The National Fair Housing Alliance and the Fair Housing Continuum in Florida filed a federal housing discrimination complaint against Bank of America Corporation, saying foreclosed homes in affluent areas of Orlando are more well-kept.
The complaint, filed Wednesday, found that the financial giant allegedly maintains and markets foreclosed homes in "White neighborhoods in a much better manner than in African-American neighborhoods in Orlando, Fla,” according to a release.
The complaint was filed with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and is part of an amended complaint NFHA and six member agencies filed last month.
The allegations are based on undercover investigations that examine how Bank of America handles maintenance and marketing of properties in White, African-American and Latino neighborhoods across the country.
The NFHA argues that communities of color continue to experience foreclosure rates twice that of white communities and that the alleged practice is essentially a death sentence for those neighborhoods.
“America’s banks should be treating everyone fairly,” said Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance in a release. “Bank of America is a major industry player and should be setting a good example when it comes to REO disposition. How hard can it be to cut the grass, secure doors and clean up trash? This maintenance is the norm in predominantly White neighborhoods and should be the same in African American and Latino neighborhoods.”
The National Fair Housing Alliance and the Fair Housing Continuum investigated homes in Charleston, SC and Orlando, Fla. and evaluated the maintenance and marketing of REO properties for the existence of 39 different types of maintenance or marketing deficiencies, such as broken windows and doors, water damage, overgrown lawns, no “for sale” sign, trash on the property, and other problems.
Bank of America released a statement denying the allegations on Wednesday.
"While we share NFHA's concern about neighborhoods, we strongly deny their allegations and stand behind our property maintenance and marketing practices," the statement read. "Bank of America is committed to stabilizing and revitalizing communities that have been impacted by the economic downturn, foreclosures and property abandonment. We actively address the needs of such communities through existing programs, partnerships with non profits and governments and continued investment in innovative programs."
Local 6 spoke to some residents who live near the 15 foreclosed homes in Orlando part of the complaint who said they hope the homes are fixed up and sold soon.
"The code officer, I'm surprised they're not putting summons on the property," said Cortez Rose. "There are some nice homes in this area that are kept up, but then you have those that are not, and it kind of depreciates the value of the area."
The complaint also affects six other cities across the country. Wells Fargo and U.S. Bankcorp are also facing discrimination complaints.
Additional statistics and photos are available at www.nationalfairhousing.org.