The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Tag Archives: REO

Discriminatory Bank Practices Lead to Deteriorating Neighborhoods?


Last week, the National Fair Housing Alliance  (NFHA) released a report: The Banks are Back, Our Neighborhoods are Not. The report examines how foreclosed housing is treated in white communities versus communities of color. The NFHA focused on Real Estate Owned (REO) single family housing:  homes that went through the foreclosure process and are now owned by the banks.

Banks are not typically interested in owning property, so nearly all REO homes assumed vacant and for sale. According to the NFHA’s report, REO housing in communities of color is more likely to be in bad condition than REO housing in white communities. It is less likely to be properly signed or marketed to potential purchasers. Poor property maintenance will directly affect who will buy it.  The way that banks market REO homes will have a direct affect on the surrounding community.

The foreclosure crisis has impacted communities of color on a greater scale than white communities, in part due to a racial targeting in the subprime mortgage market. “The Banks are Back, Our Neighborhoods are Not” shows that these communities of color are still experiencing foreclosure crisis at disproportionate levels. It also demonstrates how the Fair Housing Act is being violated by these discrepancies. According to NFHA, information from this study will be used in lawsuits and Housing and Urban Development administrative complaints for failing to uphold the Fair Housing Act statutes.

In our work we haven’t come across many multifamily REO properties. (In New York, there is no shortage of slumlords willing to buy run-down buildings.) However, we have seen how foreclosure is a greater burden to communities of color. Like the National Fair Housing Alliance, we believe that the lending community must be held accountable for its role in the foreclosure crisis, and join with the National Fair Housing in calling for banks to look closer at their lending practices and how they affect all communities.

Read the full report at the National Fair Housing Alliance.

Are “Banklords” the New “Slumlords?”

Photo via NPR.org

Last Friday’s Morning Edition included a segment titled “With Banks as Landlords, Some Tenants Neglected.” You can read the story or listen to the segment here. This story touches on an issue we at The Surreal Estate hold near and dear: how the foreclosure crisis is affecting those who live in rental housing. We believe that tenants are truly the most innocent victims of the foreclosure crisis; they are suffering without ever having signed a mortgage.

The families interviewed for this segment live with bed bugs, mold, leaks, fallen ceilings and aging appliances: the same litany of abuse that tenants in New York City face in their day to day lives. The article grapples with an emerging issue in the weak multifamily housing market: lenders who become landlords as buildings are unable to be sold at foreclosure auction. This category of bank-owned property is known as Real Estate Owned, or “REO.” It is unsurprising that banks who make bad loans also are negligent property owners.

There is one significant difference between the New York City market and the markets discussed in Morning Edition. (Oakland, CA and Washington, DC) In New York, we have yet to see a real influx of REO properties to multifamily housing market. It seems there is no shortage of idiots willing to pay top-dollar to own property in New York City. As one person described it recently, far-flung speculators don’t necessarily know the difference between Park and 72nd and Park and 172nd. To them, it’s all just Park Avenue. Perhaps as the market stays depressed and the amount of foreclosures continues to rise, we will come across more REO properties. But for now we’re just beating off slumlords with a stick to try and clear the path for qualified preservation developers.

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