2001-09-21 Lakeshore Press Fair housing tests expected to continue here next year

Fair housing tests expected to continue here next year
Lakeshore Press

Testing for discriminatory practices among real estate and lending institutions in Holland will continue in 2002, the city’s Human Relations Commission was told Thursday. “We’re putting the community on notice that we will continue to be monitoring fair housing practices here,” said Al Serrano, the city human relations coordinator.

Last winter, the HRC funded a test of fair housing practices locally that turned up discriminatory practices among real estate agents and bank loan officers. Eight tests were conducted and racial bias or some difference in treatment with black customers was found in six of the tests. The tests were funded by the HRC and conducted by the Grand Rapids Fair Housing Center, which found discriminatory practices in bank mortgage departments and real estate agencies, even when the black customers were more financially qualified that white applicants.

None of the firms tested were publically identified. Serrano said each was contacted by his office and made aware of the test results in order t encourage them to do training and monitoring against biased practices in their offices. Follow-up tests of those firms may be done to see if compliance has occurred, he said.

“If we get a complaint (on discriminatory practices), doing a test of the company will be one of the most effective ways of assessing the complaints,” Serrano said. He said the HRC will budget for four fair housing monitor tests next year through the Grand Rapids Fair Housing Center. He said the group hopes to find enough local funding to help establish a Fair Housing Center in the city of Holland.
If we can get the center established, I’m sure the city would help find ways to support it,” Serrano said, noting that a local diversity group is trying to raise awareness for the need for a local center.

This year, the HRCD paid $5,000 for a study to determine if housing providers locally were complying with the city’s Fair Housing Ordinance and the citizens are being given equal housing opportunity. In each test, trained black and white testers from the Fair Housing Center had discussions with company agents, providing the same information, with the exception that income or loan qualifications always was higher for the black applicant. In all of the tests with banks and Realtors, black applicants were given significantly less time, less information and less assistance. Evidence of loan officials steering white potential buyers away from houses in certain areas of the city also was found in the test.