Grant enables continuation of fair housing enforcement activities
October 15, 2014 — Through its Fair Housing Initiatives Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded a three-year private enforcement initiative grant to the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC). The grant will run through December 2017 and will be funded at $325,000 per year.
The grant enables the continuation of fair housing enforcement activities provided by MVFHC in the Dayton MSA (Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Preble counties), including helping people who feel they have faced housing discrimination by investigating and filing complaints with the Dayton Human Relations Council, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and/or HUD; documenting evidence of systemic discrimination through testing in rental, sales and accessibility design/construction; and providing education instructing people on how to recognize and report housing discrimination as well as racial or sexual harassment.
HUD announces $5 million Wells Fargo settlement after complaints of discrimination against women on maternity leave
October 9, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it has reached a $5 million settlement with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the nation’s largest provider of home mortgage loans, resolving allegations that the lender discriminated against women who were pregnant, or had recently given birth, and were on maternity leave. Under its authority to enforce the Fair Housing Act, HUD has conducted an intensive campaign to end maternity leave-related discrimination. Since 2010, 190 maternity leave discrimination complaints have been filed with HUD, resulting in more than 40 settlements for a total of nearly $1.5 million prior to today’s settlement.
“The settlement is significant for the six families who had the courage to file complaints and for countless other families who will no longer fear losing out on a home simply because they are expecting a baby,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro.”
Wells Fargo will distribute a total of $165,000 among six affected families and will create a fund with at least $3.5 million to compensate other applicants who experienced discrimination because they were pregnant or on maternity leave when they applied for a loan. Wells Fargo will also change its underwriting guidelines for evaluating mortgage loan applications from those on maternity leave, ensuring the guidelines are not discriminatory.
CFPB orders U.S. Bank to pay $48 million to consumers illegally billed for services not received
Approximately 420,000 consumers unfairly charged for identity protection “add-on” products to receive full refunds
September 25, 2014 — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is ordering U.S. Bank to provide an estimated $48 million in relief to consumers harmed by illegal billing practices. U.S. Bank consumers were unfairly charged for certain identity protection and credit monitoring services that they did not receive. These services were sold as “add-on products” for credit cards and other bank
products such as mortgage loans and checking accounts. U.S. Bank will also pay a $5 million civil penalty to the CFPB and a $4 million penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
“Today’s action will provide $48 million in relief to U.S. Bank customers who were illegaly charged for identity protection services they did not receive,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We have consistently warned companies about practices related to add-on products, and we will do what is necessary to prevent further harm to consumers.”
Playground project received Quality of Life grant from Inclusive Community Fund
September 19, 2014 — A new playground that was partly funded by a Quality of Life grant from MVFHC’s Inclusive Community Fund has officially opened. The “Tot Lot” in Dayton’s Miami Chapel neighborhood was coordinated by the Southwest Priority Board and was the dream of neighborhood activist Pat Rickman.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured speakers including Mrs. Rickman, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Dayton school board member Hazel Roundtree, and MVFHC’s Director of Investigations and Enforcement Anita Schmaltz. Neighborhood school kids attended the ceremony and broke in the playground as soon as the ribbon was cut.
Thanks to Dayton photographer Andy Snow for providing photos of the event.
The newsletter has information about MVFHC’s 10th annual Waikiki Party Fundraiser wrap-up, MVFHC receives The 2014 Partner of the Year award, Banks and Fannie Mae vendors discriminate against communities of color by failing to maintain and market foreclosures, and HUD confirms that SB 349 sets up conflict in state and federal law.
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Northwestern University’s Medill school of journalism does report on REOs
Neglected foreclosed homes could mean further damage to minority communities
and the decimation of black wealth for generations to come
The report, “Redlining Redefined,” is by Robin Amer and details a day this past July in Minneapolis when she followed NFHA President/CEO Shanna Smith and other NFHA staff visiting REO properties in Minneapolis. Amer’s report was a part of 1964, the 2014 summer project of Northwestern University’s Medill school of journalism.
Read the whole article to learn how NFHA, MVFHC and other partners investigate REO properties and to meet some of the homeowners affected by how foreclosed properties in their neighborhoods are maintained.
HUD confirms that SB 349 sets up conflict in state and federal law
Ohio Civil Rights Commission pans bill
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the proposed Ohio Senate Bill 349 would throw Ohio law out of kilter with federal law and “jeopardize the substantial equivalence of the Ohio [fair housing] act.” The shift would force Ohio to forego $1 million in federal funds for investigation and enforcement of discrimination cases, and it would require both landlords and tenants to use the more expensive
and cumbersome federal channels to process discrimination complaints.
