Fair Housing Group Broadens Discrimination Complaint Against BofA

The National Fair Housing Alliance announced the fourth amendment of its discrimination complaint against Bank of America Thursday with the addition of five new cities. The complaint now includes 20 metro areas in which NFHA alleges Bank of America has neglected to maintain and market foreclosed and REO properties.

In the complaint filed with HUD, NFHA and five of its member organizations allege Bank of America “continues to maintain and market foreclosed homes in majority white neighborhoods in a much better manner than it does in majority African-American and Latino neighborhoods,” according to a press statement from the group.

The new cities NFHA added to its complaint include Baltimore, Maryland; Toledo, Ohio; Waukegan, Illinois; Evanston, Illinois. The organization also provided new evidence of discrimination in Aurora, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And NFHAsays it will release more evidence early next year.

NFHA cited 39 types of maintenance violations, including trash on properties, overgrown lawns, broken windows, unsecured doors, mold, and water damage.

In Toledo, NFHA found 71 percent of Bank of America’s foreclosed and REO properties located in minority neighborhoods have unsecured windows and 25 percent have broken doors.

“Bank of America is seriously hurting the people of Toledo by not properly maintaining these homes,” said Michael Marsh, president and CEO of the Toledo Fair Housing Center, one of NFHA’s member organizations.

NFHA president and CEO Shanna L. Smith reiterated community health and safety concerns, saying, “Having properly secured doors on bank-owned properties is essential to keeping the entire community safe.”

Smith added, “Bank of America’s failure to secure properties endangers the residents of these communities.”

In Baltimore, NFHA claims 90 percent of homes owned by Bank of America and located in minority neighborhoods have more than five maintenance or marketing problems.

While Smith insisted in Thursday’s announcement to the press, “Bank of America has known about these problems for more than four years,” Bank of America discounts NFHA’s claims.

When NFHA expanded its complaint in September, Bank of America SVP Dan Frahm told DSNews.com, “Bank of America applies uniform practices to the management and marketing of vacant bank-owned properties across the U.S., regardless of their location. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply untrue.”

A spokesperson for Bank of America reiterated this point Thursday while also identifying several flaws in NFHA’s research methodology.

“NFHA expressly declined to consider properties under repair and faulted the bank for properties it had agreed to donate to local groups in their existing condition,” said the bank’s spokesperson.

In addition to maintenance problems, NFHA says many Bank America-owned properties in minority neighborhoods do not have “for sale” signs in the yards. For example, in Baltimore, 76 percent of Bank of America’s homes in minority neighborhoods lack “for sale” signs, according to NFHA.

“Without a ‘for sale’ sign, potential homebuyers are unlikely to know a property is for sale and neighbors are unlikely to know whom to call to in an emergency or how to report unauthorized occupants or damage,” NFHA said in its press statement.

The Bank of America spokesperson countered Thursday that it “is in the best interest of the bank investor and community for the property to be marketed and sold to new homeowners” and pointed out that the bank’s REOinventory has declined by nearly 70 percent over the past year.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, NFHA claimed discrimination in REO upkeep by BofA in the following cities: Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; Oakland and Richmond, California; Denver and Aurora, Colorado; Orlando and Miami, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Indianapolis, Indiana; Las Vegas, Nevada; Dayton, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Charleston, South Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Prince George’s County, Maryland. These cities remain part of NFHA’s amended complaint against the bank.

NFHA filed a similar claim against U.S. Bank in October.

The organization has created a 2013 State of Healthy Housing interactive map where viewers can read about vacant housing conditions in their area. “The purpose of the State of Healthy Housing report is to alert policymakers and advocates in the locations included in the report about the housing conditions in their communities,” NFHA says.

 

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