A national agency is concerned housing discrimination maybe a statewide problem in Mississippi. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports, one company recently reached a settlement over the issue.
According to the National Fair Housing Alliance, a year long investigation found RE/MAX Alliance in Brandon, engaged in discrimination in the Jackson-Metro area. Attorney Morgan Williams is with agency. He says a complaint to U.S. Housing and Urban Development led to the probe. Williams says they sent Black and White testers to the RE/MAX office looking for homes in the same price range. He says testers had similar jobs, incomes and were pre-qualified. The Black tester he says was a slightly more qualified buyer.
"We found that the real estate agents steered White prospective buyers to more white areas and limited their services to African Americans prospective buyers," said Williams.
According to the National Fair Housing Alliance steering intentionally perpetuates residential segregation and is illegal under the Fair Housing Act. The agency fined RE/MAX Alliance $46,000. The company must participate in fair housing training, place fair housing signs in its office and be monitored for one year. Robert Praytor is with the Mississippi Real Estate Commission. He says discrimination complaints are common in the state, especially in Jackson.
"And on several occasions we've had the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development out of Atlanta. We had individuals from that office in our office talking with them about particular brokerage firms," said Praytor.
In a statement Lee Garland with RE/MAX Alliance said neither the company nor its agents support discrimination. He said they were dumbfounded by the complaint, but agreed it was in the best interest of all parties to settle the dispute. Garland adds no formal charges were levied against the company.