WHITTIER – When he asked his landlord if he could pay his $750 rent on the second Wednesday of the month instead of the first, Ricardo Castro didn’t think he was asking for much. After all, he wasn’t asking for a rent reduction, the Whittier man said. “I was just asking for time,” Castro said of his request more than a year-and-a-half ago to his landlord at the Whispering Fountains Apartments on Washington Avenue, where he has lived for two years. Castro, 57, is disabled with myriad ailments, including Bell’s palsy, diabetes, hypertension, gallstones and arthritis. He is on a waiting list for a liver transplant. His monthly Social Security check does not arrive until the second Wednesday of the month, and his $458 pension check, which arrives on the first of the month from his former job working in a factory, was not enough to cover the rent. The stress from dealing with his landlord, and his inability to have his rent date changed – even after Castro produced medical and financial records backing his claim – negatively affected his health, he said, especially his Bell’s palsy, a condition that causes the facial muscles to weaken or become paralyzed. “I thought I was having a stroke,” Castro said of the reoccurrence of the disease, which sent him to the emergency room last summer with symptoms of partial facial paralysis, slurred speech, headache and disorientation. After reading a story about a case similar to his in a newspaper, Castro contacted the Housing Rights Center, a private, nonprofit, housing-rights organization. “What Mr. Castro was asking was not unreasonable,” said Frances Espinoza, executive director of the Housing Rights Center. She said that the incidence of disability-based discrimination complaints has increased in the last four years. “Ten years ago, housing discrimination based on race accounted for the highest number of complaints,” Espinoza said. “Now, that’s No. 3.” The trend is not a local one. For the second year in a row, according to a report released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing discrimination based on disability and race topped the list of reasons why individuals filed complaints. Of the more than 10,328 discrimination cases filed nationwide, 40 percent were based on disabilities, while race-based discrimination accounted for 39.1 percent of the total, according to the report. California led the nation with the most complaints filed last year by those alleging housing discrimination based on race or disability. The state had 1,313 housing discrimination complaints overall last year, said HUD spokesperson Shantae Goodloe. Texas was second with 939, followed by Florida with 574 complaints. In Castro’s case, after the center’s demand letter was rejected, the group filed a lawsuit in federal court earlier this year. A settlement between Castro and his landlord was reached March 22. The agreement allowed Castro to pay only $458 of last month’s rent, which will allow him to catch up financially and start paying the whole amount as of April 1. David Moring, attorney for Meadow Limited Partner, which owns Castro’s apartment building, said his client never sought to discriminate against the disabled. “It’s not a problem of disability,” he said. “It’s one of budgeting.” He explained that Castro, like all tenants, signed a lease agreement. Any change in the rental payment to accommodate one tenant would result in an “administrative nightmare,” he said. As for Castro, he will continue to try to meet the due date, or pay a $25 late charge. “I’m not trying to cause trouble,” said Castro. “I like living here; I like my neighbors. I just can’t understand why it can’t be changed.” email@example.com (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
A number of investors have been shortlisted to finance a major component of the Jamaica Logistics Hub initiative, which is being rolled out by the Government.Making this announcement in his contribution to the 2013/2014 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, May 14, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, said one of these entities has “verifiable” investment proposal of over US$500 million.Mr. Hylton said the investors are awaiting approval to proceed to the final stages of acceptance of their proposals, followed by implementation.The project involves 750,000 square feet of space in an ultra-modern technology park at Naggo Head, St. Catherine, with the potential to employ some 13,000 persons.“The first 100,000 square feet of space has already been booked by an entity, which is the fastest growing Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company to have entered Jamaica,” he told the House.The company is currently in the process of building out a 20,000 sq. ft. facility in Kingston, to employ 600 persons in the next two months, until the technology park is ready.This, Minister Hylton said, is a demonstration of the investor’s commitment.Additionally, construction at the Caymanas Economic Zone (CEZ) will begin within months, utilizing this type of venture approach.“Some 200 acres of lots and purpose built space will be developed, in an environment comparable to any first world Special Economic Zone. The sectors earmarked for the zone include ICT, Manufacturing, Incubator, Creative Industries, Furniture, Electronics and Bio- medical industries,” he outlined.Another development is the submission of proposals for the provision of alternative energy at competitive rates, to all of the new zones and where possible, to some of the existing onesMeanwhile, Minister Hylton noted that Cabinet has reaffirmed the decision by the previous government to utilise 200 acres of land at Caymanas Estate, part of which will facilitate a logistics centre. This is in addition to the proposed investment by China Harbour Engineering, which Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, announced in the House recently.Contact: Alphea Saunders
APTN National NewsAfter years of lobbying, the city of Winnipeg will soon have a 24-hour safe haven for youth at risk of being exploited.Until now, drop-in centres for young people have shut their doors at 11 p.m.The province and city have now put up hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand hours.But as APTN’s Dennis Ward reports the money will only cover one year of operation.