The city of Charleston will receive about $1.4 million to promote homeownership because a national lender didn’t treat foreclosed homes in black, white and Hispanic neighborhoods the same.
Charleston is one of 19 cities taking part in a settlement between the National Fair Housing Alliance and Wells Fargo.
The settlement, which resolves a nationwide complaint that the alliance had filed against the bank, aims to help with rebuilding minority neighborhoods hurt by the foreclosure crisis and to promote diverse communities.
Wells Fargo is providing $27 million to the alliance, a sum that will be spent in 19 cities, including Charleston, Atlanta and New Orleans. No other South Carolina city is taking part.
The alliance had been doing some work in the Lowcountry and determined that foreclosure data showed a need for further investigation, said Deidre Swesnik, a spokeswoman for the group.
The issue of whether foreclosed homes were handled the same in white and minority neighborhoods has not been a hot topic locally. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said Thursday the settlement “was news to me.”
Riley said he isn’t familiar with complaints regarding foreclosed homes, but he said the $1.4 million settlement “will be very helpful. We have plenty of housing and affordable housing needs.”
The alliance said money will be spent on grants to help some purchasers make a down payment and renovation efforts for homes that have languished in foreclosure.
As part of the settlement, Wells Fargo will ensure it maintains its foreclosed properties and will give homeowners priority over investors when selling foreclosed homes for at least 15 days, instead of the current 12 days.
The alliance hailed the deal as the first one involving equal maintenance and marketing of foreclosed homes. Its complaint alleged Wells Fargo maintained its foreclosed properties better in white neighborhoods than in black and Hispanic ones.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status.
The bank also will provide $11.5 million to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for 25 other cities, though none of them are in South Carolina.
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