SB 349 was introduced by Sen. Seitz (R-Cincinnati) in late June. It has not yet been assigned to a committee, though advocates are actively opposing it on the grounds that it “undermines civil rights and fair housing protections in Ohio,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO.
“It’s in the best interest of all of us to oppose legislation that would make it more difficult to challenge those who would discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, ancestry, military status and/or familial status,” McCarthy said. “Ohio doesn’t need a law that turns back the clock on discrimination.”
The bill would reduce the consequences of housing discrimination by lowering and capping the punitive damages that guilty landlords would have to pay. It would discourage victims from filing a complaint by making them liable for the attorney’s fees of the party they accuse of discrimination if there is not enough evidence to prove their case. Also, Ohio would lose crucial HUD funds to go after those who violate fair housing laws in Ohio.
Ohio and 37 other states have fair housing laws that are considered “substantially equivalent” to federal law. In her letter to OCRC, Lynn M. Grosso, Director of HUD’s Office of Enforcement, noted that because the bill conflicts with federal law on several important points, Ohio would lose that designation.
Grosso wrote: “Based on our general review, because SB 349 would exempt owners of single-family homes from prohibited acts, reduce the coverage of single family dwellings under the law, limit and cap the availability of damages and penalties in the administrative process, prohibit damage awards to fair housing agencies and deter aggrieved persons from filing discrimination complaints, enactment of SB 349 presents significant inconsistencies with federal requirements for substantial equivalency and will jeopardize the continued participation and receipt of federal funding by the State through the Fair Housing Assistance Program.”
“This bill is not just bad for tenants, it’s bad for landlords too,” said Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. “If Ohio were to lose its substantial equivalency it would force the complaint process into the federal arena, where everything is more cumbersome and expensive. It’ll make it harder on everyone.”
Earlier this summer in a letter to Sen. Seitz, OCRC sketched a dark image of housing reality under SB 349: “Touted as a bill to amend damages and fees,” OCRC wrote, “this legislation, if passed, would legally immunize small landlords, allowing them to tell potential renters or buyers, I am not going to [sell] or [rent] my home to you because you are: Black…female…Hispanic…blind…Jewish…a soldier…pregnant. We are certain this was not the drafters’ intent, but it will undoubtedly be the impact.”
For more information about how SB 349 would harm Ohioans, visit Fight349.org.
Report: Banks and Fannie Mae vendors discriminate against communities
of color by failing to maintain and market foreclosures
MVFHC, NFHA and 16 other fair housing centers release report detailing racial disparities in maintenance of bank-owned and Fannie Mae-owned foreclosures in 30 metro areas nationwide
September 3, 2014 — The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC), the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), and 16 other NFHA member organizations announced the results of a major undercover investigation into the failure of banks and property preservation companies to maintain and market foreclosed homes in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. The investigation of Real Estate Owned (REO) homes in 30 major metropolitan areas found disturbing incidents of discrimination in how these banks and Fannie Mae’s preservation management companies fail to secure the doors and windows, mow lawns, fix gutters and downspouts, remove trash and provide other maintenance for REOs in African American and Latino neighborhoods, while providing these services for their REOs located in white neighborhoods.
A report detailing the findings of the investigation, “ZIP Code Inequality: Discrimination by Banks in the Maintenance of Foreclosed Homes in Neighborhoods of Color,” was released today. It details the results of the investigation of more than 2,400 REO properties located in and around 30 major U.S. cities. The report is the third released by NFHA (similar reports and results were published in 2011 and 2012) and provides information about the broadest investigation to date into REO discrimination. Both the white neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color investigated were middle and working class communities with high foreclosure rates and high owner-occupancy rates. The investigation avoided ZIP codes with high levels of renters or investor-ownership.
“This report and the investigative work behinds it shows how these lenders and Fannie Mae continue to destabilize our communities of color, and why there continues to be a story of two economic recoveries—one for affluent, mostly white communities, and one for middle-class communities of color,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO.
MVFHC, NFHA and NFHA’s other member fair housing agencies have REO-related complaints pending with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bank, and Fannie Mae’s field service vendors in charge of maintaining REOs: Asset Management Specialists, Cyprexx, and Safeguard Properties. Many of the same neighborhoods investigated are at issue in several complaints, compounding the negative health, safety and economic effects of unmaintained foreclosures on current homeowners in the neighborhoods.
