Complaint alleges discriminatory maintenance of foreclosed homes

A firm hired by Fannie Mae to maintain vacant, foreclosed properties in the Baltimore area systematically neglects homes in non-white neighborhoods, according to a discrimination complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the complaint, the National Fair Housing Alliance and two partners allege that Florida-based Cyprexx Services LLC performed contractually-required upkeep, such as trash removal and mowing the lawn, "noticeably better" in majority-white neighborhoods than in African-American and Latino communities, a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The problems, found during investigation of more than 170 properties in four cities including Baltimore, breed blight, push down neighborhood property values, and create other distress in those communities, according to the Washington-based housing advocacy group.

Cyprexx did not respond to a request for comment.

In Baltimore, the National Fair Housing Alliance looked at 26 homes, including six in neighborhoods where more than 50 percent of the population was white. They found at least three problems — such as broken windows, unsecured doors and invasive plants — in 75 percent of the homes in non-white neighborhoods. In white neighborhoods, just 17 percent of the properties had three or more problems.

The other cities in the complaint were Orlando, Fla., Richmond, Va. and Kansas City in Kansas and Missouri.

The National Fair Housing Alliance and its partners have filed similar complaints against other Fannie Mae contractors, as well as banks such as Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and U.S. Bank. Wells Fargo agreed last year to pay more than $40 million to a settle a 2012 complaint brought by the group and its partners.

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