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This bill purports to make the courts experts in the field of finances. Quite an assignment. To do so they would have to consider many factors. Involved in the price of a house is (1) the credit rating of the buyer; (2) the amount of downpayment; (3) the availability of money to lend. The proposed bill authorizes the courts, in effect, to determine rates of interest, terms and conditions of sale or rental, land contracts, and mortgages, and all of this must necessarily relate back to the lender's state of mind. And there we go again; the real reason for refusal to rent, sell, or lend is always difficult to prove (or to support by concrete evidence) other than the defendant homeowner's statement; because a state of mind is highly subjective and influenced by so many factors.
Earlier, I mentioned existing legislation. What affect has it had? Wisconsin's housing law, in effect since December 19, 1965, has produced six complaints despite a vigorous program of solicitation. Five have been dismissed for lack of evidence. One is still in question. A program which has produced one complaint, on which no decision has been reached, is a poor record. It suggests that there is a less than overwhelming need for housing laws? The overwhelming thought is that thousands of Wisconsin taxpayer dollars have been spent to produce one complaint.
Proponents of housing laws assume that the main reason minorities do not move into other areas is because of discrimination. We claim this is the “big lie” that is being perpetrated on the American public.
In fact, however, the paucity of complaints apparently stems from the lack of an active demand from members of minority groups for integrated housing. We make this statement because
1. An overwhelming percent of our realtors have never had a member of a minority group ask for service.
2. Most selling homeowners have never had a member of a minority group even look at their home with a view to buying it.
3. Several years ago the Federal Housing Authority and the Veterans' Administration in Metropolitan Milwaukee had over 400 homes to which they had acquired title. Most of them in allwhite neighborhoods. Virtually none of these homes were sold to members of a minority group even though the terms of financing were superior to the terms available from private lenders. And this, in spite of the fact that civil rights leaders were fully informed of their availability.
4. The housing division of the Milwaukee Committee for Equal Opportunity acquired 268 listings on properties which were available in all areas of Milwaukee to anyone. The program was discontinued because only four families had been placed during the 2 years
program was in effect. Let's turn from Milwaukee to our second largest city. Madison, Wis., has had a housing law for several years. In that time there has been no apparent change in housing patterns in that city.
What about "forced morality” legislation in other States? Has there been a general movement toward integrated neighborhoods in those States where forced housing laws are in effect? We understand not. And certainly in Wisconsin there has been no discernable change.
How do you explain the foregoing? We feel that: 1. The most obvious reason is lack of purchasing power by members of minority groups.
2. Many of those who are able to finance a home purchase in a white neighborhood do not do so because
(a) Fear of an unfriendly neighborhood situation.
(6) Fear of loss in value (don't forget these are the people who have 'acquired economic stability. They are smart and knowledgeable people who won't waste their money on poor investment).
(c) Many minority families really don't want to move away from friends and relatives. Ethnic groups have characteristically throughout the American history lived together in groupings. Housing legislation in now way encourages a family to be a looker, nor does it induce real estate brokers to actively
recruit potential buyers among minority groups. Since there has been little or no activity as a result of existing legislation, let's ask the real question: What are we trying to legislate, fair housing, or integration? In Wisconsin is it a problem of adequate housing for minority groups? Antidiscrimination in housing legislation seems unconcerned with housing for minority groups. The emphasis is apparently on compulsory integration.
Integration exists in a neighborhood up to the moment the last nonminority group resident departs from that neighborhood. It follows, therefore, that you can achieve integration only through legislation controlling the movement of people. This poses the absurd question: If I want to move from an integrated neighborhood, must I find a white buyer for my property?
Nowhere in the proposed bill is there any provision concerning the good faith of the person who asks about the availability of property for rent or sale. (See clipping printed at end of statement.) In Wisconsin we call it testing, otherwise known as entrapment. Title IV is so written as to put the defendant homeowner at the mercy of the unscrupulous rabble-rouser.
