Milwaukee part of $27 million Wells Fargo fair housing deal

Milwaukee is part of a 19-city, $27 million collaboration announced by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and Wells Fargo Bank, that will provide funds to foster homeownership, assist with rebuilding minority neighborhoods impacted by the foreclosure crisis, and “promote diverse, inclusive communities.”

The agreement is the result of a federal housing discrimination complaint filed in April 2012 with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The complaint alleged that Wells Fargo’s real estate owned (REO) properties in predominantly white neighborhoods were much better maintained and marketed by Wells Fargo than REO properties in predominantly 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.

Wells Fargo will provide $27 million for the program to NFHA and 13 fair housing organizations    

“NFHA is looking forward to working in collaboration with Wells Fargo to make sure that all communities have a chance at a fair recovery,” said Shanna L. Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “We are thrilled to see Wells Fargo’s renewed efforts and leadership in this area.”

The group of fair housing organizations that are parties to the agreement include the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council.   

“The foreclosure crisis and its aftermath have resulted in financial devastation for communities of color in Milwaukee, as families lost their homes, homeowners saw their home equity and property values decrease, and neighborhoods became riddled with boarded-up and abandoned homes that became targets for criminal activity,” said William R. Tisdale, president and CEO, Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council. “Repairing the damage to our neighborhoods will be a long process, and we value Wells Fargo’s collaboration in this effort.”

This is the first-ever agreement regarding the equal maintenance and marketing of REO homes, according to the NFHA.

“Many neighborhoods across the country have been seriously damaged by the foreclosure crisis, including the impact of Real Estate Owned (REO) homes on property values, curb appeal, and tax revenue for schools,” said Smith. “Our joint efforts will help lay the foundation for the industry to get some of those neighborhoods back on their feet.”

In addition to the $27 million to promote homeownership, Wells Fargo will pay $3 million to NFHA and the 13 fair housing organizations for costs and damages, including diversion of resources incurred in connection with the investigations, and attorney fees. Wells Fargo is also committing $300,000 for the two national conferences and $250,000 to NFHA and local fair housing centers to hold seminars and address delinquencies and foreclosures.  

Wells Fargo will also provide an additional $11.5 million to HUD to support neighborhoods in an additional 25 cities.   

The agreements between Wells Fargo, the private fair housing organizations, and HUD total more than $42 million and will provide direct assistance to 44 communities nationwide.

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