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Charleston added to complaint over Bank of America foreclosures


By Lauren Ratcliffe
lratcliffe@scbiznews.com
Published Oct. 10, 2012

Charleston has been added to the list of cities involved in a fair housing complaint filed against Bank of America.

The National Fair Housing Alliance and the Fair Housing Continuum filed the complaint, claiming the company is acting in a discriminatory manner when it comes to foreclosures on their books.

The administrative complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alleges that Bank of America maintains and markets bank-owned properties differently based on the predominant race of the surrounding neighborhood.

In September, the fair housing organizations filed an original complaint against the bank citing research conducted in eight cities. Today’s filing added Orlando, Fla., and Charleston to the list.

Data collected from an investigation of 392 homes in 10 cities revealed that homes located in predominantly white neighborhoods were well-maintained and visibly marketed as “for sale,” while homes in neighborhoods of color were significantly more likely to be unkempt and not clearly marked as “for sale.”

“America’s banks should be treating everyone fairly,” said Shanna L. Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “Bank of America is a major industry player and should be setting a good example when it comes to (Real Estate Owned) disposition. 

“Instead, one of our nation’s most profitable banks is leading the way in causing blight and depressing property values in African-American and Latino neighborhoods,” she said.

A spokesperson for Bank of America said the company does not discriminate in their practices.

“While we share NFHA’s concern about neighborhoods, we strongly deny their allegations and stand behind our property maintenance and marketing practices,” the spokesperson said in a written statement. “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 nonprofits and governments, and continued investment in innovative programs.”

The housing organizations analyzed foreclosed properties owned by Bank of America and targeted houses in ZIP codes and neighborhoods based on their racial makeup.

In Charleston, at the time of the study, Bank of America owned five properties that were listed as actively for sale on its website, Smith said.

Three of the homes were in predominantly black neighborhoods and two were in predominantly white neighborhoods. Smith said two of the three homes in the non-white neighborhoods were in states of disrepair.

“How hard can it be to cut the grass, secure doors and clean up trash?” she said. “This maintenance is the norm in predominantly white neighborhoods and should be the same in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.”

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