Ms. Robertson has been an advocate for fair housing and civil rights since 1994. In addition to working at HOPE—a private non-profit fair housing organization fighting housing discrimination in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in Florida—and in addition to serving on NFHA’s board, Ms. Robertson serves on the South Florida Community Development Coalition’s board, the Fair Housing/Fair Lending Litigation Reporter’s advisory board, the City of Miami Gardens Affordable Housing Committee, and the Miami-Dade County Housing Civil Rights Oversight Board.
Prior to her tenure at HOPE, Ms. Robertson was a staff attorney for the Georgia Advocacy Office’s Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights program, and she was the Project Director and Attorney for Metro Fair Housing Services in Atlanta. She is a graduate of Florida State University and the Louisiana State University Law Center.
Ms. Robertson succeeds MVFHC President/CEO Jim McCarthy who just completed his nineth term as NFHA board chair. Mr. McCarthy, who will continue to serve on NFHA’s board as immediate past chair, said, “Keenya is a woman dedicated to protecting the rights of everyone to have equal housing opportunity. She’s proven her effectiveness, and I look forward to continuing to work with her as she leads NFHA forward.”
Brown calls for investigation of racial discrimination in management of foreclosed homes
Senator urges federal regulators to examine reports of unequal treatment of properties in Dayton and other communities nationwide
Brown joined more than a dozen senators in a letter urging the nation’s top financial, housing, and consumer protection regulators to examine allegations that bank-owned properties in white neighborhoods are better maintained and marketed than those in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. In the letter, the senators ask the regulators to take appropriate actions to stop any unequal treatment and violations of the Fair Housing Act.
“The same communities of color who were victimized by predatory lending may now be facing the double whammy of racial bias when it comes to the upkeep of foreclosed homes,” said Brown. “This is a problem that pushes down property values and erodes the quality of life in these communities. Federal agencies should ensure that the financial institutions managing these foreclosed properties use the same maintenance and marketing standards regardless of the race, color, or ethnicity of the homeowners who live in the neighborhood.”
The senators pointed to a report by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) detailing racial disparities in the upkeep and marketing of more than 2,400 Real Estate Owned (REO) homes—that is, bank-owned foreclosed properties—in 29 major metropolitan areas nationwide. Among other discrepancies, NFHA found that bank-owned properties in minority communities in the Dayton area were 2.9 times more likely to have utilities that were exposed or tampered with than properties in comparable, predominantly-white communities.
MVFHC and nineteen other civil rights groups file housing discrimination complaint against Fannie Mae
Fannie Mae fails to maintain its foreclosed homes in communities of color in the Miami Valley and across the United States
May 13, 2015 — Today the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (MVFHC) together with the National Fair Housing Alliance and other private fair housing organizations across the United States accused the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) of racial discrimination. In a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) the civil rights groups allege that Fannie Mae fails to maintain and market bank-owned foreclosures (also known as real estate owned or REO properties) in African American and Latino neighborhoods to the same standard as in White neighborhoods, a practice that violates the federal Fair Housing Act.
View a PowerPoint about the investigation against Fannie Mae.
“Fannie Mae was put on notice in 2009 about its failure to appropriately maintain and market its foreclosures in neighborhoods of color,” said Jim McCarthy, MVFHC’s President/CEO. “The foreclosure crisis hit these middle and working class communities the hardest, and what we’re now seeing is an illegal pattern of neglect that creates health and safety hazards for neighbors, lowers property values, and contributes to blight in the community.”
McCarthy was one of several advocates from across the country who traveled to Washington, DC today to participate in the national news conference, held at the National Press Club, to announce the complaint.
The fair housing organizations investigated the maintenance and marketing of bank-owned foreclosures for 39 different types of deficiencies, including: broken windows and doors, broken and obstructed gutters and downspouts, accumulated trash, overgrown lawns and shrubs, missing “for sale” signs, and other issues that affect curb appeal, the security of the home, and the value of the property.
