Today, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) joined the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and several other fair housing centers from across the country in announcing that they have amended a previously filed federal housing discrimination complaint against U.S. Bancorp and U.S. Bank National Bank Association (U.S. Bank) to include new evidence. Specifically, evidence documenting discrimination in Baton Rouge was added to the complaint.
These civil rights groups allege that U.S. Bank continues to maintain and market foreclosed homes in white neighborhoods in a much better manner than in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. Failing to maintain and market homes because of the racial or ethnic composition of the neighborhood can violate the federal Fair Housing Act.
Through a months long investigation, GNOFHAC uncovered that:
Senator Sharon Weston Broome, whose district encompasses many of the homes and who serves as President Pro Tem to the Louisiana State Senate, expressed frustration with the lack of equal treatment: “Hardworking residents in my district take pride in our neighborhoods and strive to be good neighbors. It is blatantly unfair that U.S. Bank is not doing the same.”
Shanna Smith, President and CEO of NFHA, states “The rippling effects of the failure of US Bank Corp to take care of homes that it owns and is owner of record for has significant financial and health impacts on local governments, schools, neighborhoods and homeowners who live next door to or nearby these neglected properties. Homes with broken and boarded windows and overgrown lawns become targets for vandalism, dumping and criminal activity. We identified homes where the neighbors complained about rat and flea infestations. U.S. Bank Corp has a duty to maintain and market homes in communities of color in the same professional manner as it does in white neighborhoods.”
The complaint now brings the total to 24 cities in 12 metropolitan areas where U.S. Bank is alleged to have discriminated in its maintenance and marketing of its bank-owned homes and homes for which it is the owner of record as the Trustee. The original complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on April 17, 2012.
NFHA and the fair housing organizations evaluated the maintenance and marketing of bank-owned foreclosed homes for 39 different types of maintenance or marketing deficiencies, including broken windows and doors, broken and obstructed gutters and downspouts, accumulation of trash, overgrown lawns, no “For Sale” sign, and other issues that affect curb appeal, the security of the asset, and that impact the value of the home.
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.
James Perry, Executive Director of GNOFHAC, comments “Everyone deserves to live in a safe neighborhood. U.S. Bank is putting the health and safety of neighbors, including children, at risk by failing to secure these homes. U.S. Bank must address these problems immediately and stop treating foreclosures differently because of the racial makeup of the neighborhoods where they are located.”
NFHA and its member agencies including GNOFHAC are represented by Stephen Dane of Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC located in Washington, DC.
Additional detailed statistics and photos are available at www.nationalfairhousing.org.
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