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Complaint Finds Real Estate Agents Steer Qualified Black Home Buyers Away From White Communities

Picket Fence in Front of Houses

Picket Fence in Front of Houses

Acquiring education and wealth have long been said to be the best way for Blacks to counteract racism, but a new federal housing complaint highlights how even African-Americans with the income to buy homes in affluent areas face discrimination.

Filed almost 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the Sept. 9 complaint alleges that real estate agents in Jackson, Miss., steered Black home buyers with the means to live in high-income neighborhoods away from such areas to keep neighborhoods racially segregated.

The complaint specifically accuses Lorgroup LLC and real estate agents in the RE/MAX Alliance/Lee Garland and Rita Jensen Team in Mississippi of wrongdoing. The National Fair Housing Alliance filed the complaint after a year-long investigation in which whites and Blacks contacted the company, posing as home buyers interested in viewing homes in Jackson. Both sets of fake home buyers were equally qualified and had similar preferences for homes. Yet, they unearthed a pattern of discrimination.

“The agents steered the white home seekers away from interracial neighborhoods in Jackson, which is majority African American, and into majority white areas such as Pearl, Ridgeland, Richland, Clinton, Madison County, Rankin County, and Palahatchie,” the National Fair Housing Alliance found. “Conversely, the African American testers who inquired about properties in the Jackson area were often never called back and were generally provided very limited information.”

And when a White tester and a Black tester both inquired about a foreclosed property in Jackson, the real estate agent prevented the white tester from viewing the property, telling the individual the home was under contract. Then, the agent steered the white tester to homes in mostly white neighborhoods, while the African-American tester never received so much as a phone call from the agent, despite leaving several messages. Ultimately, the Black tester was denied the chance to view area homes.

All in all, White home buyers were prevented from viewing homes in majority-Black areas, while Black home buyers were closed off from viewing a variety of homes. Shockingly, agents even refused to show homes to Blacks with more income, more money for down payments and better credit than their White counterparts.

The National Fair Housing Alliance specifically named the following real estate agents in the complaint: Lee Garland, Randy Inman, Lisa Bourgoyne and Chase Belk. But these complaints are not limited to agents in the South. Similar federal housing complaints have been filed in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dayton and Washington, D.C. Clearly, housing discrimination doesn’t end at the Mason-Dixon line.

In Northern cities, as well as Austin, San Antonio, Atlanta and Birmingham, both Black and Latino home buyers received the short shrift from real estate agents.

“Despite being better qualified financially, Black and Latino testers were shown fewer homes than their white peers, were often denied information about special incentives that would have made the purchase easier, and were required to produce loan pre-approval letters and other documents when whites were not,” the New York Times reports.

Repeatedly, real estate agents directed Blacks to live in areas with mostly Black schools, and Latinos to live in areas with mostly Latino schools. Unfortunately, public schools with high concentrations of children of color continue to under perform, with a dearth of highly qualified teachers and less economic diversity among families. Denying home buyers of color the chance to send their children to racially and economically diverse schools further erodes the gains that middle-class minorities have made.
Preventing home buyers of color from owning property in the best neighborhoods also hurts them financially, as it stops them from acquiring the homes with the most value.

Housing discrimination sends a powerful message to the African-Americans who’ve supposedly done all the right things to achieve the American Dream. They’ve pursued higher education, landed high-paying jobs and entered the middle- or upper-class. Yet, they’re still “not good enough” to live in the neighborhoods they prefer.

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