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Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS - Broken fences, stolen copper and trash in yards. Those are just some of the issues Eyewitness News spotted at foreclosed homes, now owned by banks, in New Orleans East.

In a new report, 'Zip Code Inequality,' the National Fair Housing Alliance alleges banks and their contractors aren't maintaining homes in communities of color at the same level they're maintaining homes in predominantly white neighborhoods.

NFHA and its partners around the country investigated more than 2,400 bank-owned properties nationwide between April 2012 and December 2013.

It found that bank-owned properties in communities of color were more likely to have boarded up, broken, or damaged windows and windows, and more likely to have significant amounts of trash and debris when compared to predominantly white communities, according to the report.

'Companies have proven that they can provide the upkeep in white neighborhoods, they just need to do it to the same degree in African-American neighborhoods,' said Kate Scott, assistant director for the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

As part of the investigation, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center took a close look at nearly 70 bank-owned homes throughout the metro area. It found those homes were about twice as likely to have overgrown or dead shrubbery and have trash or debris in communities of color compared to those in white communities. They were also more likely to have no 'for sale' sign.

'When the house is on the street when they have these really ugly eyesores, it's makes people not want to live in that area,' said Scott.

That can bring down property values and quality of life for those who live near poorly maintained homes, therefore slowing recovery, said Scott.

'Who want to live around a bunch of high grass and trees that nobody keeps up?' said Claudia Scott, who lives in New Orleans East.

Scott said she's lucky that the bank-owned home next to her is regularly maintained, and so were a few others Eyewitness News visited in New Orleans East. But at others, neighbors say the homes have become havens for vandals and rodents.

A list of code enforcement violations has been posted on one home.

NFHA and its member fair housing agencies have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in hopes bank-owned homes will be maintained in every neighborhood.

The complaints name Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bank, and Fannie Mae's field service vendors.

'Maintaining and repairing REO properties is a key part of our work to help neighborhoods stabilize and recover. We provide our property maintenance vendors with clear guidelines and expectations which apply in all neighborhoods,' said Callie Dosberg, a spokeswoman for Fannie Mae.

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