Fair housing groups add to discrimination complaint against Bank of America

A group of fair housing organizations today released new information pointing to Bank of America’s continued failure to market and maintain foreclosed properties in African American and Latino neighborhoods.  The groups are amending their original housing discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2012 to include more than 30 additional metropolitan regions.  FSRN’s Noelle Galos reports:

Today marks the one year anniversary of a housing discrimination complaint filed by fair housing and civil rights organizations against Bank of America, one of the largest US banks responsible for managing foreclosed properties.  The complaint was originally based on investigations in 8 US metropolitan regions, including Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Oakland and Washington, DC. The National Fair Housing Alliance and others found that bank-owned properties in white neighborhoods received substantially better maintenance and marketing than those in communities of color.  Shanna Smith is CEO of the Alliance.

“It’s about, is Bank of America maintaining the outside of the property? Are they taking care of it in a way that increases or maintains the value of the house so the trust that’s holding these mortgages makes a profit?”

Houses that are kept up are more likely to sell, improving the overall prosperity and desirability of a neighborhood.  The NFHA says despite filing the federal complaint a year ago, investigations reveal Bank of America has made little progress in its treatment of properties in neighborhoods of color.  The bank has denied the allegations, stating that their treatment of bank-owned homes is the same regardless of region or property value.  Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington.

Bank of America maintenance of REO properties in the greater Dayton area (via Miami Valley Fair Housing Center)

Listen or download audio file here.

 

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DC Council passes emergency tax lien relief bill after newspaper investigation

Tax lien auction photo courtesy of NBC4On Tuesday afternoon, the DC Council passed 90-day emergency legislation to prevent city residents from losing their homes due to tax lien sales to private investors.  The vote came just days after a Washington Post investigation found some elderly residents lost their properties when they owed just a few hundred dollars in back taxes. FSRN’s Noelle Galos brings us more.

According to a Washington Post report, the city auctioned off 142 tax liens to private investors this year alone, worth a combined half million dollars. Amy Mix, an attorney with AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly, told FSRN that while anyone can be affected, certain populations are especially at risk for losing their homes and equity:

It’s going to be seniors, it’s going to be people with disabilities, maybe people with diminished capacity.”

Mix said that one client in particular caused her office to look into DC’s tax lien sale process, where they found accounting errors that led to foreclosure proceedings:

So this balance that was outstanding that caused the foreclosure suit to be filed against her, was because of an $8.61 balance that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

The emergency legislation will cancel this year’s tax lien sales and establish a review of past sales to compensate those who lost their home for owing less than $2,500 dollars.  A spokesperson for the Mayor said he will sign. Noelle Galos, FSRN, Washington, DC.

Download or listen to audio here.