“Fannie Mae is liable for the differences in treatment between white neighborhoods and Latino and African American neighborhoods,” said Shanna Smith, President/CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), based in Washington, DC. “Despite NFHA’s efforts since 2009, including filing complaints against Fannie’s Field Service Vendors, we’ve seen no improvement in the maintenance and marketing of these Fannie Mae properties,” Smith continued. “Instead, Fannie Mae rewarded the same vendors who were failing to appropriately maintain and market properties with additional contracts and new contracts for clear boarding.”
MVFHC’s investigation of Fannie Mae-owned properties examined 71 REO properties. Of these REO properties, 26 were in predominantly African American communities, one was located in a predominantly non-White community; and 44 were located in predominantly White communities. MVFHC’s investigation found that:
45.5% of the REO properties in White communities had fewer than 5 maintenance or marketing deficiencies documented, while none of the REO properties in communities of color had fewer than 5 deficiencies.
59.3% of the REO properties in communities of color had 10 or more maintenance or marketing deficiencies documented, while only 18.2% of the REO properties in White communities had 10 or more maintenance or marketing deficiencies.
REO properties in communities of color were far more likely to have certain types of deficiencies or problems than REO properties in White communities. Nationally, MVFHC and its partners found significant racial disparities in the majority of the objective factors measured in their investigations:
63.0% of the REO properties in communities of color had overgrown or dead shrubbery, while only 43.2% of the REO properties in White communities had the same problem.
59.3% of the REO properties in communities of color had between 10% and 50% of the property covered in invasive plants, while only 31.8% of the REO properties in White communities had the same problem.
63.0% of the REO properties in communities of color had a broken, boarded, or unsecured window, while only 15.9% of the REO properties in White communities had the same problem.
70.4% of the REO properties in communities of color had peeling or chipped paint, while only 40.9% of the REO properties in White communities had the same problem.
51.9% of the REO properties in communities of color had missing or out of place gutters, while only 18.2% of the REO properties in White communities had the same problem.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status, as well as on the race or national origin of residents of a neighborhood. This law applies to housing and housing-related activities, which include the maintenance, appraisal, listing, marketing, and selling of homes.
MVFHC and its partner civil rights groups have filed similar actions against Bank of America, US Bank, and Deutsche Bank as well as some of these banks’ field service vendors.
“We want to stop the downward spiral that middle and working class neighborhoods of color are caught in,” said McCarthy. “Not only do we want Fannie Mae to improve and appropriately maintain and market their REO properties, but we also want money from Fannie Mae to begin to stabilize these communities and rectify some of the damage caused by Fannie Mae’s failures. We want to use money to provide grants and other support to people buying REOs or other homes in neighborhoods, building more diverse and inclusive communities.”
HUD Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez speaks against SB 134
SB 134 would force landlords and tenants to more expensive channels to process discrimination complaints
May 6, 2015 — Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, spoke yesterday at the Ohio Statehouse about the problems that proposed Senate Bill 134 would present to fair housing in Ohio.
The assistant secretary, speaking to the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission on Hispanic Legislative Day, warned that the changes proposed in SB 134 “could undermine our efforts to protect the housing rights of all Ohio residents.”
Assistant Secretary Velasquez said, “The senator who sponsored the bill claims that SB 134 and now its companion bill HB 149 would conform Ohio fair housing laws to federal standards.”
“But the fact of the matter,” continued Assistant Secretary Velasquez, “is that limiting certain civil penalties, allowing respondents to recover attorneys’ fees in certain instances, and exempting certain landlords from the housing provisions of the Ohio civil rights law would have the opposite effect of the sponsor’s intentions, forcing landlords and tenants to more expensive and complex channels to process discrimination complaints, both administratively and in court.”
The assistant secretary urged people to look closely at SB 134 and to speak out against it.
You can view the assistant secretary’s remarks on YouTube.
Learn more about how SB 134 would hurt Ohio on the fight134.org website.
In conjunction with the Greater Dayton Apartment Association, MVFHC is offering one-hour fair housing webinars on the third Thursday of every month in 2015. For more information, visit our GDAA webinar page.
Inclusive Community Fund
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 2003–2015 Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc.