The National Fair Housing Alliance and five member agencies filed a federal discrimination complaint against Bank of America on Tuesday, alleging widespread neglect in predominantly black and Hispanic communities across the country.
The watchdog agency and members unveiled a HUD-funded report to support the claims that Bank of America violates the Fair Housing Act by neglecting REO properties in these communities.
NFHA conducted the study with 373 foreclosed properties across eight major metro areas, including Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.
“Our economy may be recovering in some communities, but this is a Tale of Two Recoveries,” Shanna L. Smith,NFHA president and CEO, said in a statement. She said that the financial services institution “continues to disregard its REO homes in communities of color. And they have no excuse.”
According to the report, Bank of America-owned properties in communities of color were 42 percent more likely than predominantly white communities to come with more than 15 kinds of maintenance problems.
The study found it more likely for the same issues to surface in communities of color than in white ones across the board. That included broken or boarded windows (82 percent) and trash and debris (34 percent).
By the same token, REOs in predominantly white communities appeared 33 percent more likely to sport professional “For Sale” signage than properties in black and Hispanic communities, according to the report.
The breakdown revealed many of the same fault lines in several metro areas, with 92 percent of REOs in black communities in Dayton, Ohio, more likely to suffer from five commonplace maintenance and marketing problems.
Foreclosed properties in Grand Rapids’ black and Hispanic communities were 17.1 times more likely to surface with 15 or more marketing or maintenance problems. Forty percent of the REOs in these communities across Atlanta sit with more than 10 maintenance or marketing communities, with virtually none appearing in white neighborhoods.
In Miami, broken windows showed up on 43 percent of Bank of America-owned foreclosed properties. Further to the west, in Dallas, REOs in black and Hispanic communities showed were twice as likely as those in white neighborhoods to languish with “substantial amounts” of trash in their yards and three times as likely to stand with overgrown grass.
Smith told reporters earlier Tuesday that NFHA had first alerted Bank of America to REO disrepair in these communities in 2009 and again in 2010, with the bank responding only by December 2011. She said that NFHAplans to pursue legal action against Bank of America if nothing is done to amend the problems and remediation fails.
“Bank of America reports huge profits and yet fails to renovate, maintain or properly market homes it owns in African American and Latino neighborhoods,” she added in the statement. “This disregard and disrespect for communities of color will not be tolerated.”
Bank of America denied allegations across the board in a statement.
“While we share NFHA’s concern about neighborhoods, we strongly deny their allegations and stand behind our property maintenance and marketing practices,” said Jumana Bauwens, a spokesperson for the bank. “Bank of America is committed to stabilizing and revitalizing communities that have been impacted by the economic downturn, foreclosures and property abandonment.”