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HUD FILES DISCRIMINATION CHARGES AGAINST MISSOURI DEVELOPER ACCUSED OF REFUSING TO SELL HOME TO AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has filed charges of housing discrimination against a white developer for allegedly refusing to sell a house in an all-white subdivision outside St. Louis MO, to a black woman and making offensive comments to her real estate agent, Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced today.
Cuomo said the actions the developer is accused of are "outrageous, intolerable and illegal."
"We will not allow racism and bigotry to stop families across this nation from living in any home, in any apartment or in any neighborhood they can afford," Cuomo said.
Last November, Shannon Graham of Cedar Hills, her fiancÚ, and real estate agent visited some homes in High Ridge, a Jefferson County community southwest of St. Louis. They met with development representative Dennis Riebold, and viewed a model house. During the visit, Riebold gave the real estate agent a message to call a telephone number. The agent later called from her car phone, and spoke to Dennis' father, Leonard, president of C & R Construction and Development Company and developer of the property. The agent said Leonard Riebold asked her if her clients were black, and when she said they were, he allegedly made offensive statements to her and said that she should have known better than to bring them to his development.
"This year, the 30th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, I am reaffirming HUD's commitment to the crackdown on housing discrimination that we began in September at President Clinton's direction," Cuomo said. "Unfortunately, this type of discrimination isn't just part of our past. It's a harsh reality that hurts far too many Americans today."
President Clinton's proposed 1999 federal budget seeks $22 million in increased funding for HUD to intensify the fight against housing discrimination. The 73 percent increase for HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity would boost spending by the office to $52 million. If approved by Congress, it would be the largest single budget increase in civil rights law enforcement in two decades.
Commenting on what happened to her, Shannon Graham said: "Less than two years from the year 2000, I find that the world is filled with people that have a strong sense of respect for the rights of others. This is why I was stunned when I was t old that Leonard Riebold refused to sell me a house because I am African American."
HUD is filing charges on behalf of Graham for being denied the house she wanted and on behalf of the real estate agent, because she lost the commission on the sale and because of Riebold's statements to her. HUD has also issued a charge on behalf of loan officer Robert Davis of Purnell Financial Services, because he was denied the commission he would have made by facilitating the loan, already approved by Riebold before he knew the applicant was black.
The charges name Leonard and Dennis Riebold, as well as two corporations, C. & R. Construction and Development Co., and Home Construction Inc.
Shannon Graham also said: "Mr. Riebold denied me rights that are granted by the laws of the United States and that's why I found it appropriate and necessary to seek assistance by filing a formal complaint with HUD because this kind of treatment is wrong, and I want to see it end. I appreciate the help I have received from HUD and believe that working together and supporting one another will put a stop to this kind of discrimination."
The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination on the basis 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.
A hearing on the charge may be held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). A finding by an ALJ that the Fair Housing Act has been violated carries a top penalty of $11,000 in civil penalties for a first offense and $55,000 for later offenses. Additional penalties include: monetary compensation to victims for actual damages, humiliation, mental distress, and loss of their fair housing rights; attorney fees; and court costs.
Any party to a Charge of Discrimination can also choose to have the case heard in U.S. District Court within 20 days after receipt of the Charge of Discrimination. In these cases an attorney from the Department of Justice brings the case on behalf of the complainant. 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 covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation. People who believe they have been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint with HUD over the Internet.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009