By KIMBERLEY HAAS
The National Fair Housing Alliance and 20 fair housing organizations throughout the country have reached a landmark $53 million agreement to resolve claims that Fannie Mae treated homes it owned in majority-Black and Latino communities unfavorably.
Lisa Rice, President and CEO of NFHA in Washington, D.C., said in a statement that Monday’s settlement brings hope to underserved neighborhoods in 39 metropolitan areas.
“Black and Latino consumers were actively targeted by predatory subprime mortgage lenders in the run-up to the 2008 Financial Crisis and, as a result, homes in Black and Latino neighborhoods were respectively 2 and 2.5 times more likely to be foreclosed than homes in White communities. Millions of homeowners in Black and Latino communities lost their homes, and these neighborhoods were decimated,” Rice said.
As a result of the lawsuit, Fannie Mae has implemented practices Rice believes represent the gold standard for maintaining and marketing foreclosed homes equitably.
The 2016 complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California claims that the disparity in Fannie Mae’s treatment of properties in communities of color and those in predominantly white neighborhoods can only be explained by race.
The plaintiffs collected more than 49,000 photographs revealing poorly maintained properties in Black and Latino communities to support their claims.
According to a press release, the plaintiffs will invest settlement monies directly back into the communities that were harmed by Fannie Mae’s alleged discriminatory conduct. More than $35 million will go to promoting homeownership, neighborhood stabilization, access to credit, property rehabilitation, and residential development.
The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana was one of the housing organizations involved in the lawsuit. They will receive $1 million from the settlement, Leslie Bonilla Muniz at Indianapolis Business Journal reported.
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council in Wisconsin will also be receiving a portion of the settlement money. Talis Shelbourne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the amount to be received has not yet been disclosed.
Chicago-area fair housing groups will get $4 million as part of the settlement, according to Dennis Rodkin at Crain’s Chicago Business.
The fair housing groups are represented by civil rights law firms Relman Colfax PLLC and Dane Law LLC. The organizations were also represented by Morgan Williams, NFHA’s General Counsel, and Julia Howard-Gibbon, Supervising Attorney of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California.
There are similar cases pending against private lenders like Bank of America and Deutsche Bank.
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