Owner’s selling point for this KC-area house: It’s in a ‘white community’

This Craigslist ad for a home in Grain Valley highlights its “white community.” The ad has since been changed.
This Craigslist ad for a home in Grain Valley highlights its “white community.” The ad has since been changed.

A Craigslist advertisement for a Kansas City area house for sale violates discrimination policy, activists and housing officials say.

The ad for the $179,999 Grain Valley home, posted on Oct. 2, said: “Beautiful home lots of room white community dead end street (grain valley).”

On Thursday, after multiple unreturned calls from The Star, the “white community” qualifier and the home owner’s name and phone number were removed from the listing. It now reads: “Beautiful home lots of room dead end street (grain valley).”

The original ad could be ruled discriminatory, said Sarah Brown, a partner at Kansas City’s Brown & Curry law firm, which specializes in discrimination cases.

“I believe this could be considered a violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act,” Brown said earlier this week. “Perhaps Craigslist should remove this ad or advise the seller to do so.”

The act states that it is unlawful to “make, print, or publish … any notice, statement or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, or familial status.”

Nilesh Patel, a real estate broker with Reign Real Estate, represents the Grain Valley property but said he had no knowledge or tolerance of any racist listing.

“I would never write an advertisement or display any tactics that would indicate any type of discrimination to any of the protected classes including race,” Patel told The Star on Thursday. “And if the person that created this ad felt it was acceptable, I would not want to be associated or have any type of business relationship with them.”

While the home owner, who was listed only by the name of Chace, had posted the house on Craigslist, Patel had listed it on Realtor.com and Zillow, as well as another Craigslist ad, for $184,900 but with no discriminatory language.

Patel, who is East Indian-American, says he has faced discrimination “many times” in his life and would “not condone it by those I choose to be around or do business with.”

“I will be canceling my listing on this property immediately,” Patel said.

The ad was brought to the attention of Missouri housing officials by longtime Kansas City civil rights activist Alvin Sykes after he learned about it from a real-estate friend.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” Sykes said.

In his more than 40 years of civil rights activism, Sykes says public discrimination like this tends to fall into two categories.

“Either people post these things out of ignorance, not knowing it’s illegal and when they do learn, they take it down. Or they know what they’re doing and resist efforts of trying to resolve it or get into compliance,” he said. “That’s what I think gets into the area of filing a complaint.”

Sykes forwarded the listing to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the state’s Department of Labor tasked with investigating complaints of discrimination. The commission wasn’t able to do much without an official complaint.

“A decision on whether or not discrimination has taken place cannot occur until a complaint is filed,” a commission spokesman told The Star. “Per Missouri statute, we cannot confirm or deny the filing of a complaint unless all parties agree to release that information.”

If the commission finds discrimination has occurred, it can order remedies such as payment for damages, suffering, humiliation and the deprivation of rights.

The National Association of Realtors, America’s largest real estate trade association, says had the ad been placed by a Realtor, it would have been considered a violation.

“NAR advises members not to disclose the racial makeup of a community, including in the advertising of a property,” said Wesley Shaw, the the group’s media manager of advocacy issues.

The association says its Realtors may provide some demographic information, but that excludes revealing the “racial, religious or ethnic composition of any neighborhood.”

“Not only is Fair Housing integral to the ethical commitment of our members, as outlines in Realtor Code of Ethics,” said Elizabeth Mendenhall, the association’s president, “it is critical to our ability to serve our customers, clients and the community.”