Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On April 29, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) announced a settlement agreement with a real estate company resolving allegations that the company perpetuated redlining practices through its policies and procedures. NFHA, along with nine other fair housing organizations, sued the company following an investigation into its practices. The fair housing organizations alleged that the company’s minimum home price policy violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against sellers and buyers of homes in communities of color. Limiting or denying services for homes priced under a certain value can “perpetuate racial segregation and contribute to the racial wealth gap” the organizations claimed in the press release. According to the complaint, the company disproportionately withheld its services to homebuyers and sellers in these communities at a higher rate than in White zip codes in multiple major cities across the U.S, thereby disincentivizing homebuying within these communities, reducing housing demand and values, and perpetuating residential segregation. Under the terms of the settlement, the company will make several national operational changes and enhancements, including (i) expanding housing opportunities for consumers in communities of color in major cities throughout the country; (ii) eliminating its minimum housing price policy for a period of five years; and (iii) appointing a fair housing compliance officer, adopting an equal opportunity in housing policy, and developing a fair housing training program. The company will also pay $4 million to go towards expanding homeownership opportunities in the covered cities and to cover conduct monitoring, compliance efforts, litigation fees and costs.
On February 7, the Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, along with the National Fair Housing Alliance and 19 local fair housing organizations from across the country announced a $53 million settlement with Fannie Mae to resolve allegations that Fannie Mae allowed foreclosed homes in predominantly White neighborhoods to be better maintained and marketed than similar homes in communities of color, a claim corroborated by a four year-long investigation of over 2,300 Fannie Mae real estate owned (REO) properties in 39 metropolitan areas. The plaintiffs alleged that they attempted to get Fannie Mae to voluntarily comply with the Fair Housing Act and change its discriminatory policies and practices, but claimed that Fannie Mae “continued to maintain its REO properties differently based on the predominant race and national origin of neighborhoods” and caused “particularized and concrete injury to those homeowners and residents.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Fannie Mae is required to pay $53 million to cover claims for damages, attorneys’ fees, and cost. Nearly $35.4 million of the settlement amount will be used to address community needs, including “addressing home ownership, neighborhood and/or community stabilization, access to credit, property rehabilitation, residential development in African American and Latino communities, fair housing education and outreach, counseling, and other fair housing activities” in the allegedly harmed areas.
The announcement further noted that the plaintiffs—who will manage and disburse the settlement funds—intend to provide grants that will go towards down-payment assistance for first-generation homebuyers and renovations for homes that languished in foreclosure, as well as innovative programs and partnerships to promote fair housing. The announcement also noted that Fannie Mae has implemented several measures to avoid similar occurrences in the future, such as increasing its oversight of maintenance of its REO properties, prioritizing owner-occupants instead of investors as purchasers of REOs, ensuring compliance with fair housing laws, and providing fair housing training to its employees and vendors. According to the announcement, this case marks the first time a federal court confirmed that the Fair Housing Act has covered the maintenance and marketing of REO properties.
Following the announcement, HUD released a statement applauding the settlement. “It is our hope that settlement of these cases will bring about much needed positive outcomes for these undeserved communities,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Demetria L. McCain said. “We also hope mortgage lenders across the country will take steps to avoid fair housing violations in their own REO portfolios.”
- Jedd R. Bellman to discuss “The CFPB’s crackdown on collection junk fees and the growing anti-CFPB rhetoric” at an Accounts Recovery webinar
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Latest on AML regulations and impact of economic sanctions” at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Fundamentals of financial crime compliance” at the Practicing Law Institute
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Ongoing CDD: Operational considerations” at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA Seminar