Black family says Katy’s realtor denied them condos because of race: ‘They wouldn’t get along’

A black family is suing two real estate brokers and a real estate agent after the agent refused to sell them a unit in a new Katy condominium, according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday in Houston.

In one recording, an agent can be heard saying he can’t sell to the three real estate investors – a husband, a wife and the wife’s sister – because “we won’t be able to get along well”. The family had offered to pay the asking price in cash. The lawsuit also includes a flyer advertising the building as an “option for Chinese and Asian communities in Houston” where people could live “a safe and simple Asian life” to argue that the denial was based on race.

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The realtor told the family she was the landlord and it was up to her to determine who could live in Grand West, the lawsuit says. She also said that all of the owners “were personal friends and knew each other.”

Real estate brokerage firm EXP Realty and the realtor, named in the lawsuit as Josie Lin, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. RE/MAX said Josie Lin left the brokerage in December 2021 and had no affiliation with the brand at the time of the alleged event. Lin identifies herself on her site as “a Texan passing through Taiwan” and describes the challenges of studying at Penn State University while raising two children. She said she hopes she can use her personal experience to help immigrants like her adapt and achieve their American dream.

Contacted about the case, Lin seemed surprised to learn that she had been prosecuted. She did not respond to an emailed copy of the documents.

James Ra-Amari learned about the Grand West Condominiums — the first condominium building in the Asian city of Katy and the University of Houston in the Katy area, he said — over lunch. He and his wife, Misty Ra-Amari, lived with their four children a short drive from Katy Asian Town, and he was a regular at Jia Kitchen, where he said the staff recognized him and knew his usual order: crispy tofu with white rice and General Tso sauce. It was there that he saw a flyer announcing an open house for condominiums.

James Ra-Amari, who previously invested in Acres Homes and northeast Houston, said he was interested in Katy because of population growth and the push for development. From the building, he said, you can see both his favorite restaurant and the University of Houston’s Katy campus. After going to the open house, he, his wife and his wife’s sister, Rosemary Afful, decided to buy three homes, two to rent and one to occupy.

When the three returned to Grand West Condominiums on August 20, they faced a series of bizarre objections, according to the lawsuit.

When they struck up the conversation about buying the place, Lin said, “I don’t negotiate.” When the family said they agreed with the asking price, they say she replied, “Fannie Mae’s loan would not be approved due to owner occupancy ration of condominiums.” James Ra-Amari said he intended to pay in cash and no one had expressed a desire to fund the sale with a loan backed by government-sponsored mortgage finance company Fannie Mae.

The lawsuit also says Lin protested that she wanted the owners to be 55 or older. When the family asked her if she wasn’t going to sell to them because of their age, the suit says she replied, ‘No, I’m not going to sell to you because I feel like I don’t. wouldn’t get along with you. .”

James Ra-Amari said that when his investigation was repeatedly denied, he initially did not understand what had happened. When he realized he was being barred from investing in the area, he said it was a “dark feeling”. A video recording indicates that he quickly concluded the conversation.

Since the experience, he said, he has not returned to Jia Kitchen, where he previously ate once a week. “I don’t feel any different from the region in terms of its growth potential,” he said. “But it makes me feel different to shift my resources to a place that doesn’t seem to want us.”

He believes, however, that he will be able to overcome this feeling. He wants to grow the real estate business he and his wife run and believes the only way to do that is to invest in areas where the population is growing.

He said thinking about what the denial of access meant for his four children, aged 7 to 19, prompted him and his wife, Misty Ra-Amari, to file a complaint with the company. civil rights advocate Stafford Moore.

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“They look at their mother and father and say, ‘What are you going to do about this?'” James Ra-Amari said. “No matter how uncomfortable we feel, we’re not going to go down without a fight.”

rebecca.schuetz@chron.com;

twitter.com/raschuetz


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