Nearly a dozen housing advocacy groups recently filed a complaint against Bank of America for unkempt foreclosed properties in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods and regions, one of which is Prince George’s County.
Within the lawsuit led by the northwest D.C.-based National Fair Housing Alliance, it outlines nearly 1,300 properties in 30 metropolitan areas are filtered with trash, boarded doors and overgrown shrubbery.
Alexis Revis Yeoman, spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development, said the alliance visited the county at least 18 months ago to inform Prince George’s officials it may be added to the amended suit.
Yeoman said she didn’t know about the complaint until notified Sept. 21 by a reporter with The Washington Informer.
“[The alliance] wanted to determine if there was enough evidence to add the county to the existing lawsuit,” said Yeoman, who added the county has received complaints from residents over the years about dilapidated properties in their neighborhood. “They didn’t keep us abreast about this,”
About 41 foreclosed properties in the county owned by Bank of America were mentioned in previous complaints filed by the alliance. The group added 22 more in the recent suit. Of the 63 properties, 56 are in predominately black communities, the suit says.
The alliance posted a document — http://bit.ly/2d27Fcr — on how nearly 70 percent of the homes in black neighborhoods in Prince George’s had substantial amounts of trash and 62 percent had overgrown grass. Pictures of homes taken in 2011 through this year in municipalities such as Capitol Heights, District Heights and Temple Hills highlight those deficiencies, according to the alliance.
An undated photo shows “a clean and secure” property in a predominately white neighborhood in Rockville in neighboring Montgomery County.
Pamela Bond, spokeswoman for the alliance, did not return phone calls and emails for comment.
According to the 76-page complaint dated Aug. 31, foreclosed properties in communities of color “are in a state of disrepair … and in predominately white neighborhoods in a materially better condition.”
Bank of America denies the claims from the original complaint filed in 2012 and the recent suit now amended for the sixth time.
“The fact is Bank of America applies neutral and uniform practices to the management of vacant bank-owned properties across the country, regardless of the demographic makeup of their location,” Rick Simon, spokesman for the bank, said in a statement. “Any suggestion to the contrary is simply untrue.”
Nationwide, the alliance and nine other housing agencies used zip codes associated with those who live in black or Latino neighborhoods with at least 10 percent of the property covered with dead grass, damaged fences, chipped paint and other property damage.
In four metropolitan areas that include the county, Phoenix, Tucson, Arizona and Newark, New Jersey, fewer Bank of America properties could be investigated where whites reside.
“A major reason why … is that Bank of America does a far superior job maintaining and marketing REO (real-estate owned) properties in white neighborhoods, which means those properties are sold much faster and, in turn, reduces Bank of America’s REO inventory in white neighborhoods at any point in time,” the suit says.