A national fair-housing organization has filed a complaint against New York-based Corcoran Group Real Estate and parent company NRT Inc., alleging racial steering and denial of basic services to African Americans.

A national fair-housing organization has filed a complaint against New York-based Corcoran Group Real Estate and parent company NRT Inc., alleging racial steering and denial of basic services to African Americans. Company representatives said in response that they are committed to compliance with fair-housing laws.

The National Fair Housing Alliance said in an announcement this week that its investigation found alleged “housing discrimination against African Americans, as well as steering of whites away from neighborhoods of color” at the Corcoran Group’s Brooklyn Heights office.

The alliance, a consortium of hundreds of nonprofit fair-housing organizations, state and local civil rights agencies and individuals, has a primary goal to challenge policies and practices that create racially segregated neighborhoods and schools. The administrative complaint against Corcoran and NRT is the fourth housing discrimination complaint filed against NRT by the Alliance and stems from extensive real estate sales testing in 12 metro areas.

Since April 2005, the alliance has filed administrative complaints against real estate companies in metro Atlanta; Detroit; Chicago; Fairhope, Ala.; Westchester, N.Y.; and Long Island. Among the companies named in the complaints: Coldwell Banker The Condo Store, Coldwell Banker Marietta, Re/Max Buckhead, Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Jonesboro, Detroit Century 21 Town & Country, Coldwell Banker Gold Coast, Re/Max East-West, Manders & Company Real Estate, Peter J. Riolo Real Estate and Julia Stevens Realty.

In one alleged act of racial steering publicized in the latest complaint, “a Corcoran Group agent produced a map of Brooklyn and drew a red outline of the areas where the white home seeker should consider living. The agent also described the predominately white areas as having high-quality schools,” the announcement states.

Shanna L. Smith, president and CEO for the alliance, said in a statement, “This … tactic is reminiscent of discriminatory conduct from the 1970s when real estate agents would go into white neighborhoods with the specific intention of triggering white flight by showing on a map where an African-American family had bought a house.” The alleged action by the Corcoran Group agent, she said, appeared to be an effort to use a map “to tell whites … where they should ‘flee to,'” she also said.

Pamela Liebman, CEO for The Corcoran Group, said in a statement, “I am dismayed at the allegations put forth by the NHFA … because we would never condone such actions by our agents. NFHA has not provided us with the names of individual agents that would enable us to conduct our own review of these claims. We will take immediate action, if warranted.”

She also stated, “The Corcoran Group has been tremendously focused on ensuring that we are a leader in our approach to fair housing. We take great pride in knowing that we serve diverse communities with a diverse sales force, and are committed to the principles of fair housing in everything that we do as an organization.”

The alliance sent out white and African-American individuals, posing as potential home buyers, in conducting its investigation. The African-American testers who better qualified than their white counterparts to buy a home based on income, employment and other factors, according to the alliance’s announcement. The alliance stated that it targeted NRT Inc. and The Corcoran Group based on evidence of fair-housing violations gathered during an earlier report, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department’s Housing Discrimination Study 2000.

In 2003, the National Fair Housing Alliance tested Fair Housing Act compliance at offices in 12 cities that were identified in that HUD study. The alliance received a grant from HUD to conduct its investigation.Shantae Goodloe, a HUD spokeswoman, said HUD is reviewing the complaint against NRT and Corcoran Group filed by NFHA.

In its Corcoran Group investigation, the alliance alleged “discriminatory real estate sales practices, including limited service, lack of follow-up and withholding of housing information. Agents provided limited services and information to potential African-American home seekers, thereby restricting their opportunity to view a number of homes in a variety of neighborhoods where the race does not predominate.

“In one test, a white home seeker saw 13 homes versus only one seen by an African American. Agents further engaged in unequal treatment by providing more detailed financial options and incentive to white home seekers. One agent presented a white home seeker with a sales application and offered to negotiate a reduced sales price and research alternative living arrangements. The African-American home seeker received no such service,” according to a background report released by the alliance.

Bruce Zipf, president and CEO for NRT Inc., said in a statement that NRT is committed to promoting and adhering to fair-housing practices. “I have the utmost confidence in the integrity and the professionalism of our brokers,” he stated, noting that NRT formed a partnership with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition in May to assist the company in reviewing policies and practices and to administer additional fair housing training.

“This certificate-based training program is now under way and will be completed by year-end by 64,000 agents in each of our more than 1,000 offices across the country,” he stated.

And Steven Spinola, president for the Real Estate Board of New York, a real estate trade association, said in a statement, “We hold The Corcoran Group in the highest regard for their commitment to business ethics and admire all that they’re doing to promote fair-housing training within their organization.”

The alliance’s background report states that New York City is among the most segregated cities in the nation and ranks highest for black-white segregation and second highest for Hispanic-white segregation among the nation’s largest 100 cities, according to the Lewis Mumford Center on Urban and Regional Research. And an analysis of 2000 U.S. Census data found that about two-thirds of whites live in areas that have less than a 5 percent African-American population in 69 metro areas where U.S. African Americans are a dominant minority.

The alliance last year documented 26,092 complaints of housing discrimination across the country.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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