). The lawsuit alleged that Bank of America and Safeguard intentionally failed to provide routine exterior maintenance and marketing at Bank of America-owned homes in African-American and Latino neighborhoods in 37 metropolitan areas, while they consistently maintained similar bank-owned homes in comparable White neighborhoods. Read the full press release here. Download the court decision here.

June 13, 2019  – First Merchants and FHCCI Announce Major Effort to Expand Lending Opportunities for Majority-Black Neighborhoods in Marion County: First Merchants Bank (FMB) and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) today announced several new initiatives designed to increase mortgage lending to residents in Marion County’s majority-black neighborhoods and census tracts. “The initiatives announced today will facilitate desperately needed mortgage lending and consumer education opportunities for residents in majority-minority communities in Marion County,” said FHCCI Executive Director Amy Nelson. “More importantly, the FHCCI and First Merchants have created a roadmap for other financial institutions that are seeking to expand access to credit in underserved areas and ensure that every individual, group, and community enjoys equal housing opportunity and access in a bias-free and open housing market,” continued Nelson. Read the full press release here.

June 10, 2019 – FHCCI Supports CIRA Annual Trailblazers Luncheon: On Thursday, June 13, 2019, the Central Indiana Realtist Association (CIRA) will honor its 2019 Trailblazers and “Best of the Best” Award Winners at its 6th Annual Trailblazers Luncheon. This year’s keynote speaker will be Mark Alston, President of the California Association of Real Estate Brokers and Chairman of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers Political Action Committee. Read more here.

May 9, 2019 – ‘We can’t lose the homeowners that we already have’: Communities adapt along the Red Line: The Red Line is set to launch Sept. 1, traveling from Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis. While the bus system is poised to bring affordable and more frequent transportation to a bustling corridor, it could also affect housing and rental prices. FHCCI quoted in the story. Read more here.

April 17, 2019 – HUD Awards Additional $15 Million to Fight Housing Discrimination: To help end housing discrimination, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today awarded an additional $15 million to support dozens of fair housing organizations working to confront violations of the nation’s landmark Fair Housing Act. The FHCCI was awarded a $125,ooo Education & Outreach Initiation (EOI) Grant. Read the HUD release here.

March 31, 2019 – A fully welcoming community: Fair housing is the right to live where you choose and can afford to regardless of your race, color, national origin, religion, gender, familial status or disability. The concept of fair housing is important because where you live affects your quality of life. It determines the employment opportunities available to you, transportation options, food accessibility, the schools your children will attend  and more. Read more here.

March 29, 2019 – New Indy housing director seeks ‘a better way to do this’: Amy Nelson, director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, said, while an expansion of vouchers is “certainly needed,” she also wants IHA to expand its role advocating on behalf of people who struggle to use their vouchers. In 2015, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law that forbids cities, including Indianapolis, from requiring that landlords accept housing vouchers. “Our voucher holders just simply can lawfully be discriminated against and kept out” from housing they would otherwise be eligible for because they are paying with a voucher, Nelson said. “It isn’t just about us getting more vouchers,” she said. “It’s about making sure the vouchers are used in the way they’re actually designed to be used.” Read more here.

March 29, 2019 – HUD charge against Facebook seen as positive locally: During a visit to Indianapolis last October, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson decried what he saw as housing discrimination practices by Facebook. “Housing discrimination should never find a safe haven online, or offline for that matter,” Carson said at the time. On Thursday, HUD announced it was charging Facebook with violating the Fair Housing Act, alleging the media giant encouraged and enabled housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform. The move was seen as a needed step by fair housing groups. Read more here.

March 27, 2019 – FHCCI Testifies in Support of HB 1495: Today, the Center testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of passage of HB 1495. This bill provides basic consumer protections to address the problems that have arisen in our state and throughout the Midwest as we have seen an explosion of land contracts coming out of the foreclosure crisis. Read more here.

March 26, 2019 – FHCCI Demands a Fully Inclusive, Comprehensive Hate Crime Law: Today, the Indiana House passed SB 198 – a bill that was hastily amended yesterday to include incomplete language related to a bias crimes law. In its current form, this legislation would exclude gender and gender identity from groups covered under a hate crime law. The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana will only support a hate crime law that includes bill language that provides justice to victims targeted on the basis of the victim’s real or perceived race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender. Read more here.

March 26, 2019 – FHCCI To Open Fair Housing Month with Annual Conference: Each year, April is celebrated around the country as Fair Housing Month to honor the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act in April 1968. This year, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) celebrates the month with our annual conference. The FHCCI’s 7th Annual Fair Housing Conference, entitled Fair Housing: The Bridge to Equitable Communities, will be held at the Marriott East in Indianapolis from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Read more here.

March 25, 2019 – FHCCI Releases 2018 Annual Report: The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) has released its 2018 Annual Report. This Report summarizes the previous year’s major accomplishments and activities. In 2018, the FHCCI completed its 7th year of operations, addressing its mission through its Advocacy, Education, Inclusive Communities, and Public Policy programs. Download the full report here.

