National Fair Housing Alliance, in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and 18 Other Fair Housing Centers Charge Deutsche Bank and its Preservation Maintenance Companies with Housing Discrimination based on Race and National Origin
Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, LA — Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), and 18 state and local fair housing groups announced that they have found substantial new evidence in support of allegations that Deutsche Bank, Ocwen Financial, and Altisource continue to discriminate against communities of color in 30 metropolitan areas across the United States, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge. NFHA has filed an amended administrative complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). NFHA alleges that Deutsche Bank AG, Deutsche Bank National Trust, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, Ocwen Financial Corporation, and Altisource Portfolio Solution, Inc. fail to provide required routine maintenance on bank-owned homes in middle- and working-class African American and Latino neighborhoods, while Deustche/Ocwen/Altisource consistently provide routine maintenance on similar bank-owned homes in white neighborhoods.
Badly maintained bank-owned properties create a harmful and dangerous environment for the local community. They also drive down the property value of homes owned by neighbors causing the overall community to be economically depressed. The practice of neglecting foreclosed properties in African American and Latino communities increases the economic divide, perpetuates segregation, and denies people within these communities the right to fair and safe housing.
NFHA filed its original complaint against Deutsche Bank, et al. on February 26, 2014. Deutsche Bank contracts with Ocwen and Altisource to provide preservation maintenance and marketing for the overwhelming majority of properties for which the Bank is listed as owner of record.
The evidence presented in this complaint includes approximately 30,000 photographs of Deutsch Bank-owned homes in communities of color and predominantly white neighborhoods in 30 metropolitan areas. This shows a stark pattern of discriminatory conduct in the maintenance of bank-owned homes in communities of color.
“Deutsche Bank has shown that it can adequately maintain real estate in the white communities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, so it is only fair that homes in African American communities in those cities are maintained just as well,” said Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. “No one deserves to live next to an unsafe, unsightly structure, especially when its owner controls $1.6 trillion in assets but refuses to do simple maintenance.”
NFHA asserts that Deutsche Bank’s properties in predominantly white working- and middle-class neighborhoods are far more likely to have the lawns mowed and edged regularly, invasive weeds and vines removed, windows and doors secured or repaired, litter and trash removed, leaves raked, and graffiti erased from the property. “Yet, Deutsche Bank-owned homes in predominantly middle-and working-class African American and Latino neighborhoods are more likely to be left neglected with debris and trash on the property, wildly overgrown grass, and invasive plants covering the yards. Windows and doors are often unsecured, left wide open, or boarded, and graffiti as well as dead animals are left on the premises,” said Shanna Smith, President and CEO of NFHA.
Smith added, “Poor maintenance destroys a home’s curb appeal and invites vandalism or squatters because the home appears to be abandoned. Also, the blight caused by this neglect results in declining home values for African American and Latino families who live nearby, deepening the racial wealth gap and inequality in America.”
Windows, doors, and holes left open, unsecured, or broken at vacant bank-owned properties allow for water to accumulate and stagnate. As a result, Deutsche Bank’s poorly maintained homes serve as the perfect environment for mold and discoloration to develop. In fact, a recent study conducted by Midwest Aerobiology Labs found 36 molds specific to foreclosed homes and also concluded that 88 percent of foreclosed homes contained a dangerous mold capable of causing childhood asthma and other diseases in humans.
Stagnant water and overgrown grass were frequent issues at homes for which Deutsche Bank is the owner of record in African American and Latino neighborhoods. These provide a fertile habitat for mosquitos, rodents, termites, roaches, and other pests. These pests often carry diseases such Zika and West Nile and present serious health risks to nearby residents. These vermin infestations commonly spread to nearby homes.
“Just imagine the health impact the families in communities of color experience living next door or nearby those poorly maintained Deutsche Bank homes,” said Smith. “By neglecting their properties, Deutsche Bank, Ocwen and Altisource are putting at risk the health of African American and Latino residents living near these properties.”
This isn’t a new problem for Deutsche Bank. In June 2013, Deutsche Bank settled a lawsuit with the City of Los Angeles for $10 million after they were accused of allowing hundreds of bank-owned properties to fall into slum conditions, leading to the destabilization of communities. “It’s my understanding that Deutsche Bank required its preservation maintenance companies to pay most of the $10 million to resolve that case, so you would expect Deutsche/Ocwen/Altisource to monitor maintenance to ensure these shameful, discriminatory practices of neglecting routine maintenance in middle/working class communities of color ended. Unfortunately, we still find these horrid conditions at too many bank-owned homes in communities of color.”
View a map of affected communities: http://nationalfairhousing.org/community-map/.
Below is a list of the 30 metro areas involved in the investigation:
Baltimore, MD Baton Rouge, LA
Chicago, IL Cleveland, OH
Columbus, OH Dallas, TX
Dayton, OH Denver, CO
Detroit, MI (suburban communities) Gary, IN
Grand Rapids, MI Greater Palm Beaches, FL
Hampton Roads, VA Hartford, CT
Indianapolis, IN Kansas City, MO
Memphis, TN Miami, FL
Milwaukee, WI Minneapolis, MN
Muskegon, MI New Orleans, LA
Orlando, FL Philadelphia, PA
Prince George’s County, MD/Washington, DC
The fair housing organizations joining NFHA in filing the complaint include:
HOPE Fair Housing Center
245 W. Roosevelt Road #107
West Chicago, IL 60185
614 Lincoln Avenue
Winnetka, IL 60093
South Suburban Housing Center
18220 Harwood Avenue
Homewood, IL 60430
Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia
626 East Broad Street #400
Richmond, VA 23219
Toledo Fair Housing Center
432 North Superior Street
Toledo, OH 43604
Fair Housing Continuum
4760 N US Highway 1, Suite 203
Melbourne, FL 32935
Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center
404 S Jefferson Davis Pkwy
New Orleans, LA 70119
Denver Metro Fair Housing Center
3280 Downing Street, Suite B
Denver CO 80205
Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council
759 N Milwaukee Street, Suite 500
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Fair Housing Center of West Michigan
20 Hall Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49507
The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center
505 Riverside Drive
Dayton, OH 45405
The Housing and Research and Advocacy Center
2728 Euclid Avenue, Suite 200
Cleveland, OH 44115
Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches
1300 W Lantana Road, Suite 200
Lantana, FL 33462
Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana
615 N Alabama Street, Suite 426
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Central Ohio Fair Housing Association
175 South 3rd Street, Suite 580
Columbus, OH 43215
Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc.
11501 NW 2nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33168
Connecticut Fair Housing Center
221 Main Street, 4th Floor
Hartford, CT 06106
North Texas Fair Housing Center
8625 King George Drive, Suite 130
Dallas TX 75235
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California
1314 Lincoln Avenue, Suite A
San Rafael, CA 94901
NFHA and its member agencies are represented by Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC and Soule, Bradtke & Lambert.
Detailed statistics and photos are available at www.nationalfairhousing.org.
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.