Couple accused of violating Fair Housing Act

August 10, 2010 (CHICAGO)

George Willborn is a well known radio personality and comedian. He and wife Peytyn Willborn say they looked at more than 40 houses before finding what they thought was the perfect home. They say the sellers accepted their offer but then suddenly changed their minds and took the house off the market. The Department of Housing and Urban Development alleges it is because the buyers are African-American.

It is a massive 8,000 square-foot home filled with all the luxuries. The Willborns says it has everything they were looking for. The house had been on the market two years. The couple says they quickly came to an agreement with the sellers that was very close to their asking price of about $1.8 million.

"We met all the requirements that anybody need to make to purchase a home," said George Willborn.

He is well known as a comedian and radio personality but Willborn says this was no laughing matter. The family's real estate broker says the seller's agent told her they preferred not to sell the house to an African-American. They then took the house off the market. The Willborns say they have raised their children to look at everyone as equal and they say they were shocked to see what they believe was blatant discrimination.

"This is unacceptable," said Peytyn Willborn.

"Am I angry? Absolutely," said George Willborn.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development charged the sellers with violating the Fair Housing Act, saying in a statement: "Racial fairness is important at all income levels. Civil rights enforcement must be the effective shield against housing discrimination that in this case wealth was not."

If the judge rules in their favor, the Willborns could be entitled to a financial settlement. But they say that's not what's important.

"Should there be compensation? Absolutely, there should. Is that our motivation? Hell no, it's not. It's something that's bigger and we have to be bigger than dollars and cents," said George Willborn.

ABC7 was unable to reach the sellers, Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia, for a response. An official with their real estate company, Prudential Rubloff Properties, declined to comment.

The attorney for the Wilborns says he sees numerous instances of housing discrimination around the country but usually more subtle than this case.

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