Without a "for sale" sign, for example, potential homebuyers would simply not know the property is available. Also, if there are unauthorized occupants or storm damage, neighbors have no one to call. With a "for sale" sign, neighbors can call a real estate agent to report these kinds of problems. In Indianapolis, 100 percent of Bank of America REO properties in communities of color were missing a "for sale" sign as well as 79 percent in Chicago and 87 percent in Milwaukee.
Trash on a property is not only an eyesore for neighbors, but it makes a home unappealing to visitors and can be a potential health and safety hazard. Regular maintenance would correct this problem, but in Indianapolis 71 percent of all Bank of America REO properties in communities of color had substantial amounts of trash as well as 52 percent in Chicago and 33 percent in Milwaukee.
Broken locks or doors are an invitation to vagrants and possible criminal activity. Vagrants stay away from properties that are secured and regularly maintained and visited by responsible owners. In Indianapolis, 57 percent of properties in communities of color had broken doors or locks, while in Chicago the figure hit 55 percent and in Milwaukee 41 percent of properties had that deficiency.
Additional detailed statistics and photos are available at www.nationalfairhousing.org.
NFHA will continue its investigation into the practices of REO maintenance and marketing in the nation's banking system. In April, NFHA issued a report on the findings of its nationwide REO investigation, The Banks Are Back, Our Neighborhoods Are Not: Discrimination in the Maintenance and Marketing of REO Properties. The report offers disturbing evidence that the same banks that peddled unsustainable loans to communities of color and triggered the current foreclosure crisis are now exacerbating damage to those communities. It details the results of the evaluation of more than 1,000 REO properties nationwide.
NFHA filed HUD administrative complaints against Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp in April 2012. Both of these complaints are pending while HUD investigates these serious and pervasive allegations of discrimination.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status, as well as the race or national origin of residents of a neighborhood. This law applies to housing and housing-related activities, which include the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing and selling of homes.
To read the most recent HUD administrative complaint against Bank of America and to view today's news conference presentation, please go to www.nationalfairhousing.org.
Eighty-six percent of Bank of America-owned homes in Chicago's communities of color had more than five maintenance or marketing problems, while 38 percent had more than 10 maintenance or marketing problems.
"Communities of color in the south Cook County suburbs have had the highest foreclosure rate in the Chicago metropolitan area for the past four years," said John Petruszak, Executive Director of the South Suburban Housing Center in Homewood, IL. "The evidence uncovered by our investigation demonstrates that Bank of America's failure to take care of and properly market these homes is crippling economic recovery in our area's hardest hit communities."
"It is disheartening to see the devastation in certain communities because Bank of America doesn't treat all neighborhoods equally," said Anne Houghtaling, Executive Director of HOPE Fair Housing Center in Wheaton, IL. "Over and over again, visiting properties in Black and Latino communities, we saw see the same pattern. Anyone can spot a Bank of America property from down the block because there are trash, accumulated mail, overgrown grass and maybe even boarded up windows. In White communities, it would be hard to even tell the homes are foreclosed. We call on Bank of America to stop these unequal practices and treat all homes equally regardless of the neighborhood in which they are located."
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