March 30, 2006
HUD CHARGES MANAGER OF MINNESOTA APARTMENT COMPLEX WITH VIOLATING FAIR HOUSING ACT
Cannon Valley Apartment complex property manager discouraged black renter
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged Marlene McGee, manager of the Cannon Valley Apartment complex in Cannon Falls, MN., with violating the Fair Housing Act by making discriminatory statements to a potential black renter. The statements clearly indicated a tenant preference based upon race.
"Steering home seekers to or from particular areas because of their race is against the law," said Kim Kendrick, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "The Fair Housing Act guarantees everyone the right to live where they choose, and when that right has been violated we will take swift action."
HUD is also charging Croix Management Company, Cannon Valley Apartments Limited Partnership, and Margaret Alden, general partner of Cannon Valley, for their roles in the case.
HUD's investigation showed that in March 2005, Jo Lynn Rainer saw a local newspaper ad on Cannon Valley Apartments in Cannon Falls, MN. Rainer called to inquire about vacancies and eventually ended up speaking with the apartment's property manager, McGee.
During the conversation, McGee asked Rainer about her children and then began explaining the problems experienced previously with a female tenant who had five black children. McGee also told Rainer that minorities were tolerated in the apartment complex, but she was unsure how minorities would be tolerated in the town.
The investigation showed that McGee also made a point of telling Rainer that more minorities worked and lived in Pine Island, MN, than in Cannon Falls. McGee stated she was aware of that fact because her mother lives in Pine Island.
After McGee's insights, Rainer, who was relocating to Minnesota so her children could grow up in a safe neighborhood, did not feel safe residing in a community that was not accepting of minorities.
"Our homes are usually our sanctuary and where we feel safest," said Kendrick "It's a shame that this woman feared for the safety of herself and her children because of the color of her skin, Ms. Rainer was made to fear the Cannon Valley Apartment complex."
Housing discrimination charges heard before an ALJ carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense, in addition to actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorneys' fees. Sanctions can be more severe if a respondent has a history of housing discrimination. If either party elects to go to federal district court, either party may request a jury trial, and punitive damages may be awarded.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, and people with disabilities. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 or DOJ at (800) 896-7743 or (202) 514-4713. Additional information is available at www.hud.gov and www.usdoj.gov.