|HUD No. 00-33|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Tuesday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||March 28, 2000|
CUOMO ANNOUNCES OREGON MOBILE HOME PARK OWNER PAYS $3,500 TO SETTLE DISABILITY HOUSING DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced that a McMinnville, Oregon mobile home park owner has paid $3,500 to settle housing discrimination charges accusing him of refusing to rent to a man because of his mental disability.
Emil Geyer of Newberg, Oregon filed the complaint with HUD in March 1999, alleging that Robert Squires denied his application to rent a space in the mobile home park because of his mental health disability. The park, Squires Estates, is located at 643 NW Hickory in McMinnville.
"Many people don't realize the Fair Housing Act protects people with disabilities from housing discrimination," Cuomo said. "This protection isn't something people with disabilities have to request as a favor - it's their right under the law, and HUD will enforce the law." Cuomo added: "I hope this agreement sends a message to landlords to not illegally discriminate, in hopes that more people with disabilities will enjoy real choices when determining where they want to live."
The Fair Housing Act, enacted in 1968, was amended in 1988 to outlaw housing discrimination against people with disabilities. It also bars housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, family status and national origin. It covers the sale, rental, financing and advertising of almost all housing in the nation.
Geyer with his mother, Miriam Mager as a co-signer was in the process of purchasing a mobile home in Squires Court pending rental of the lot that the mobile home sat upon. During an application meeting on September 29, 1998, Geyer's mother mentioned to Squires that her son had a guaranteed source of income, as he received Social Security disability payments. Although prohibited by the Fair Housing Act to ask about the nature of a person's disability, Squires asked Mr. Geyer what his disability was, noting that the tenants were responsible for the upkeep of their own home and spaces. Geyer said his disability was not physical, but Squires persisted. Geyer told him he had a mental disability. Squires the next day rejected Geyer's application, without giving a reason.
Because moving an established mobile home is costly and difficult, Geyer told HUD that Mr. Squire's refusal to let him rent space in the park had the practical effect of killing the purchase of the mobile home as well.
Mr. Squires defended his actions to HUD investigators by saying that he called Geyer's previous landlord who was listed on his application, and that that person had told him (Squires) that there had been behavioral problems with Geyer and that he would not rent to him again. However, Geyer's previous landlord told HUD investigators that she never spoke to Squires and that, in fact, she would rent to Geyer again.
Additionally, Squires told HUD that he discussed the fact that a man with a mental disability had applied for a space in the park and that the psychiatrist friend advised him not to rent to someone with that disability.
As part of the Enforcement Agreement negotiated by HUD, Squires agreed to pay Geyer $3,500, attend fair housing training, and adopt a written rental policy providing equal housing and a commitment to not discriminate against people with disabilities. For the next year, HUD may review Squires' business to check on compliance with the agreement terms. Geyer is employed and living in a mobile home park in Newberg, Oregon.
Often, people with mental illness are denied housing outright by landlords and because of their disability are harassed by neighbors so much that they decide to move. In Fiscal Year 1999 600 complaints alleging discrimination based on mental disability were filed with HUD and its state and local government partners. An unknown number of complaints are also filed with private fair housing groups, which are not required to report their statistics to HUD.
HUD is doubling its fair housing efforts under Cuomo. Cuomo said HUD will be able to increase its efforts to combat housing discrimination even further if President Clinton's new budget request for a 14 percent increase in funding for HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is approved. The President is asking Congress for $50 million for HUD's anti-discrimination office in the Fiscal Year 2001 Federal Budget - up from $44 million the current fiscal year, $40 million in FY 1999, and $30 million in FY 1998.
Cuomo recently announced that HUD is stepping up efforts to make people aware of their rights under the Fair Housing Act. He said that under a new public awareness campaign, HUD will distribute thousands of booklets around the country, and deliver public service announcements to radio and TV stations about the Fair Housing Act. HUD will also provide more information about housing discrimination on its Internet site. HUD's fair housing material is available in both English and Spanish.
The new campaign will urge people who believe they've been harmed by housing discrimination can file complaints with HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777.