Fair housing group amends federal lawsuit to include Evanston

Patrick Svitek, City Editor

Fair housing activists announced Thursday they have added Evanston to their federal lawsuit against Bank of America, claiming the bank does not look after foreclosed homes in black and Latino neighborhoods the same way it does in white ones.

The National Fair Housing Alliance said Evanston is one of four new cities it has named in its federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Washington, D.C-based nonprofit organization last month amended a similar lawsuit against U.S. Bank to include Evanston.

“Bank of America has known about these problems for more than four years, yet, sadly, they have chosen a path that continues to harm the health of people living in these communities,” Shanna Smith, president and CEO of the alliance, said in a news release. “They could fix these problems. We have to ask, ‘Why haven’t they?'”

The alliance’s latest complaint alleges Bank of America has run afoul of the federal Fair Housing Act by choosing how to maintain and market foreclosed homes along racial lines. In making its case, the group points to a property in an Evanston “community of color” that has no for-sale sign, evidence of other people illegally living in it and overgrown landscape, among several other signs of negligence.

Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens on Sunday evening denied the alliance’s accusations, pointing out that the group does not list any addresses for Evanston properties in the most recent version of its complaint.

“Bank of America applies uniform practices to the management and marketing of vacant bank-owned properties across the US, regardless of their location,” Bauwens wrote in an email to The Daily. “Any suggestion to the contrary is simply untrue.”

The three other cities added to the alliance’s lawsuit against Bank of America are Waukegan, Ill.; Toledo, Ohio; and Baltimore. The complaint now names 20 metropolitan areas where the activists claim the bank is responsible for housing discrimination.

— Patrick Svitek