WASHINGTON, D.C. – A settlement announced today will provide $27 million in funding to rebuild communities affected by the housing crisis in 19 cities, including Toledo. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) welcomed the news, noting that it will promote home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, property rehabilitation and development in communities.
“Today’s settlement is an important victory for homeowners and communities devastated by the housing crisis,” Brown said. “By rebuilding neighborhoods in Toledo, we will improve surrounding property values, create new jobs, and foster long-term economic growth. While the settlement reached can in no way make up for discriminatory actions taken by mortgage servicers that harmed Ohio families, it is one step forward.”
The settlement between the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and Wells Fargo was prompted by a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in April 2012. The complaint alleged that Wells Fargo’s Real Estate Owned (REO) properties in white neighborhoods were much better maintained and marketed than those in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. REO properties are homes that have gone through foreclosure and are now owned by banks, investors, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration, or Veterans Affairs. This is the first-ever agreement regarding the equal maintenance and marketing of REO homes.
Funds from the settlement will benefit the Toledo Fair Housing Center. Among other uses, the grant will help fund down payment assistance to owner-occupants seeking to purchase homes, as well as renovation efforts for homes that languished in foreclosure.
“This investment will have a substantial impact on the homeownership opportunities in our communities of color, where access to capital has always been a struggle,” said Michael P. Marsh, President and CEO of the Toledo Fair Housing Center. In addition to grants, Wells Fargo will enhance its Homeowner Priority program to give owner-occupants priority over investors in purchasing REOs, while also making information about REOs more easily accessible to prospective buyers.
“This groundbreaking agreement is a testament to the fair housing movement’s vision and dedication to the promise of equality for all communities,” said Peter Romer-Friendman, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, who with Joseph M. Sellers represented the fair housing organizations in the matter.