HOPE files complaints on discrimination

Housing group says 5 rental property managers discriminated against minorities


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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

HOPE Fair Housing Center has filed administrative complaints against six property management companies in Oak Park, alleging the businesses discriminated against minorities attempting to rent apartments in 2013.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, HOPE Executive Director Anne Houghtaling said in a telephone interview.

Houghtaling said the six complaints include one involving discrimination based on race, one against a hearing-impaired applicant and four so-called reasonable accommodation request denials of applicants with a disability.

She said there are a number of additional cases of "more subtle cases of discrimination" that did not immediately merit filing an administrative complaint with HUD.

Houghtaling said HOPE plans to address the companies involved in the more subtle cases directly to make them aware of their infractions. 

Glenn Brewer, who serves as chairman of a task force set up by the village of Oak Park to address the issue, said in a telephone interview that HOPE has not revealed the names of the property management companies who are alleged to be in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. 

The village hired HOPE in 2013 to conduct the tests of rental housing agencies to determine whether African Americans and those with hearing disabilities were discriminated against. 

The report, released in February, states that more than twice as many white applicants were shown apartments, compared to their African-American counterparts. African Americans also had fewer return phone calls by apartment management companies and were given less information about rental units.

Hearing-impaired applicants were hung up on multiple times by apartment management companies and given differences in the availability of units, according to the report.

Houghtaling said HOPE filed the six complaints in July. 

"I believe that as part of HUD's process they will attempt to mediate some sort of settlement," Brewer said.

Houghtaling said the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act could either take place through an administrative enforcement process through the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) or through federal court.

"If [FHEO] finds probable cause [for discrimination], they can issue a charge of discrimination against the respondent or the housing provider," Houghtaling said. "Then, of course, that charge can go a couple of different paths — it can stay within the administrative process at HUD or any party can elect to go to federal court."

She said the whole process can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year and a half.

The race complaint filed with HUD involved two paired tests where an African-American applicant called a housing provider several times before receiving a call back, while their white counterpart received a call back on the first try. In the second test, the African American was told by a rental agent that an apartment was rented and nothing would available for six months, while the white applicant was told an apartment was available.

She said one of the reasonable accommodation complaints included a disabled applicant with a service dog who was told that the apartment does not allow dogs unless the applicant absolutely needed the dog and could not "use anything else, such as a cane."

"It's not within the landlord's realm to decide what is the best device to use for someone who is visually impaired," Houghtaling said.

She said some of the potential violators were not the subject of an administrative complaint because, in some cases, it could not be determined if the rental housing providers were discriminating or just practicing bad customer service, such as not returning phone calls.

Houghtaling said HOPE intends to make the companies aware that they were close to being in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

She said they intend to tell the companies "that you need to keep an eye on what you are doing and what your agents are doing and make sure you're providing good customer service and treating customers equally."

HOPE is not releasing the names of those companies they consider to be in violation because "there is an opportunity to potentially reach a resolution that corrects the problems."

"And so if that's possible, I think at that point then the housing provider and HOPE could jointly release a statement about the resolution, and it gives the housing provider the opportunity to do the right thing, get their house in order and then go public," she said.

Brewer added that "because of the publicity surrounding the testing, they would like to contact the housing providers and talk to them one on one privately and let them know what took place in a non-adversarial atmosphere to reach some resolution."

He said that the village task force is on schedule to issue a set of findings and recommendations to the village board in October.

The next meeting of the taskforce is at the Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St., at 7 p.m. on Aug. 13.

Email: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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JoHnMuRtAgH from OP South  

Posted: August 4th, 2014 2:20 PM

OP Transplant - It is a federal law is being enforced by HOPE and HUD.

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 4th, 2014 1:07 PM

I still don't like this. No one was denied housing, because no one was actually looking for housing. Hiring outside agencies to try to trick local businesses into revealing bias, and then inferring the motivation for this bias (anti-deaf discrimination is alive and well in OP?) looks a lot like trying to ferret out thought-crime. I don't like a government that tries to trick its citizens into doing something wrong so they can be fined.

Winter Skye from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: July 31st, 2014 8:28 PM

@Timothy I. the Writer: Why do I see more than one sentence where you have written 'White' and 'African-American?' Is there something wrong with the word BLACK? There must be because you are bending over backwards to say 'AA' instead. So please tell me why it's alright to say WHITE but not BLACK. That is just a perfect example of racism--treating BP as The Other. Whether you meant well or not, treating BP differently (like dancing around a perfectly fine term, especially given that you freely say WHITE in the same sentence more than twice) shows a discomfort with the idea of BLACKNESS.

John Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: July 30th, 2014 2:36 PM

Joe - Benign Neglect 3! The crime that occurred on Clinton was born decades ago when the term Benign Neglect was first born. HOPE's discrimination cases against landlords are evidence that Benign Neglect knows no borders. The 3rd is the Benign Neglect of our laws. Those committing "crimes of the street" are identified immediately and get the public walk. Those that commit "crimes of the business world" are pampered through the justice system. Their walk is private.

Joe from South oak park  

Posted: July 30th, 2014 1:37 PM

JBM- I believe the term is benign neglect.

JRMurtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 29th, 2014 11:26 AM

The OP Police filed charges on Demarko Johnson-Molette for armed robbery, a criminal offense. From the WJ posts, I could tell you his age, addresses, crime record, married status, etc. In 2013 Oak Park hired HOPE Fair Housing Center to do test to identify landlords that are using discrimination tactics. The tactics are a criminal offense. HOPE announced last week that a HUD complaint had been filed against 5 OP landlords. The village does not know the landlords' identities. Strange.

john murtagh from OP  

Posted: July 27th, 2014 4:12 PM

The only document received from Hope Fair Housing Center can be found at the Wednesday Journal files. http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/2-14-2014/Oak-Park-flunks-rental-housing-discrimination-test/ It is possible that there have been other documents exchanged between Hope and OPV. Based on my knowledge no other documents have been publicly released.

Tech Savy from Oak Park  

Posted: July 27th, 2014 4:09 PM

I think the study for hearing impaired persons seems very antiquated with website technology. If I was hearing impaired I would go the the rental agencies website, look at apartment availabilities and contact the company that way. Just seems easier and less confusing for everyone.

Seriously Asking  

Posted: July 27th, 2014 2:12 PM

Chris Williams: I would like to see documentation that illustrates the objectivity of this study.

John Murtagh from OP  

Posted: July 27th, 2014 11:19 AM

HOPE Fair Housing Center was hired by the village to conduct tests that to undercover discrimination ?" a crime. Hope filed a discrimination complaint against five OP property management companies. The next steps in the discrimination cases were not revealed by HOPE or HUD. Unless there were village employee activities that facilitated the businesses' crimes, the village would face no discrimination charges. It is highly unlikely that village employees were involved in any crime.


Posted: July 26th, 2014 10:30 PM

Trustee Brewer didn't seem to mention if anyone at village hall was held accountable for this. Tammy Grossman was the Housing Programs Manager and recently was promoted by the Village Manager to head the huge Development dept. they have created. Business as usual


Posted: July 26th, 2014 11:59 AM

Crumbling streets and deplorable alleys.


Posted: July 26th, 2014 8:35 AM

Great point, John. The Feds should be paying to enforce that law, not the Village. The Village should be spending taxpayer dollars on things that are actually an issue like crumbling streets.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: July 26th, 2014 7:23 AM

OPDad - Racial discrimination is a federal law, not an OP law.


Posted: July 26th, 2014 6:39 AM

@Chris, who cares? A landlord should be able to rent to anyone they want to. It's not the Village's concern. What is the Village's concern? Streets, san and safety. Once that is all buttoned up, then focus on the fluff. But, the Village has no concept of proper prioritization.

just sayin  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 7:40 PM

People of this community still have a ways to go when it comes to real integration. Just sayin

Chris Williams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 7:35 PM

People should understand that the testing was structured so that both black and white prospective tenants were entirely equal in terms of their credit, income, references, etc. There was a pattern of obstructing access to black prospective tenants who objectively were just as solid as prospective white tenants. Therein lies the bias.

Winter Skye from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 7:14 PM

Dan, I suggest you rent out rooms to some of these wonderful potential tenants.


Posted: July 25th, 2014 3:39 PM

Well adult in the room, if you can't figure out whose comments are racially implied, then Gee, wow, But I will say one thing, because taxpayers paid for the report it should be made available , at some point, to the public.

Adult in the room from OP  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 3:15 PM

@RF from OP...if you are, in fact, an adult, please comment again and point out which items written here are from "ignorant bigots" as you call them. What specifically are you referring to? ...If, as I suspect, you're a petulant teenager with too much time and bandwidth on your hands, please get off the computer and hit skate park. You need to burn off some energy....Dope.

RF from OP  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 2:37 PM

hahaha. the usual ignorant bigots. blah,blah, blah

Jessie Jackson  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 2:15 PM

Keep Hope Alive......

Friar Tuck from OP  

Posted: July 25th, 2014 9:54 AM

..."I believe that as part of HUD's process they will attempt to mediate some sort of settlement,"...in plain speak, that translates to extortion. HUD will grab money from private companies and either hoard it for itself via fines, or negotiate a "donation" to HOPE, which would allow them to troll for bigger fish. This is indeed pathetic.


Posted: July 25th, 2014 8:15 AM

As a taxpayer, the Village hiring HOPE is a waste of money that could be spent FIXING OUR STREETS! The village is talking about borrowing millions of dollars to fix the streets, but has money to entrap local landlords who don't want to rent to deadbeats. Pathetic.


Posted: July 24th, 2014 11:25 PM

HOPE should keep their beaks out. My guess is that the management companies got an idea that some people were bad news and focused on tenets that would not cause trouble. Sometimes you have to cut through the red tape to make the right decisions.

John Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: July 24th, 2014 9:19 PM

The H Gang (Hope and HUD) doing whatever it wants to do. The smaller the city, the harsher the treatment they give.


Posted: July 24th, 2014 6:55 PM

Why should anyone be forced to rent to people that they don't want to. Hearing impaired I don't understand but blacks. Any apartment building that I lived in where blacks were, there was always trouble. My last apartment, they broke into my locker and stole valuable collectibles. Then they were dealing drugs in front of the building. Then they broke into my car and stole my stereo. They play their music at all hours, one guy didn't pay rent at all and was evicted. I don't blame mgr's.

Karen from Oak Park  

Posted: July 24th, 2014 6:38 PM

I consider it unfair and a disservice to the public NOT to reveal the names. What solution is there really when they are free to continue with their practices basically. I would not want to rent from such a management company. The public has a right to know and what was the point of all this if you are not going to disclose your findings?

Apt in Oak Park  

Posted: July 24th, 2014 5:52 PM

Dont tell me the largest owner in Oak Park is one of them please.

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