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WASHINGTON – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced that a Davenport, Iowa, landlord has agreed to pay three African Americans a total of $24,000 to settle housing discrimination charges filed by HUD.
Landlord Frank Quijas will pay each of the three African Americans $8,000 to avoid further legal proceedings, Cuomo said. Quijas also agreed in the settlement to sell the three duplex apartments he now rents out and to leave the real estate business.
In addition, although he did not admit violating the Fair Housing Act, Quijas agreed to apologize in writing to Jacqueline Ash, Andre Echols and Tondalaya Williams, all black residents of Davenport.
Ash, Echols and Williams all said Quijas directly told them he would not rent to black tenants. During HUD's investigation, Quijas told investigators he had not rented to African Americans in about 25 years.
HUD worked with all the parties to negotiate the settlement and agreed to accept it at the request of Ash, Echols and Williams.
"The message of this settlement is that housing discrimination does not pay," Cuomo said. "All around the nation, HUD is working aggressively at President Clinton’s direction to uncover and eliminate this illegal conduct. I’m proud that as America prepares to mark the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, we are able to honor him not just with words but with action that carries forward his fight against discrimination."
Cuomo also said HUD’s nationwide crackdown on housing discrimination, which began in September, will further the President's goal of boosting the minority homeownership rate.
Brenda Drew-Peeples, counsel and executive director of the Davenport Civil Rights Commission, praised the work of everyone involved in helping to settle the housing discrimination case in Davenport. "The outstanding success in resolving these complaints, results from the collaborative skills of our Davenport Civil Rights Commission, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and HUD," she said.
Eva M. Plaza, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said: "We’re seeing cases like this throughout the country, where landlords bluntly tell homeseekers that they do not rent to blacks or other minorities. The Department is taking vigorous action to uncover blatant discrimination like this, as well as more subtle housing discrimination."
Father Joseph Hacala, S.J., a Special Assistant to Cuomo for Interfaith Community Outreach, came to Davenport today from Washington to announce the settlement.
HUD delivered checks from Quijas for $5,000 each to Ash, Echols and Williams. Each will receive an additional $3,000 when Quijas succeeds in selling one of his rental properties.
Ash, Echols and Williams all welcomed the settlement of their case.
"I appreciate all the work done by HUD and the Iowa and Davenport Civil Rights Commissions," Echols said. "This settlement shows that people who discriminate can’t continue to treat people the way they want to and get away with it."
"The discrimination and injustice I experienced with Mr. Quijas was a real slap in the face," Ash said. "I am grateful to HUD and those who have supported me and my struggle. This is not an issue of money -- it is an issue of human rights and of justice."
The investigation began after Echols, Ash and Williams contacted the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which then worked with HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in the inquiry. HUD first announced housing discrimination charges in Davenport on October 10 in the Ash and Echols cases. Williams’ complaint, under investigation at that time, was also included in the settlement.
An investigator for the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, posing as a prospective tenant, called Quijas’ phone number on July 11. In making an appointment to see the apartment, the investigator was asked by a man believed to be Quijas if he was black or white. The investigator said he was black and was told by the landlord, "I can’t accept any black people." The landlord claimed that he’d had problems with black people in the past. He also told the investigator his lawyer told him "not to rent to black people."
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, HUD issues charges of violation of the Fair Housing Act and legal action is taken.
A finding by an administrative law judge that the Fair Housing Act has been violated carries a top penalty of $11,000 in civil penalties for the 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.
During President Clinton's first term, HUD 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.
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.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009