Indianapolis part of federal lawsuit accusing Fannie Mae of housing discrimination

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INDIANAPOLIS – A lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in California accuses mortgage giant Fannie Mae of housing discrimination, including within neighborhoods in Indianapolis.

The National Fair Housing Alliance filed the suit, representing 20 fair housing organizations nationwide, including the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.

“We felt here we simply didn’t have another option,” Amy Nelson said, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.

The lawsuit alleges the mortgage giant has failed to maintain foreclosed homes in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods to the same standard as white neighborhoods in the same city.

In Indianapolis, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana documented what the group says is a disproportionate number of home deficiencies between various neighborhood groups. Problem homes include issues of graffiti, missing gutters, water damage and trash.

“Many of the properties we investigated here in Indianapolis and looked up, right next door surrounding them, were homes that were very well maintained,” Nelson said.

The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana first field a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last year, which Nelson said has seen no action.

She called Monday’s court filing a difficult, yet necessary decision.

“We are hopeful out of this lawsuit we will get Fannie Mae to change their way of doing business to make sure these neighborhoods are protected,” Nelson said.

Fannie Mae responded Monday afternoon with the following statement:

“We have heard NFHA’s concerns, and strongly disagree with these allegations. Our REO maintenance standards are designed to ensure that all properties are tended to and treated equally. In addition, over the years we have continuously enhanced our REO maintenance practices in the ordinary course of business, including the use of clear boarding nationally, adoption of technology to enhance the property inspection process, enhanced guidance to field service vendors of our expectations, and enhanced staffing in the field. Through these actions we have demonstrated our continued dedication to providing quality care to all communities. And we remain firmly committed to continuing to provide such attention to our REO properties moving forward.”

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