|HUD No. 00-210|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Tuesday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||August 15, 2000|
HUD CHARGES ARKANSAS LANDLORDS WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST BIRACIAL COUPLE
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today said that HUD has charged the owners and managers of a North Little Rock, Arkansas apartment complex with housing discrimination for refusing to rent to a biracial couple with a young child.
"Regrettably, discrimination is all-too alive and well in 21st century America," Cuomo said. "The Fair Housing Act says that anyone can live in any home in any neighborhood - that is the promise of the American dream. We cannot, and must not, tolerate the actions of anyone who ignores the Act and tramples on the rights of others."
The complaint was filed by a couple who moved to North Little Rock from Texas when the woman was promoted to a new job. [Editorís note: The couple has asked HUD not to reveal their names because of concern for their childís well-being.] The complaint was filed against the owners and managers of the Lakewood House Apartments, a high-rise located at 4801 North Hills Blvd., in North Little Rock. The property is owned by James Matthews and the Woodcrest Co., and managed by Jim and Dianna "Sue" Webb, Alice Hicks and General Properties, Inc.
The woman, who is white, said that she called the Lakewood House Apartmentsí rental office in July 1998 and was told by Mrs. Webb that a 3-bedroom unit was available. When she and her spouse, who is African-American, went to see the apartment the next day, however, they were told by Mr. Webb that there were no 3-bedroom units available. With her suspicions raised, the woman called the rental office a few hours later without identifying herself and was told by Mr. Webb that a 3-bedroom apartment was available.
The woman then asked an African-American female coworker to also call. When the coworker called and asked about 2- or 3-bedroom units, she was told that only 1-bedroom apartments were available.
Later that day, the woman went to her employerís Equal Opportunity Office to discuss the matter. A counselor asked a white female employee to go to the apartment complex to see how she would be treated. She did and was shown a vacant 3-bedroom apartment.
"We are saddened that this type of discrimination happens in this day and age," the couple said. "But we are happy that the Fair Housing laws through HUD are there to protect against such actions."
The couple filed a discrimination complaint in August 1998 with HUD, which began investigating the allegations. Investigators interviewed a number of witnesses who corroborated the coupleís story. The Webbs, however, told the HUD investigators they did not remember the couple. They also denied discriminating against anyone.
HUDís investigation has revealed that at the time of this incident, 96 of the 107 Lakewood House apartments -- or 90 percent -- were occupied by whites; one apartment -- or one percent -- was occupied by a Hispanic; and 10 apartments -- about 9 percent -- were vacant. 1990 census data shows that North Little Rock is 75 percent white, 24 percent black and 1 percent other.
Housing discrimination charges carry a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 -- provided there are no prior violations of the Act -- plus actual damages, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees if the case is heard before an administrative law judge. If either party requests a trial in federal district court, a federal judge can award civil penalties, punitive damages, or both.
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 most of the nationís housing. Fair housing investigations are conducted by HUD investigators, state and city agencies working with HUD, and by private fair housing groups that receive HUD funds.
Note to editors: People who believe they've been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777.