What actions have we realtors taken in order to help minority groups finding housing? In view of the claim that minority groups in Wisconsin were unable to find suitable housing, two separate committees were set up by boards of realtors-one in Milwaukee, the biggest city of Wisconsin and the other in Madison, the second largest. Public announcements were made that these committees would help a member of any minority group find housing. In Madison there were no applicants. In Milwaukee there were 12 or 14 applicants, all of them white, all with large families.
In December 1964 hearings were held by the industrial commission concerning opportunities for housing for members of a minority group. These hearings clearly developed the thesis that housing was available to members of a minority group who had the economic means to pay the rent or purchase price and in the neighborhood of their selection. True the precise house or apartment was not always available. The one across the street equally priced and equally adequate
Let me reiterate: In Wisconsin there has been no demonstrated need for forced housing legislation either prior to or subsequent to the passage of Wisconsin's housing law.
Proponents of such forced housing argue that the lack of complaints is brought about by homeowners and landlords fear of the punitive provisions of the law. On the contrary, the reason is that actual cases of outright discrimination are the exception rather than the rule. It would indeed be tragic if fundamental rights of private property ownership were swept aside by a law making it in effect a Federal offense to exercise freedom of contract and freedom of choice in determining with whom one may execute a sale or rental contract.
We strongly urge that you eliminate title IV from the pending bill. (The supplement to Mr. Viele's statement follows:)
[From the Milwaukee Star, July 10, 1965)
(By Larry Saunders)
HOUSING IN MADISON
Old-timers will probably say that Madison has a housing problem. I'm sure there is some truth to the statement. But, when landlords read the equal oppor. tunity law, and realize that this law protects both landlord and tenant, then fears should disappear.
I personally made some inquires. I tried three areas in different parts of the city-westside, eastside and southside. On the eastside and westside the response was very good. I had no problems.
I used a real estate concern to work for me on the southside. The agent never showed up, and never called me back. But, two out of three is a vast improvement over a few years ago. Which proves laws do change many people's ideas.
I say all this to say. If you want a job done be it apartment hunting or job hunting-do it yourself. Learn to stand on your own two feet. You will be much more respected.
Senator ERVIN. I read an editorial in a leading newspaper of the country some time ago which stated in substance that, in our solicitude for the welfare of so-called minority groups, our thinking was becoming twisted to the point where there are many people who consider minority groups have rights superior to the majority. Do you not think this is rather queer thinking?
Mr. VIELE. Yes, sir; I would agree with you.
Senator ERVIN. Has it not been your observation that particular ethnic groups prefer to live in residential neighborhoods with other members of the same ethnic group?
Mr. VIELE. Yes, sir. And we do have this in our area. We have entire little villages that are ethnical groups. For instance we have several little cities that are predominantly Polish, or predominantly German Lutherans, or predominantly German Catholic.
Senator Ervin. This is a result of quite a natural instinct on the part of people—that people find other people with similar cultures and similar ethnic origin more congenial to live among than people of different ethnic groups and different ideas?
Mr. VIELE. Yes, sir; we also find that where we have the Amish buying farms in areas in Wisconsin. They wish to group together.
Senator Ervin. You have given us a very illuminating résumé of what has happened under the so-called fair housing law in Wisconsin. How is that fair housing law administered?
Mr. Scoon. It is administered by the industrial division, a division of the industrial commission. It is by a panel.
Senator Ervin. And they have employees, do they not?
The CHAIRMAN. When the law went into effect, I imagine a great deal of notoriety was given to the fact that it had been passed.
Mr. COON. Yes, sir. A colored man was hired to head up the division.
Senator Ervin. And undoubtedly it has cost the State of Wisconsin a great deal of money to set up the machinery to administer the law. Mr. Scoon. Something in excess of $50,000.
Senator Ervin. In excess of $50,000. I believe you stated there have been five complaints filed!
Mr. Scoon. Six complaints in 6 months.
Senator Ervin. And five of the complaints have been rejected as unsupported by the evidence?
Mr. Scoon. Yes, sir.
Senator Ervin, Don't you believe, Mr. Viele, that one of the most fundamental rights of human beings is the right to acquire property, and to use that property as they see fit, and to sell that property to whom they please, or rent it to whom they please.
