For Immediate Release
September 26, 2017
Contact: Jessica Aiwuyor
National Fair Housing Alliance Settles Race Discrimination Complaint with Real Estate Groups in Jackson, Mississippi
Washington, D.C. — The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) has settled a housing discrimination complaint with Lorgroup, LLC, DBA RE/MAX Alliance, and The Lee Garland and Rita Jensen Team (Lorgroup). The terms of the settlement will open up housing opportunities for African Americans purchasing homes in metropolitan Jackson, Mississippi. According to one analysis, Jackson is the third most segregated city in the U.S. Following allegations of housing discrimination from African Americans in Jackson, NFHA launched an investigation of how Whites and Blacks were treated when inquiring about purchasing homes. NFHA found differences in treatment based on race and filed a federal housing discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against the agents and companies.
The investigation included telephone and in-person testing. Testing is an investigation tool in which similarly situated Blacks and Whites make inquiries about available housing. NFHA’s testing revealed that when potential White homebuyers sought housing in integrated and predominantly African American neighborhoods, they were steered away. Instead, White homebuyers were provided with a plethora of information and assistance to help them buy a home in a predominantly White area. Meanwhile, African American homebuyers often never even received a call back from an agent after leaving messages about purchasing a specific home in Jackson.
The differences in treatment uncovered in NFHA’s investigation are examples of how Whites and Blacks are steered to different housing opportunities based on the racial composition of a neighborhood. “Steering intentionally perpetuates residential segregation and is illegal under the Fair Housing Act,” said NFHA’s President and CEO, Shanna L. Smith. “This is why it is imperative that real estate companies work to expand equal housing opportunities for everyone. When people choose where they want to live without artificial and illegal barriers, our communities and neighborhoods are stronger, Smith continued.”
Lorgroup will pay $46,000 to NFHA, participate in fair housing trainings, and display fair housing signs in its offices. Additionally, Lorgroup has agreed to promote fair housing in the communities where it does business and to expand equal housing opportunities for all consumers. The settlement agreement will be monitored by HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The original complaint was filed on September 15, 2015. The settlement was signed and approved by HUD on September 7, 2017.
Charles Harris, Executive Director of Jackson-based Housing Education and Economic Develop, Inc., said of the discrimination uncovered in the investigation, “Fair housing is the law, believe it or not. But housing discrimination is still alive and well. Any person or group that violates the Fair Housing Act must face the consequences.” Smith added, “This victory should send a strong message to real estate agents in the Jackson area that racial steering will not be tolerated and that their practices are being monitored. Furthermore, African American homebuyers should expect equal treatment and services when they are buying homes. If they suspect steering or if real estate agents refuse to return calls or work with them, they should contact the National Fair Housing Alliance at 1-800-910-7315 or 202-898-1661.”