A year ago, the alliance and several of its member organizations filed a complaint against the bank with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, arguing that the bank had violated the federal Fair Housing Act by neglecting foreclosed properties in minority communities in Denver, Atlanta, Miami, Dayton and Washington, D.C. Today, the groups amended their complaint with a stack of evidence – in maps, data, and photos – showing that the problem has persisted in each of those cities, while documenting it anew in Memphis, Denver, Las Vegas, Tucson and Philadelphia.
In total, housing advocates have now identified the problem in 18 metropolitan areas, across 621 Bank of America properties…
The sample size in each city varied, from about a dozen properties to more than 44 of them in Denver. But across all of the cities, homes in minority communities were two times more likely than those in predominantly white areas to have more than 10 maintenance or marketing problems. In Denver, homes in minority neighborhoods were 9.3 times more likely to have a broken door or lock. In Las Vegas, they were 4.5 times more likely to have damaged windows. In Philadelphia, they’re twice as likely to have accumulated substantial amounts of trash, relative to homes in white neighborhoods in the same market.
The pattern suggests yet another way that subtle housing discrimination may further handicap the ability of minority communities to recover from the housing crisis (or, put another way, this suggests why the effects of the recession will linger in minority communities for much longer). Federal fair housing law prohibits actions (or attempts at action) that “perpetuate, or tend to perpetuate, segregated housing patterns,” or that obstruct the choices in a community or neighborhood. It’s not hard to envision how these neglected homes could wind up doing just that.
Bank of America responded that the methodology of the study was flawed and that some of the homes in more disrepair were the responsibility of other entities.
More broadly, this suggests a potential new line of research questions about how banks and financial institutions respond after an economic crisis and whether this is stratified by race and class. How have banks made decisions regarding which foreclosed properties to improve or leave to others? Have they primarily worked with more valuable pieces of property, ones that might be found more often in middle to upper class neighborhoods? Is there also more political pressure (from local homeowners to municipalities) to address these more expensive homes or places with higher property values? It also seems like the analysis here would benefit by looking at the actions of multiple mortgage holders to see if there is a pattern across institutions.