March 7, 2019 – Rent-to-buy contract argued before Indiana Supreme Court: A dispute that could have a far-reaching impact on the sizable rent-to-own housing market in the Hoosier state was presented to the Indiana Supreme Court on Thursday morning with attorneys arguing over the nature of the rent-to-own contract. The case, Rainbow Realty Group, Inc. and/or Cress Trust v. Katrina Carter and Quentin Lintner, 19S-CC-00038, has zigzagged its way through the state court system. After Center Township Small Claims Court in Marion County granted Rainbow’s petition for possession and damages of the home that had been occupied by Katrina Carter and Quentin Lintner, the Marion Superior Court granted summary judgment to the couple. However, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding Rainbow was selling, not renting, the property to the couple. Read more here.

March 6, 2019 – Legislation aims to tame ‘Wild West’ nature of land contracts: A bill that passed through the Indiana House 82-14 and is headed to the Senate would protect families such as the Fairbankses from predatory “principal dwelling land contracts.” House Bill 1495 contains provisions that require the buyers be told the value of the property and how much they will ultimately pay for it if they complete the terms of the agreement. Also, after they pay 5 percent or more of the purchase price, buyers will be subject to foreclosure if they fall behind in payments, rather than being evicted. Read more here.

February 27, 2019 – Housing Near Transit Drives Economic Prosperity: Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, said that because the General Assembly made inclusionary zoning difficult to achieve, “We’re missing affordable housing from being created. We don’t get an opportunity to say ‘it is a priority for us as a community to insure there is housing availability for people who are working and can’t afford the cost of being near their jobs.’” Read more here.

February 15, 2019 – FHCCI Supports Passage of SB 12 – A Comprehensive and Inclusive Hate Crime Law: The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) urges passage of a fully inclusive and comprehensive hate crime law that removes Indiana from the list of five states that does not have a bias crimes statute. SB 12 is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Public Policy Committee on Monday, February 18, 2019 at 8:00 AM. The FHCCI supports SB 12 because it includes bill language that provides justice to victims targeted on the basis of the victim’s real or perceived race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender. Read more here.

February 14, 2019 – Indianapolis Housing Issues Featured on WFYI’s No Limits: Today on No Limits we talk about housing challenging and inequalities in greater Indianapolis. Our guests are Chris Purnell, executive director Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, Jim Morris, president and CEO Indy Habitat for Humanity and Amy Nelson, executive director Fair Housing Center. Listen to the audio here.

February 5, 2019 – FHCCI Supports HB 1495: The Center supports passage of HB 1495. This bill is badly needed and we sincerely appreciate the work of the sponsors in the drafting of these needed consumer protections. Legitimate and fair land contracts offer housing options to those often shut out of traditional mortgage or rental markets. However, post foreclosure crisis, we have found the contracts being used here in Indiana to be very one sided without effective consumer protections. Read more here.

January 25, 2019 – Over the Past Five Weeks, Fair-Housing Advocacy Nearly Collapsed: During the government shutdown, in which 800,000 federal workers worked without pay or were furloughed for five weeks alongside 1.2 million federal contractors, the Department of Housing and Urban Development was shuttered, with 95 percent of its staff furloughed. The effects reverberated throughout the country. “There are literally thousands of locally based organizations that are going to go out of business,” Lisa Rice, the CEO and president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said last week. “Fair-housing organizations’ funding has been cut off. They’re wondering, ‘Do I pay my rent or my staff?’” Read more here.

January 22, 2019 – Justices agree to hear Rainbow Realty rent-to-own dispute: The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer to two cases last week, including a rent-to-own contract dispute that Indiana Legal Services claims could adversely impact Hoosier tenants across the state if not reviewed by the high court. The justices unanimously granted transfer to Rainbow Realty Group Empire Holding Corp. and/or Cress Trust v. Katrina Carter, et al., 19S-CC-38. The case began in 2013 when Quentin Lintner and Katrina Carter entered into a 24-month rent-to-buy agreement with Rainbow Realty Group, but were later evicted from the home in 2015. Read more here.

January 10, 2019 – State’s ‘bureaucratic quagmire’ harms disabled woman: The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has 21 days to arrange home health care for an elderly woman with quadriplegia who has been confined to a hospital or nursing home since February 2016, a federal judge has ruled. The decision comes after the judge ruled previously that the FSSA’s failure to develop a home-based care plan violated the woman’s rights under three federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Karen D. Vaughn again prevailed Wednesday in her case in the Indiana Southern District Court. Vaughn sued three FSSA employees in February 2016 after she was unable to return home following a several-week bout with pneumonia. Before her illness, Vaughn had lived in her home and received in-home care to assist her with basic activities such as eating and bathing, but after her January 2016 hospital stay, the FSSA said it could not find providers to continue her home-based assistance. Read more here.

January 9, 2019 – Bill would give renters more rights, require landlords to give more notice before evicting: A state lawmaker has filed legislation that would provide more rights for renters, including the ability to withhold rent for repairs, limit the amount of security deposit a landlord can require and provide longer notice before eviction proceedings can begin. In Indiana, 28 percent of Hoosiers are renting a house or apartment, according to Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary), and Senate Bill 524 aims to protect tenants. Read more here.

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