“This report documents the ongoing threat to communities of color across America: that ZIP code determines whether banks properly maintain and market the homes titled in their names,” said NFHA’s President/CEO, Shanna L. Smith. “The banks and property preservation companies are under contract to maintain these homes. They are supposed to get the best price when selling a foreclosed home. Banks and Fannie Mae are obligated to make sure lawns are mowed, shrubs are trimmed, mail is stopped and flyers are removed from the porch. They are also responsible for ensuring that the gutters are cleaned to stop water or ice damage, windows and doors are secured and repaired, trash and dead animals are removed, emergency numbers that actually work are posted and professional ‘For Sale’ signs are placed in the yard. Banks fulfill these obligations in predominantly white neighborhoods but overwhelmingly fail to perform these simple routine maintenance chores in middle and working class African American and Latino neighborhoods.”
The failure to maintain homes based on the racial or ethnic composition of a neighborhood violates the federal Fair Housing Act and has a toxic effect on the health and livelihood of entire communities, according to Stephen M. Dane, a Washington, D.C., civil rights lawyer who has written on the subject and whose law firm represents NFHA and fair housing groups in several of the matters pending before HUD. The allegations outlined in the report illustrate continuing violations of fair housing law. The law is clear that banks, property preservation companies and trustees with properties titled in their names are covered by fair housing requirements.
“Rather than implement effective quality control measures or terminate vendors who fail to maintain REOs, banks assert they are not responsible for the vendors they hire because they are ‘just the trustee’ or they claim another servicer is at fault. However, the Fair Housing Act is clear that the owner of the property is liable. So when the REO is titled in the trustee’s name, it is responsible under the law,” Smith explained.
MVFHC and other REO project partners investigated the maintenance and marketing of REO properties on a 100-point scale, subtracting points for broken windows and doors, water damage, overgrown lawns or shrubs, accumulated leaves, invasive plants/weeds, no “for sale” sign, trash on the property, broken steps or handrails, holes left uncovered and other contractual maintenance items.
The investigations took into account over 30 different aspects of the maintenance and marketing of each property. Some key findings of the investigation include:
REOs in communities of color were 2.6 times more likely to have 10 or more deficiencies than REOs in white neighborhoods (32.0% vs. 12.4%).
REOs in communities of color were 2.2 times more likely to have trash accumulated on the premises than REOs in white neighborhoods (47.5 vs. 22.0%).
REOs in communities of color were 2.4 times more likely to have unsecured, broken, or boarded doors than REOs in white neighborhoods (30.0% vs. 12.7%).
REOs in communities of color were 2 times more likely to have unsecured, broken, or boarded windows than REOs in white neighborhoods (47.1% vs. 23.5%).
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, including the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing and selling of homes.
Create Dayton releases second music video
“Where the Rivers Meet”
Create Dayton, a group of Dayton artists, has released its second music video, “Where the Rivers Meet,” about the importance of diversity and cultural differences among Daytonians.
MVFHC’s Inclusive Community Fund is working to help residents of ZIP codes 45417 and 45426 with down payment assistance, home repair and rehabilitation, accessibility modifications, home improvement loans, and neighborhood quality of life grants. For more information, visit our ICF page.
Reasonable Modifications and Accommodations
Have questions about what your rights or responsibilities are under the federal Fair Housing Act for persons with disabilities? Now available online in the Services/Reference section are joint statements from the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development that explain reasonable modifications and accommodations.
HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton
The Home Ownership Center is a non-profit organization that empowers local residents to achieve and sustain homeownership and financial success. They’ve helped thousands of individuals and families meet their homeownership goals through a variety of services offered at low or no cost.
MVFHC provides legal counsel and advice at no cost for foreclosure cases involving residential mortgages.
If you have received a foreclosure complaint, call MVFHC at 937-223-6035.
A Service Animal Policy is now available available online in the Services/Reference section. The policy explains what service animals are and how they are a reasonable accommodation under the Federal Fair Housing Act and also provides practice guidelines for housing providers and for tenants.
Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST is an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that promotes compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. Visit www.fairhousingfirst.org for instruction programs and useful online resources.
Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. To learn how you can save money in your home, visit www.energystar.gov.
Copies of special reports such as Analyses of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice released by local jurisdictions as well as other reports done by MVFHC on zoning and predatory lending are available on the reports page.
Copyright 2003–2014 Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc.