Realtors Accused of Ethnic Selection

Natasha Korecki and Dan Rozek, Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 23

While shopping for homes with his white client, an Elmhurst-based Realtor slowed the car past a group of blacks and allegedly posed a question:

“Look out the window. Does anything out there bother you?”

The client’s response doesn’t matter. The question itself, based on race, is illegal for a real estate agent to ask, two housing groups charged Monday in a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the complaint, the Washington, D.C.-based National Fair Housing Alliance and Hope Fair Housing Center in Wheaton charged that real estate agents from the same Re/Max office in Elmhurst brought white home buyers to white neighborhoods and minorities, predominantly Hispanics, to minority neighborhoods.

Re/Max did not return phone calls for comment Monday.

The investigation also claims that three real estate agents outright bad-mouthed heavily Hispanic or minority areas to white clients while bringing minority home shoppers right to those same neighborhoods.

The national group targeted 12 metropolitan areas to test real estate practices and filed similar complaints in Detroit and Atlanta. A complaint in Chicago is expected in the next six months.

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In the Re/Max investigation, white homebuyers who asked to look in DuPage towns of Bensenville, Villa Park or Lombard for instance, were told the schools were bad, crime was high or that the areas were heavily Hispanic. Whites were instead taken to Roselle, Elk Grove Village, Wood Dale, Geneva or St. Charles. A Hispanic home buyer, however, was steered to predominantly minority communities. That allegedly happened even though Hispanic testers showed up with a larger down payment and reported a higher income than white home shoppers.

“That’s where you see the duplicity,” Hope Fair Housing Executive Director Bernard Kleina said. “It’s not a good neighborhood for the white home seeker. It’s fine for the minority home seeker.”

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