FHC joins National Fair Housing Alliance and 18 Fair Housing Organizations to charge Deutsche Bank, Ocwen Financial and their Preservation Maintenance Companies with Housing Discrimination based on Race and National Origin

 

Today, the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches joined the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and 18 fair housing organizations to  announce the filing of an amended administrative complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Complainants allege that Deutsche Bank AG, Deutsche Bank National Trust, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, Ocwen Financial Corporation, and Altisource Portfolio Solutions, Inc. fail to provide required routine maintenance on bank-owned homes in middle- and working-class African American and Latino neighborhoods, while Deutsche/Ocwen/Altisource consistently provide routine maintenance on similar bank-owned homes in white neighborhoods in 30 metropolitan areas throughout the United States.

 

 

Poorly maintained bank-owned properties create a harmful and dangerous environment for the local community. They also drive down the property value of homes owned by neighbors–causing the overall community to be economically depressed. The practice of neglecting bank-owned properties in African American and Latino communities increases the economic divide, perpetuates segregation, and denies the people who live in these communities the right to fair and safe housing.

NFHA filed its original complaint against Deutsche Bank, et al. on February 26, 2014. The complaint now adds Ocwen and Altisource as respondents in the 30 metropolitan areas. Deutsche Bank contracts with Ocwen and Altisource to provide preservation maintenance and marketing for the overwhelming majority of properties for which the Bank is listed as owner of record.

The evidence presented in this complaint includes approximately 30,000 photographs of Deutsche Bank-owned homes in communities of color and predominantly white neighborhoods in 30  metropolitan areas. This  substantial photographic evidence shows a stark pattern of discriminatory conduct in the maintenance of bank-owned homes in communities of color. The amended administrative complaint brings to 1,100 the number of Deutsche-owned homes investigated by NFHA and its partners.

Poorly maintained bank-owned properties have a negative effect on the health of a local community. According to a report by Mariana Arcaya, Sc.D., M.C.P, of the American Heart Association, living near a foreclosed home can increase a person’s blood pressure “due in part to unhealthy stress from residents’ perception that their own properties are less valuable, their streets less attractive or safe and their neighborhoods less stable.”

 

Windows, doors, and holes left open, unsecured, or broken at vacant bank-owned properties allow for water to accumulate and stagnate. As a result, Deutsche Bank’s poorly maintained homes serve as the perfect environment for mold and discoloration to develop. In fact, a recent study conducted by Midwest Aerobiology Labs found 36 molds specific to foreclosed homes and also concluded that 88 percent of foreclosed homes contained a dangerous mold capable of causing childhood asthma and other diseases in humans.

Stagnant water and overgrown grass were frequent issues at homes for which Deutsche Bank is the owner of record, in African American and Latino neighborhoods.  These provide a fertile habitat for mosquitos, rodents, termites, roaches, and other pests. These pests often carry diseases such as Zika and Hantavirus and present serious health risks to nearby residents. These vermin infestations commonly spread to nearby homes.

 

 

“Just imagine the health impact the families in communities of color experience living near these poorly maintained Deutsche Bank homes,” said Smith.  “By neglecting their properties, Deutsche Bank, Ocwen, and Altisource are putting at risk the health of African American and Latino residents living near these properties.”  Smith added, “Poor maintenance destroys a home’s curb appeal and invites vandalism or squatters because the home appears to be abandoned. Also, the blight caused by this neglect results in declining home values for African American and Latino families who live nearby, deepening the racial wealth gap and inequality in America.”

This isn’t a new problem for Deutsche Bank. In June 2013, Deutsche Bank settled a lawsuit with the City of Los Angeles for $10 million after it was accused of allowing hundreds of bank-owned properties to fall into slum conditions, leading to the destabilization of communities.  “It’s my understanding that Deutsche Bank required its preservation maintenance companies to pay most of the $10 million to resolve that case, so you would expect Deutsche/Ocwen/ Altisource to monitor maintenance to ensure these shameful, discriminatory practices of neglecting routine maintenance in middle/working class communities of color ended.  Unfortunately, we still find these horrid conditions at too many bank-owned homes in communities of color,” said Smith.

Click here to View Data of the Greater Palm Beaches

Click here to View Map of affected Communities

Click here to View Complaint

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Supreme Court Upholds the Right of Local Communities to Fight for Fair Housing in Bank of America v. City of Miami

In a precedent-setting ruling, the Supreme Court has upheld the right of cities to sue banks whose practices harm the municipalities and their residents.  The decision in Bank of America, et al. v. City of Miami strongly ratified a core principle of the Fair Housing Act while leaving open a central question of how proximate cause is defined under the law.

