U.S. Bank isn't taking accusations it illegally neglects foreclosed homes in Minneapolis's "neighborhoods of color" lying down.
Yesterday, Dana Ripley, senior vice president of corporate communications for the Minneapolis-based bank, told us, "We categorically reject the NFHA's [National Fair Housing Alliance] claim against U.S. Bank." He followed up today with a statement that says, "NFHA has established a pattern of using incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading information in order to generate inflammatory headlines -- while at the same time -- seeking significant amounts of money from our company behind-the-scenes."
"We were not contacted by NFHA prior to their press conference about the specific properties within their investigation to ensure accuracy of the information," the statement continues. "NFHA first filed its initial complaint against U.S. Bank with Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in June of 2012, and HUD has not made any determination that the complaint has merit."
Ripley argues the NFHA doesn't appreciate the distinction between a bank being a trustee of a foreclosed home and straight-up owning it.
"As NFHA is well aware, the vast majority of the properties identified by NFHA in their investigation are properties where we are trustee, which is important in this matter because it means we have no legal right or ability to service or maintain properties that are held in an investment pool for which we are trustee," Ripley writes in his statement. "When we do own a property, we have a strong and comprehensive process in place to regularly inspect and maintain properties to marketing standards where we have legal access, regardless of their location."
With 41 cities now included in the NFHA's complaint, we asked Ripley if it's the case that U.S. Bank owns at least some of the homes in question in other cities.
"I don't know property by property, city by city, but where we've been able to determine the address, in the vast majority of cases we are the trustee," he replies. "The research that we've been able to do, that's what we've discovered."
We asked Ripley why he thinks the NFHA has it out for U.S. Bank.
"I don't have any insights into what their agenda is, I just know that these are fairly inflammatory headlines that they are trying to generate," he replies. "Right now we don't even know the properties that the NFHA was looking at, so it's hard to verify the accuracy of their claims and information."
Regarding U.S. Bank's maintenance policies for foreclosed homes, Ripley says, "It's a very comprehensive process that we go through and has nothing to do with where the neighborhood is or how it's comprised."
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"We're committed to maintaining properties that we own that are foreclosed," Ripley continues. "I think generally the way to think about it is, if the home is being presented for sale, you want it to be market ready. I think that's the standard that we're looking at."
In his statement, Ripley routs the Twin Cities Restoration Fund as one example of how U.S. Bank invests in struggling communities.
"U.S. Bank created the Twin Cities Restoration Fund with a $1 million investment to help stabilize neighborhoods in the Twin Cities and give developers access to the short-term capital they need to re-develop foreclosed properties in some of the Twin Cities' most blighted communities," the statement says. "To date, 20 homes have been redeveloped and sold and 41 currently going through the restoration process... We are proud of our longstanding commitment and track record of investing in and revitalizing communities where U.S. Bank has a presence."
An NFHA spokesperson didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.