By allowing inferior maintenance standards for properties in minority communities, the institutions are creating substandard communities where values will continue to decline, said Shanna L. Smith, president and chief executive of the National Fair Housing Alliance.
“The investigation did not focus on people who lost their homes, but rather the homeowners living next door to or down the street from the vacant foreclosed property and the impact that poorly maintained foreclosure is having on their property values — their homeowners insurance costs, their increased property taxes to make up for the lost tax revenue from the foreclosures in their neighborhood,” Smith said. “It addresses the harm in economic and safety terms for the homeowners left behind in the neighborhood, particularly in communities of color.”
Smith added that if banks don’t properly maintain their assets, many of the related expenses become the burden of the local government.
“The local municipality has to mow the lawn and incur costs for nuisance abatement,” Smith said. “The vacant home with windows opened can encourage vandalism and theft by people outside of the neighborhood looking to steal appliances, water heaters, HVAC units or copper wiring.”
Here’s why this report is so important. We have to stop saying “this isn’t my problem.” Encourage your representatives to do what the Maryland legislature has recently done to address the issue of unmaintained vacant and foreclosed properties.
Following the advice of a foreclosure task force, the legislature passed a bill that requires the creation of an Internet-based registry that will help communities identify who is responsible for foreclosed properties. Within 30 days of a foreclosure sale of a residential property, the buyer has to submit information to the registry, including the name, telephone number and street address of the person responsible for maintaining the property.
A registry can go a long way to help communities and government officials locate the parties responsible for the condition of foreclosed properties. Poorly maintained homes, whether in predominantly white or predominantly minority neighborhoods, affect us all.
Readers can write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to postbusiness.com.