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NFHA Alleges Banks Use Discriminatory Practices

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and four of its member organizations announced yesterday, they are filing a federal housing discrimination complaint against Wells Fargo Bank. The complaint will be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It's the result of an undercover investigation, and the Housing Alliance says major American banks like Wells Fargo are failing to maintain and market Real Estate Owned (REO) properties in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.

The investigation looked at neighborhoods in 11 major metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Baltimore, and Dallas. The Housing Alliance also looked at several Dayton neighborhoods.

Jim McCarthy is President and CEO with the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center in Dayton - a Fair Housing Alliance member. He says, the criteria used for the investigation reveals a big discrepancy in the way neighborhoods are treated.

"We have a number of different indecis that we believe clearly demonstrate a failure by Wells Fargo and Co.properties. We are not expecting that Wells Fargo would go in and improve the properties but we do expect that they would fix and replace portions of the gutters which are very inexpensive repairs but preserve the roofs and foundations of these properties and thus protect the asset represented by the property."

McCarthy says the Alliance also looked at signage on REO properties for sale, and discriminatory practices were also found in the way available housing in neighborhoods of color were marketed. Peter Romer-Friedman is Counsel for the Fair Housing Alliance.

"These practices also limit the choices of home owners in communities of color and perpetuate segregated housing patterns by conveying a message to prospective purchasers that REO properties in communities of color are not available or desirable, which of course is not true."

The National Fair Housing Alliance says claims against other banks are coming in the weeks ahead.