Complaint alleges housing discrimination in black neighborhoods

Racial discrimination alleged against lending giant

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Citing overgrown brush and boarded-up windows, the National Fair Housing Alliance is alleging racial discrimination in the maintenance of several local bank-owned properties.

Last July, the NFHA investigated all five area Bank of America real estate-owned properties.  Three were in mostly black neighborhoods and two were in mostly white neighborhoods.  The three homes in mostly black neighborhoods reported more than five deficiencies.  The two homes in mostly white neighborhoods reported fewer than five deficiencies.

During a news conference announcing the complaint, the NFHA displayed photos taken during their investigation.  The homes in mostly black neighborhoods had peeling paint and broken screens.  One home had a large hole in its brick foundation.

"What we found is that the homes in African-American neighborhoods had trash, overgrown lawns, shrubs that have grown up the side of the house and just were generally poorly maintained," NFHA President Shanna Smith said.  "All we're asking is that Bank of America treat homes the same way regardless of the racial composition of the neighborhood in which they're located."

The NFHA cites census data for the demographics.

One home cited in the complaint is located along E. Surrey Dr. in North Charleston.  A next-door neighbor said she does not consider the house to be in poor condition.

"I noticed during the summer months, they would come about every month and cut the grass, trim the trees down because we had a lot of trees, and they've been doing pretty good over there," Mary Holmes said.

Charleston is the latest metropolitan area added to the complaint.  NFHA alleged similar discrimination in nine other cities across the country.

Bank of America issued the following statement to Live 5 News about the complaint.

"While we share NFHA's concern about neighborhoods, we strongly deny their allegations and stand behind our property maintenance and marketing practices.  Bank of America is committed to stabilizing and revitalizing communities that have been impacted by the economic downturn, foreclosures and property abandonment."

The full complaint with exhibits can be viewed at:

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