In its lawsuit, the City of Miami outlined its allegations that Bank of America and Wells Fargo targeted predatory loans against African American and Latino borrowers and that when the unsustainable loans inevitably collapsed and houses fell into foreclosure, the City incurred added costs in police and code enforcement services and diminished tax revenue stemming from the bad loans.  The City argued that the banks practices cause “stagnation and decline in African-American and Latino neighborhoods” and “hindered the City’s efforts to create integrated, stable neighborhoods.”  The City’s claim highlights the devastating impact of the foreclosure crisis and the harmful reach of discrimination in communities of color.

The decision reaffirms bedrock Supreme Court fair housing jurisprudence-in TrafficanteGladstone, and Havens Realty– interpreting a broad scope of the law for those seeking to redress harm from discriminatory conduct, whether in the form of a tenant being denied the opportunity to live in an integrated community or a city that loses tax revenue from racial steering practices.

Justice Breyer wrote in his 5-3 majority opinion that the City’s financial injuries including “lost tax revenue and extra municipal expenses” fall within the “zone of interests” the Fair Housing Act protects, basing his analysis in principles of stare decisis and Congressional statutory ratification, and preserving the ability of cities and other indirect victims of discrimination to seek redress in the courts.

Indeed, Breyer opined that the Court is undeterred in upholding its previous rulings that the Fair Housing Act “reflects congressional intent to confer standing… as broadly as is permitted by Article III of the Constitution.”  By reestablishing the broad application of standing under the court’s “zone of interest” framework, the decision serves to buttress a central pillar of the law under recent developments in Supreme Court jurisprudence.

The court left open the question of whether the banks’ misconduct proximately caused the City’s financial injury, remanding that matter to the 11th Circuit which previously only assessed harm on the basis of whether the injury could have foreseeably flown from the discrimination alleged.  Justice Breyer noted that “the housing market is interconnected with economic and social life,” such that a fair housing violation may “‘be expected to cause ripples of harm to flow’ far beyond the defendant’s misconduct,” but he reiterated that proximate cause “requires some direct relation between the injury asserted the injurious conduct alleged.”

The court declined to draw precise boundaries on what constitutes proximate cause under the law, citing a lack of guidance on the question from the lower courts, so now the civil rights advocates and banking industry defense lawyers lined up on either side of this dispute will follow the matter back down to the circuit courts.  With little guidance from the Supreme Court apart from the assertion that alleged harm must somehow be more than merely foreseeable, the fight over the reach of the Fair Housing Act lives on in the next phase of this case.

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APRIL IS FAIR HOUSING MONTH! Come celebrate Fair Housing Month with us as we welcome you to attend our signature event. See below for more details. RSVP’s are required and due by April 17th. Event & Valet Parking FREE!!!

FH Month 2017

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FHC FILES HOUSING DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT WITH THE HUD AGAINST THE CITY OF BOYNTON BEACH FOR DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES”

group homes

 

 

The Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches, Inc. (FHC) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against the City of Boynton Beach (the City). The complaint alleges discrimination based on Handicap/Disability, in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.

On November 5, 2016 the Justice Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released an updated guidance on the application of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) to state and local land use and zoning laws.  The guidance is designed to help state and local governments better understand how to comply with the FHA when making zoning and land use decisions, as well as to help members of the public understand their rights under the FHA.

 On December 6, 2016, the City of Boynton Beach City Commissioners adopted Resolution R16-165, declaring the commencement of a study period related to Respondent CBB zoning and use regulations concerning group homes; and to abate the issuance of any permit for group homes within its city limits until June 4, 2017; and undertake review and revision of the zoning and use regulations as they relate to group housing within the City of Boynton Beach. On December 19, 2016 the City again voted  unanimously to institute it’s six month moratorium on all group homes, in violation of Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.

“Suppose a municipality issued a moratorium barring families with children, Blacks or Latinos from moving to that City, while they study the law. No one would stand for that!” stated Vince Larkins, FHC President & CEO. “The idea that the City of Boynton Beach thinks that they can discriminate against a whole group of people is outrageous. The FHC will not sit idly by while people with disabilities are targeted, in violation of federal Fair Housing Act”, he further stated.

 Group homes cover a wide range of disabilities. Residents usually have some type of chronic mental disorder that impairs their ability to live independently. Many residents also have physical disabilities such as impairments of vision communication, or ambulation.

 

 

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