Wells Fargo (WFC) faces allegations of discrimination in its maintenance of previously foreclosed property in minority neighborhoods, according to a formal complaint to be filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development Tuesday.
The National Fair Housing Alliance, a consortium of more than 220 nonprofits, spent the past year investigating the largest mortgage servicers and the upkeep of REO. Evidence showed homes in predominately white neighborhoods received far more regular maintenance and efforts to sell than vacant homes in minority communities, according to a report released last week.
Roughly 54% of neighbors in white neighborhoods reported routine and consistent REO maintenance, compared to just 30% in minority communities, according to the overall findings. Also, 40% of those in white neighborhoods witnessed home improvement contractors, compared to 20% in predominately African-American or Latino areas.
The NFHA did not release specific details regarding Wells Fargo REO.
In a statement sent to HousingWire, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman pointed out recent programs from the bank, including Neighborhood Lift, which targets millions of dollars in financing new mortgages and rehabilitating older properties in some of the very cities the NFHA conducted the investigation, such as Atlanta and Phoenix.
"We also take steps to help consumers and nonprofits purchase REO properties in order to advance neighborhood stabilization," the spokeswoman said.
For its part, the NFHA said its report "offers disturbing evidence that the same banks that peddled unsustainable loans to communities of color and triggered the current foreclosure crisis are now exacerbating damage to those communities."
When formal complaints are filed with HUD, it conducts its own investigation into the allegations to determine whether they show violations of the Fair Housing Act. HUD will conduct its own interviews and collect documentation.
By law, it is required to bring both sides together in an attempt to reach a reconciliation. If that fails, HUD files a lawsuit. A HUD administrative judge would then hear the case and award damages, fines or some other compensated relief, if warranted.
In cases involving such complicated mortgage lending activities such as REO management, complaints can often take more than one year to resolve.
HUD declined to comment on a pending case.