WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The largest real estate company in Alabama will no longer steer prospective African American homeowners to homes in minority neighborhoods, under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department, two private citizens and a civil rights organization. The agreement, filed together with a complaint in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, resolves complaints that First Real Estate Corporation engaged in unlawful discriminatory conduct that violated the Fair Housing Act. In the complaint, the Justice Department alleged that African American clients were steered toward predominantly minority neighborhoods while white clients were directed to white neighborhoods. It also alleged that potential customers were steered to company sales agents based on race, and that properties located in areas with a high minority population were advertised differently than properties in other areas. "We are pleased that First Real Estate has chosen to work cooperatively with the United States and the private plaintiffs to assure that the guarantees of the Fair Housing Act are a fact of life in our community," said G. Douglas Jones, the U.S. Attorney in Birmingham. "The decree should serve as a model for all realtors." Under the agreement, First Real Estate will: not consider the race of a prospective homeowner and neighborhood in deciding where to show a home;

assign customers to agents without regard to race;

modify its advertising so the availability of homes that it has listed for sale is provided to everyone;

educate agents and employees of their responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act; and,

establish a $100,000 fund to compensate persons who may have been injured as a result of the company's alleged discriminatory practices.

First Real Estate also has agreed to promote fair housing in the Birmingham metropolitan area by sponsoring clinics for prospective home buyers and by developing a marketing plan to promote all communities in the metropolitan area as open to all races and nationalities. The Justice Department first became involved in the matter after learning about a private civil suit that was filed in November 1995, by two African American former sales agents. The agents alleged the company only referred African American customers to them, and discouraged them from showing homes in white areas. In December 1997, the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama, a private organization, filed a private civil suit raising similar allegations. The Center will assist First Real Estate in its efforts to promote fair housing in Birmingham. Today's settlement resolves the two private suits as well as the Justice Department suit. "The Justice Department is firmly committed to making fair housing a reality for all Americans," said Joan Magagna, Acting Chief of the Housing Section of the Civil Rights Division. "No one should ever be denied the right to live where they choose simply because of the color of their skin." The monetary fund will be paid to victims identified through a claims process conducted by the Justice Department and the private plaintiffs. Any person who believes that he or she has been a victim of race discrimination by First Real Estate should contact the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-896-7743 or the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama at 205-324-0111. # # #