Suit accuses Balto. Co. apartments of racial bias

Black, white `testers' report contrasting receptions in Ruxton

May 15, 1999|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore nonprofit group that fights racial discrimination in housing has sued the owner of a Ruxton apartment complex, alleging that African-Americans posing as prospective renters were turned away, while whites were offered apartments.

Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. sued the owner of Ruxton Village Apartments in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Thursday, accusing the apartment owners of violating the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The suit was filed after black and white Baltimore Neighborhoods "testers" requested apartments on the same day and were told different stories about their availability.

The suit alleges that on one day in January, two black testers, posing as renters, were told there were no two-bedroom apartments available, while a white volunteer was offered a two-bedroom apartment.

The Ruxton Village Apartments are in Baltimore County just off the 7600 block of Bellona Ave.

Christopher Brown, attorney for Baltimore Neighborhoods, said the apartment complex is owned by Ruxton Village Apartments LLP, a limited partnership. The owner's resident agent, Michael Keelty, did not return phone calls yesterday.

Martin Dyer, associate director of Baltimore Neighborhoods, said yesterday that his organization has filed 68 discrimination lawsuits since 1983, most of them over alleged racial discrimination by apartment owners.

Dyer said Baltimore Neighborhoods has won or settled all but three of the cases.

In one case, tried in Baltimore Circuit Court in 1994, a jury awarded $2.5 million to a woman who complained that advertising for a housing development was aimed at whites only. On appeal, the case was settled for $1.3 million, said Dyer.

Brown said the years of lawsuits by Baltimore Neighborhoods have made it easier for blacks to get equal treatment when looking for housing.

"I think things are getting better in terms of racial discrimination, in large part due to BNI's efforts," he said.

"I've talked to Realtors who have sworn they were tested by BNI when they weren't," Brown said. "There's an awareness of the law and of the price they have to pay if they violate it."

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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