A Chicago couple faces discrimination charges after reportedly refusing to sell their home to comedian and radio personality George Willborn because he’s Black.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced August 10 that it will charge Daniel and Adrienne Sabbia and real estate agent Jeffrey Lowe with violating federal fair housing laws after they stalled negotiations and eventually took the property off the market rather than sell to Willborn.
According to the department, Willborn and his wife Peytyn Willborn submitted a $1.7 million offer, the highest offer the sellers had received in the two years the home has been on the market. Lowe told government officials that Daniel Sabbia didn’t want to sell his home to an African-American.
“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,” John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement.
Willborn, who is a co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show, the “Michael Baisden Show,” told WGN 9 in Chicago that he and his family got a funny feeling on their last visit to the home.
“We went and saw the house one more time and as we left, something occurred,” Willborn said. “My family and I felt strange. Let’s just say it was a really quiet ride home after this happened.”
Willborn says he went through all the steps in the home-buying process and even agreed on the price with the Sabbias. He had a contract drafted, but it was never signed.
The charges will be heard by an administrative law judge unless either party chooses to take the matter the U.S. district court If discrimination is found, punitive damages or equitable relief can be awarded to the Willborns.
Willborn originally filed a complaint in January, amending it in March and July. CNN reports that once the Sabbias learned that the Willborns had filed a complaint, they offered to sell it with all of its furnishings for roughly $1.8 million. The Willborns declined the counteroffer.
Willborn plans on using his celebrity to bring light to the issue. He said he wants to take the case as far as he can, so that something like this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“It doesn’t even matter who I am and that’s part of the reason why I’m determined not to let it be pushed under the rug,” he said. “It’s so many people that are not radio hosts, they’re not in the limelight and they don’t have a lot of resources, but this gets done to them everyday. I’m really kind of standing up and being a voice for people, who this happens to all the time.”