Mr. VIELE. Yes, sir; I believe that very deeply.
Senator ERVIN. Don't you think it is a departure from the American dream of freedom to propose that the Federal Government should deny 190 million people the right to sell or lease their property to whom they please?
Mr. VIELE. I believe this very deeply. I believe this is the thing that made this country great—the right to hold property the way you wish.
Senator ERVIN. I assume in Wisconsin, as it is in most States, that your laws require that a contract relating to the sale of real property, to be enforcible, shall be in writing, signed by the party that is seeking to enforce the contract ?
Mr. VIELE. Yes, sir. All of our agreements in Wisconsin relative to real estate must be in writing.
Senator ERVIN. Is it not your belief that was put in the law in order to furnish stability to real estate titles and make it certain what the terms of the contracts were with respect to real estate?
Mr. VIELE. I think Mr. Scoon might be able to answer that better.
Mr. Scoon. That is correct. It is spelled out in our statute of frauds.
Senator ERVIN. Now, if this title IV were enacted into law, it would to all practical intents and purposes nullify the wisdom that prompted the passage of State laws requiring contracts relating to real estate to be in writing.
Mr. Scoon. It would depart; that is right, sir.
Senator ERVIN. It would introduce chaos into this field by making controversies concerning real estate dependent upon oral testimony, would it not?
Mr. Scoon. Yes, sir; it would. In addition to that, the authority to issue injunctive relief for specific performance would add to the uncertainty with regard to the status of the property and the transfer of it.
Senator ERVIN. Are you a member of the bar?
Senator Ervin. Title IV, authorizes a court to grant any relief that the court deems appropriate, is that not out of harmony with general rules of law that the relief which one is entitled to is defined by the law itself, rather than by the will of the court?
Mr. Scoon. Yes, sir. That is my understanding. It is in derogation of the common law.
Senator Ervin. And under the power to issue injunctions, the court could nullify the bargains made between the seller and the purchaser by granting an injunction to preclude the carrying out of those contracts, although they might be in writing and in conformance with the law
of Wisconsin or any other State where the property is located. Mr. Scoon. I believe that is a proper conclusion to be drawn; yes, sir.
Senator ERVIN. Can you imagino any more serious inroads on the right of freedom of Americans than to pass a law and let the coercive power of law be used to determine who shall purchase property or reside in certain communities, instead of allowing those matters to be settled by the consent of the people in those communities?
Mr. Scoon. We always thought that a good many people immigrated to this country so that they could enjoy the right of property, and to enjoy the fruits of the property which they have earned through their own efforts, to hold and dispose of as they saw fit.
Senator Ervin. Would not this law be passed for the purpose of giving a relatively small segment of the American population rights superior to those of the great majority of Americans, depriving the great majority of Americans of the right of ownership of private property.
Mr. Scoon. If this type of legislation can be passed, where do we stop?
Senator ERVIN. I want to thank you gentlemen for your appearance here today, and for giving the subcommittee the benefit of your views on this most important title.
Mr. VIELE. Thank you, sir.
Mr. AUTRY. Mr. Chairman, the next witness is Mr. John W. Dutton, president of the Pennsylvania Realtors Association, whose appearance is scheduled at the request of Senator Scott.
Senator Ervin. Mr. Dutton, for the purpose of the record, would you introduce the gentlemen who accompanies you? STATEMENT OF JOHN W. DUTTON, PRESIDENT, PENNSYLVANIA
REALTORS ASSOCIATION, HARRISBURG, PA.; ACCOMPANIED BY PAUL H. RITTLE, PRESIDENT, GREATER PITTSBURGH BOARD OF REALTORS; AND WARREN G. MORGAN, COUNSEL, PENNSYLVANIA REALTORS ASSOCIATION
Mr. DUTTON. Thank you, Senator. On my left is Warren G. Morgan, counsel for the Pennsylvania Realtors Association. On my right is Mr. Paul G. Rittle, from Pittsburgh, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Board of Realtors.