A fair housing center has filed a race discrimination complaint in federal court against owners of an Orland Park apartment building.
The South Suburban Housing Center (SSHC) alleges the owner refused to make appointments to show available apartments to prospective black tenants but welcomed white prospective tenants.
In July, SSHC began an investigation into the Orland Park rental property. The center assigned six housing testers to respond to an online advertisement for the apartment. Three black prospective tenants called but the agent never gave them the address or confirmed appointments, according to the complaint. One of the black prospective tenants was allegedly lied to about the apartment’s availability. Meanwhile, three white prospective tenants got appointments and were encouraged to apply.
“People just don’t realize because of the subtleties of these practices that they are being discriminated against,” said John Petruszak, executive director of the housing center.
The owner/agent named in the complaint denies discrimination took place.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Dennis Kolios said. “I’ve never had a problem in 25 years.”
Petruszak said they used testers for southwest suburban Orland Park because it’s a suburb with good housing, schools and amenities — but appears to be racially exclusionary.
In other unrelated complaints, SSHC heard from African Americans who said they don’t get phone calls back when they inquire about rental housing. Petruszak said housing providers defend themselves by saying they don’t know a person’s race because they didn’t see them; they only heard a voice.
SSHC used a voice identification panel in the Orland Park case — a practice used by other fair housing organizations. The testers submitted their voices to five people of different races who positively identify the testers. An expert linguistic witness does an evaluation, as well.
“We only use testers where there’s unanimous agreement amongst the panel that the voice they’re hearing is the race of what the person actually is,” Petruszak said.
The federal lawsuit seeks to stop the alleged discriminatory practice by the Orland Park apartment owner. It also seeks monetary damages.