Jonesboro Coldwell Banker franchisee settles housing discrimination suit

The suit against Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty Inc. and former agent Rodney Lee Foreman stems from a series of tests the National Fair Housing Alliance conducted in 2003 and 2004 to see if Foreman, and other agents, were steering white home buyers to white neighborhoods and blacks to predominantly black areas.

The National Fair Housing Alliance, based in Washington, D.C., sent white and black "mystery shoppers" to the real estate firm to see if a pattern of racial steering existed.

According to the complaint, Foreman directed white shoppers to neighborhoods where Caucasians were the majority and did the same for blacks.

In one instance, he allegedly told a white tester: "Once blacks move in, then property values go down; it is impossible to sell your house ... I want you to be able to sell your house."

Following the investigation, the National Fair Housing Alliance filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2005. Last January, the Department of Justice filed suit in federal court in Atlanta.

Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty merged in 2007 with Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty Co., which also is in Jonesboro. Bullard Realty, which became a party to the suit after the acquisition, did not return telephone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

“Coldwell Banker is a longstanding advocate of fair housing and fully supports fair housing principals. We understand the situation has been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties,” said David Siroty, a spokesman for Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Parsippany, N.J. “Coldwell Banker Bullard remains a part of the Coldwell Banker system.”

Such discriminatory practices, while illegal, are not uncommon, said Shanna Smith, president and chief executive of the National Fair Housing Alliance. They're not all about race, nor is it any more likely to occur in the South than the North, she said.

Many complaints stem from steering based on religious bias, she said, explaining in the North, Muslims tend to be singled out for steering while in the South, Jewish home buyers are often targets.

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