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ELGIN, ILLINOIS WILL REVAMP ENFORCEMENT OF OCCUPANCY CODE TO SETTLE COMPLAINTS BY HISPANIC FAMILIES OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
WASHINGTON - Elgin, Illinois will change the way it inspects homes for occupancy code violations and will pay seven Hispanic families a total of $10,000 to settle housing discrimination complaints, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced today.
The complaints - filed with HUD by the families between October 1998 and May 1999 - allege that the City of Elgin targeted Hispanic families for selective enforcement of occupancy standards that limit the number of people who can live in a home.
The City of Elgin agreed to conciliate the case before more investigation was required, and admits no wrongdoing in the settlement.
The families told HUD that inspectors showed up unannounced at night and early in the morning - including 5 a.m. on one occasion - to see how many people were inside a home. The families also complained to HUD that City code inspectors entered homes without obtaining permission from occupants who did not speak fluent English.
"All families in this country, no matter what their ethnicity or race, should be safe in their homes and not be subjected to unreasonable home inspections," Cuomo said. "I'm encouraged that the City of Elgin accepts this and will change its inspection procedures."
According to Elgin's records, from 1995 to 1998 City officials issued 268 citations for occupancy code violations. Of those, 179 - 64 percent - went to families with Hispanic surnames. However, Hispanics make up only about 8 percent of homeowners and occupy only about 20 percent of the rental units in Elgin. More than 80 percent of the citations were issued on the East Side of Elgin, an area with many Hispanic and African American residents.
Cuomo discussed the settlement today in an appearance before the National Council of La Raza Board of Directors meeting in Washington. Deputy Secretary Saul Ramirez was discussing the settlement in remarks to the 17th annual United States Hispanic Leadership Conference in Chicago.
Of the seven families who filed complaints with HUD, six owned homes, and one was a renter. The families protested the methods the inspectors used to check for overcrowding.
In one instance, Manuel and Maria Soto told HUD that an inspector arrived while Maria's mother was visiting from Mexico. The couple said the inspector gave them a verbal warning to reduce the number of people in the home or face condemnation of the property and eviction - even though they told him the mother was just a temporary guest.
"When we filed the complaint we weren't expecting any money - all we wanted was for them (City inspectors) to leave us alone," Maria Soto said. "We had never had a problem before this and we didn't know what was going to happen. We were afraid and thought we might have to sell our home and move."
Under the settlement of the complaint filed with HUD, the City of Elgin agreed to:
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.
As part of his One America Initiative, President Clinton directed Cuomo to double the number of enforcement actions brought against perpetrators of housing discrimination by the year 2001. HUD has already increased its enforcement actions to a rate of 102 per month, compared with less than 30 per month during the Clinton Administration's first term.
People who believe they've been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777, TDD 1-800-927-9275 or on the Internet.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009
Content Archived: January 20, 2009