Discrimination alleged in upkeep of foreclosed homes

Banks are more likely to keep up foreclosed homes and market them for sale in predominantly white neighborhoods than majority black or Latino neighborhoods, according to the results of an investigation released Wednesday by a national housing watchdog.

The National Fair Housing Alliance examined more than 1,000 foreclosed houses in white and minority neighborhoods in nine major U.S. metro areas, including Atlanta, finding disparities in property maintenance and marketing methods in white neighborhoods compared with black or Latino ones.

Homes in minority neighborhoods were more likely to look abandoned, with overgrown vegetation and garbage visible, while homes in white communities generally looked lived-in and better maintained, the report said.

“This report offers evidence that banks responsible for peddling unsustainable loans to communities of color and triggering our current foreclosure crisis are continuing to damage those communities by failing to properly maintain and market the properties they own,” NFHA President and CEO Shanna L. Smith said in a news release.

The alliance said next week it will file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against one unnamed major bank over practices the group says violate federal anti-discrimination laws concerning fair housing.

In Atlanta, NFHA partner Metro Fair Housing of Atlanta examined 187 homes, mostly in nonwhite neighborhoods, and found foreclosed homes in black neighborhoods were 4.65 times more likely than in white neighborhoods to be missing “for sale” signs. Nearly a third of such homes in predominantly black neighborhoods had broken or unsecured doors, compared with 14 percent in mostly white areas.

The NFHA rated 39 aspects of property upkeep and marketing, such as curb appeal, water damage and attractive "for sale" signs. Homes in black and Latino neighborhoods nationwide were 82 percent more likely to have boarded-up or broken windows.

“The proper maintenance and marketing of [foreclosed] properties is a key factor in the sale of homes to families rather than to investors,” Smith said.

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