Study: Virginia’s Latino renters treated differently from whites

May 31, 2013

Even with federal laws such as the Fair Housing Act that are aimed at protecting minority groups from discrimination, Latinos attempting to rent homes in Virginia often are treated differently from whites, according to a recent study.

The investigation by the Equal Rights Center (ERC) and law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath found that in Virginia’s rental market, Latinos were treated differently from whites 55 percent of the time. In Northern Virginia, the number was even higher, with 82 percent of inquiries by Latino testers documenting some type of negative treatment.

The ERC has conducted numerous investigations of housing discrimination throughout the country but focused on Virginia because of the numerous complaints the nonprofit company has received from Latinos in the state.

“Discriminatory behavior has changed over the years,” says Don Kahl, executive director of the ERC. “No one says anymore that they won’t rent to someone because they are Latino or black or gay. It’s more subtle than that.”

The investigation, which sent pairs of Latino and white testers to communities to attempt to rent an apartment, found that 24 percent of the time, Latinos were told that there would be different requirements than the white testers. For example, the Latinos were told that a criminal background check and a credit check were required, along with proof of a Social Security card.

Other adverse treatment of Latinos included not being shown as many available homes, being told apartments wouldn’t be available when they needed to move, being quoted a higher rent and not being offered the same incentives as whites.

The Maples’ latest incarnation? Capitol Hill condominium residences.

When architect William Lovering built the Maples at 630 South Carolina Ave. SE for land speculator William Mayne Duncanson on Capitol Hill in 1795, he probably would never have guessed that the structure would last so long and go through so many incarnations.

The original home, expanded several times between 1800 and 1936, was once owned by Francis Scott Key and later by John Middleton Clayton, who was secretary of state under President Zachary Taylor. From 1936 to 2010, the Maples was used by the private social-service organization Friendship House until it lost the building to foreclosure.

Now Altus Realty Group is converting the historic property into 20 condominium units, says Charlie Kehler, principal of Altus.

“We’re worked with historic preservation groups and plan to restore 18,000 square feet of the original building and convert it into 15 residences that range in size from one-bedroom flats to three-bedroom duplexes,” Kehler says. “We’re also adding 12,000 square feet with five new residences, including rowhouses and flats. Right now, there’s a huge hole in the ground facing South Carolina Avenue, which is where the 20-car underground parking garage will be.”

He says the Friendship House did a complete renovation of the original residence, so the only remaining historic elements are on the exterior.

“The interior of all 20 of the homes will be more transitional and contemporary,” Kehler says. “The unique thing is that almost every unit will have its own unique front door facing exterior landscaping. The development is a U-shaped construction. More than half will also have a private outdoor space.”

Homes at the Maples will be priced from the $400,000s to $1.65 million. Sales are expected to start this month, and construction should be complete in the first quarter of 2014.

Data point

Zip code 20007, which includes Georgetown, ranks No. 9 on a nationwide list of luxury-home markets, with 237 luxury homes sold in the first quarter of 2013 at a price above $1 million, according to Redfin.

That factoid was contained in a new report from the real estate company showing that the luxury-home market is recovering faster than the rest of the real estate market around the country.

The report shows that sales of luxury homes — defined as those priced above $1 million — hit a six-year high last quarter, with sales up 36 percent compared with the first quarter of 2012. Redfin says the overall real estate market increased by 5 percent in sales volumes in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the first quarter of 2012.

Tip of the week

Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, you want to know how much cash will cross the table at your real estate settlement. Federal Title & Escrow, a Washington title company, has developed a mobile app called Close It that works like Turbo Tax for real estate transactions.

Close It is only available for iPad users, but iPhone and desktop versions are coming soon. Buyers, sellers, lenders and real estate agents can enter a purchase or a sales price to get a complete picture of how much the buyer will need in cash, how much the seller will get to keep, and an estimate of lender and real estate agent costs, as well as closing costs.

Federal Title says estimates are accurate within one-tenth of 1 percent, on average. The app accounts for 45 items on the buyer’s side of the HUD-1 settlement statement and 22 items on the seller’s side. You can save, e-mail and edit the document with Close It, which is available as a free download at Apple’s App Store.

Michele Lerner

Lerner is a freelance writer. To pass on a tip or news item, contact us at realestate@washpost.com and put
“Town Square” in the subject line.

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