WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following last month’s record-setting $16.65 billion settlement between Bank of America and the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve widespread homeowner abuses, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on Wednesday called on Bank of America to direct part of the settlement’s consumer relief funds to revitalize Ohio neighborhoods. After the call, Brown released County-by-County data on the number of Ohio homes foreclosed upon between 2009 and 2013 to illustrate the urgent need that would be addressed by these added funds.
“Ohio’s communities bore the brunt of the abusive and illegal tactics used by big banks to deceive homeowners during the depths of the housing crisis,” Brown said. “It’s time that the big banks make right for these practices and reinvest in Ohio communities. By securing these funds, we can help families stay in their homes and rebuild their neighborhoods. I urge Bank of America to invest in Ohio.”
In a letter to Bank of America – co-signed by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) – Brown pointed to the devastating impact the housing crisis had on Ohio communities and the role these funds would play in revitalizing Ohio’s hardest hit communities through blight elimination, home rehabilitation, and foreclosure prevention. Brown called for future settlements to include funds for demolition and reconstruction of blighted homes, in addition to foreclosure prevention efforts.
Joining Brown was Thriving Communities Institute Director Jim Rokakis, who highlighted Ohio land banks’ work to revitalize neighborhoods and the role additional funds would play in local efforts to address blight.
"I would like to thank Senator Brown for his leadership on this issue and helping to secure dollars from the Bank of America settlement for Ohio's distressed communities,” Jim Rokakis, Thriving Communities Institute Director said. “There are critical unmet needs in the areas of demolition, rehabilitation and foreclosure counseling that this settlement can help to address."
The letter to Bank of America can be seen below:
September 12, 2014
Gary G. Lynch
Global General Counsel
Head of Compliance & Regulatory Relations
Bank of America
1 Bryant Park
New York, NY 10036
Dear Mr. Lynch:
More than six years after the financial crisis devastated homeowners and investors, Ohio communities continue to feel the effects of the housing market downturn. Years of declining home values, foreclosures, and homes standing empty have taken an especially large toll on Ohio neighborhoods. While foreclosures have declined, approximately 50,000 abandoned properties across the state have fallen into disrepair and many more Ohioans are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.
Bank of America’s recent settlement with the Department of Justice authorizes credits for activities that fight foreclosure and blight, including: demolition costs; real-estate-owned (REO) property donations; financial contributions to non-profit organizations performing rehabilitation; and donations to housing counseling and legal aid organizations. As you develop a plan to allocate consumer relief, we urge you to work with the Ohio community groups who have led neighborhood stabilization efforts in their communities, which are among the hardest hit communities in both the state and the nation. Drawing on years of experience in the neighborhoods they serve, these local partners have already developed a comprehensive plan to strengthen our state’s struggling communities through blight elimination, home rehabilitation, and foreclosure prevention.
Bank of America has a long history as a lender, employer, and neighbor to millions of Ohio homeowners and investors. We urge you to continue this partnership by utilizing the strong network of community organizations and leaders in Ohio to provide vital resources that will help revitalize our neighborhoods and housing market. Thank you for considering this important matter.