Housing Center accuses banks of discrimination - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Housing Center accuses banks of discrimination

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Palm Beach County is now part of a nationwide push to hold banks and lenders accountable for foreclosed homes in your neighborhoods. The goal is to protect property values and preserve public safety.

The National Fair Housing Alliance filed a new complaint Wednesday alleging Deutsche Bank, Altisource and Ocwen Financial discriminate by neglecting homes they own in non-white neighborhoods.

Vince Larkins said the proof is in the pictures.

“This home was a wreck,” he said pointing at an example.

Larkins is the director of The Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches. For months, his team took pictures of homes in Palm Beach County owned by those institutions.

“There are rats running around, there are squatters, people living in the house. We came across a person with a generator living in one,” Larkins described the homes in predominantly non-white neighborhoods during an exclusive interview with NewsChannel 5. 

Pictures show broken windows, graffiti and tires stacked outside foreclosed homes. Larkins argued all of that hurts property values and could cause health and safety risks.

But when Larkins’ team visited homes in mostly white neighborhoods near Royal Palm Beach and Palm Springs, everything was maintained and the homes had curb appeal.

“The differences were very, very troubling,” Larkins calls it discrimination.

His organization joined 29 other metropolitan areas to file a formal complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“I don’t believe grass is any thicker in a community of color or a community that’s predominantly Latino [than in a white community],” Larkins argued.

Ben Schacter runs Signature Real Estate in Boca Raton.

“No one wants to see a house with no utilities and no lights on,” he said.

He added it is possible a foreclosed house could negatively impact your home’s value.

But he added bank-owned, foreclosed homes aren’t on the market very long, so the impact would be short-lived.

He theorized banks pay closer attention to more expensive properties, but that the business model has nothing to do with a neighborhood’s racial or cultural makeup.

“It’s very likely that an institution is going to take care and diligence of an asset on their books that’s more expensive, that has more value, where they have more downside risk,” he explained.  

Deutsche Bank did not comment on these allegations.

Ocwen Financial denied the accusations in the statement below. A spokesperson pointed out Ocwen is hosting an event Saturday in Miami Gardens with the NAACP to help homeowners fight foreclosure. The event takes place from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex at 3000 NW 199th Street.

“We have not yet seen the formal complaint, however, based on previous discussions with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA),we strongly deny the allegations and believe they lack evidence and have no merit.  The company will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.  Ocwen cares about communities, and is committed to equal maintenance and marketing of bank-owned homes no matter where they are located in the U.S. We believe we have in place the necessary quality control standards needed to ensure all properties are handled equally so every neighborhood remains a stable and safe place to live. NFHA has made these same allegations against at least eight other institutions.” -John Lovallo. 

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