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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 97-187
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-1420Tuesday,
Or contact your local HUD officeSeptember 30, 1997


WASHINGTON -- Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo today launched a crackdown on housing discrimination at the direction of President Clinton. Cuomo announced civil charges in three cases -- including one in which a code allegedly referring to TV bigot Archie Bunker was used to bar minorities from apartments -- and awarded $15 million in grants to fair housing groups.

"Archie Bunker was played for laughs, but housing discrimination is no laughing matter," Cuomo said. "Every family in America has the right to live anywhere they can afford."

During President Clinton's first term, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reached out-of-court settlements on 6,517 housing discrimination cases. The Department took enforcement actions on 1,085 cases, in which HUD issued housing discrimination charges or referred cases to the Department of Justice. HUD obtained $17.8 million in compensation for housing discrimination victims during the President's first term.

"At President Clinton's direction, I'm pledging HUD's full resources to intensify the fight against illegal housing discrimination," Cuomo said. "We will double the number of enforcement actions against this outrageous conduct in the President's second term."

Cuomo said the crackdown will further the President's goal of boosting the minority homeownership rate, by removing barriers of prejudice that act as a roadblock to minority homeownership.

As part of the crackdown, Cuomo released a list of 67 private, non-profit groups that will get $15 million in grants from HUD to investigate allegations of housing discrimination, provide housing counseling, and work to promote fair housing.

The three discrimination cases Cuomo announced today are from:

  • Worcester, MA, where agents working for an apartment rental service wrote the word "Archie" -- allegedly referring to Archie Bunker -- on apartment listings as a secret code to identify landlords who would not allow apartments to be shown to minorities.

  • Buffalo, NY, where a man threatened to blow up a woman's house after she showed an apartment she owns to a prospective black tenant.

  • Caldwell, ID, where a woman was barred from buying her father's mobile home by the mobile home park owner because her husband is Hispanic.

"These three cases are examples of the thousands of cases HUD reviews each year," Cuomo said. "They show that housing discrimination isn't just an ugly part of our history. It's an intolerable outrage that still exists today."

"Many victims of housing discrimination don't realize they've been discriminated against, and many people are unfamiliar with the Fair Housing Act," Cuomo said. "We want to alert people that HUD, fair housing groups and state and local agencies will work to make sure their legal right to be free from discrimination is enforced."

People who believe they have been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD. HUD operates a toll-free national hotline to take complaints, in both English and Spanish, at 1-800-669-9777.

The initiatives Cuomo announced were endorsed by Charles Kamasaki, Senior Vice President of the National Council of La Raza. "We need a strong, vigorous and consistent fair housing enforcement effort to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity to housing of their choice," Kamasaki said. "The initiatives being announced today are essential steps to assuring such an enforcement effort."

Cuomo was joined at a news conference by Linda Chavez-Thompson, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO and a member of the President's Advisory Board on Race. Victims of housing discrimination also spoke at the news conference.

In the three cases spotlighted today, Cuomo announced the filing of civil charges of housing discrimination against four individuals and one business, accusing them of violating the Fair Housing Act.

A finding by an administrative law judge that the law has been violated carries a top penalty of: $11,000 in civil penalties for a first offense and $55,000 for later offenses; monetary compensation to victims for actual damages, humiliation, mental distress, and loss of their fair housing rights; and attorney fees and court costs. A finding by a federal court of a violation may include an assessment of punitive damages, as well as compensation for victims.

The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on account of race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status and national origin.

The Act covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation. Fair housing investigations are conducted by HUD investigators, state and city agencies working with HUD, and private fair housing groups that receive HUD funds.

If an investigation shows that illegal housing practices have occurred and the parties will not settle, the Department issues charges like those announced today, and legal action is taken. Many cases are settled out of court.

Since becoming HUD Secretary in February, Cuomo has made Fair Housing Act enforcement a priority. HUD reached an agreement with the National Urban League to fight housing discrimination and promote minority homeownership, and is working with the Department of Agriculture to promote fair housing in rural areas.

The civil charges announced today are against:

  • Karen Soucie and the firm she owned, Choice Property Consultants, Inc., which ran an apartment referral service in Worcester, MA. Choice maintained a listing service for landlords and advertised vacant apartments, showed vacant apartments to prospective tenants, and collected and reviewed tenant applications for apartments. An investigation by the Housing Discrimination Project -- a non-profit group funded by HUD -- found that Soucie and her company engaged in discriminatory housing practices based on national origin and familial status in 1995 and 1996. Some listings maintained by Choice had the name "Archie" written on them and circled -- a code allegedly referring to Archie Bunker -- to indicate a landlord would not rent to minorities. Other listings and vacancy reports demonstrated Soucie's willingness to also discriminate on the basis of familial status. The listings had the comments "prefers no children," "married couples," "no more than 2," "wants older people," "no kids under 10," "single only," and "wants working single." An employee of Soucie who was outraged by the housing discrimination quit her job and came forward to reveal the practice and cooperate in the investigation.

  • James Ziebold, of Buffalo, NY. Ziebold has already pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges of making threatening phone calls and was placed on two years probation and ordered to do 100 hours of community service and receive mental health counseling. The civil charges, which parallel the criminal charges to which he pleaded guilty, accuse Ziebold of making two threatening phone calls in October 1995 to Antonina Ippolito of Buffalo, who owns 12 apartments. The calls were made after Ippolito showed an apartment she owns near Ziebold's home to a prospective black tenant. The calls, recorded on Ippolito's answering machine, contain obscenities and racial slurs and threaten to blow up the apartment and Ippolito's home if she rented to blacks or Puerto Ricans. Ippolito said she was so frightened by the calls that she arranged for one of her adult children to always be with her when her husband was out. "It was a disaster in my house, we couldn't sleep, we expected to be burned out," Ippolito said. The civil case was delayed until the criminal case was resolved.

  • Charles and Marlene Harlan of Boise, ID, who own the Golden Gate Mobile Home Park in Caldwell, ID. HUD's investigation found that Charles Harlan told Golden Gate resident Donald Mello early this year that Mello's mobile home would have to be moved out of the park if it was sold to a Hispanic individual or family. Because of this illegal restriction, Mello was unable to sell the mobile home to his daughter Lisa and her Hispanic husband, David Fernandez, who wanted to live in Golden Gate with their four young children. HUD also found that Charles Harlan rejected an application by another prospective Hispanic purchaser, Frank Garcia, to keep the mobile home at Golden Gate. Glenda Stone, a mobile home dealer who is Hispanic and deals primarily with Hispanic clients, also lost an opportunity to list the Mello home for sale when Charles Harlan told her she could not sell to Hispanics. On March 4 this year, Charles Harlan approved the sale of the mobile home to a white man at a price of $6,000 -- $1,500 below the price Mello had sought.


    Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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