A landmark $53 million settlement…

A landmark $53 million settlement with Fannie Mae will benefit fair housing initiatives in Gary and south suburban Chicago.

The lender formerly known as the Federal National Mortgage Association reached an agreement with HOPE Fair Housing Center, Open Communities, South Suburban Housing Center and other groups to help rebuild minority communities that were hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis. The groups alleged that after the 2008 mortgage crisis Fannie Mae maintained and marketed foreclosed homes in mostly white neighborhoods while allowing properties to fall into disrepair in minority neighborhoods, impeding their recovery.

The settlement money will go to rebuild minority communities in 39 metropolitan areas, including the Gary and Chicago metros.

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“Open Communities is proud to be part of the collaboration within the Fair Housing enforcement community to bring this issue to the forefront. The success in this case brings us one step further in the advancement of racial equity in housing in the Chicago metropolitan area,” said Cheryl Lawrence, CEO of Open Communities.

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It was the first time a federal court applied the nation’s fair housing laws to the maintenance and marketing of foreclosed-upon Real Estate Owned properties. The lawsuit was filed in 2016 after a four-year investigation of more than 2,300 foreclosed homes Fannie Mae owned around the country, including in and around Gary.

A total of 378 of the distressed properties were located in the Gary and Chicago metropolitan areas. More than 49,000 photographers demonstrated how houses were more poorly maintained in Black and Latino neighborhoods by Fannie Mae after the crisis.

The South Suburban Housing Center and other plaintiffs plan to put $35 million toward home ownership, property rehabilitation, credit access, residential development and neighborhood stabilization, including in Northwest Indiana. The settlement will go toward grants, such as for down payments for first-generation homebuyers and renovations of long-neglected homes.

“This settlement demonstrates the absolute necessity of collaborative advocacy across the nation’s fair housing movement, and signals to the many communities in our region still reeling from the foreclosure crisis that their struggle will not be swept under the rug,” said Michael Chavarria, executive director of HOPE Fair Housing Center.

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