Deed Theft Against Black Homeowners In Brooklyn Speeding Up Gentrification And Leaving People Homeless
Real estate experts say that deed theft against Black homeowners in Brooklyn has skyrocketed in the past five years. Experts can show data that historically black neighborhoods are now primarily white. Thus, speeding up gentrification in Brooklyn.
The New York Times stated Monday that accounts for nearly half of New York City’s 3,000 deed fraud complaints since 2014. Scammers target elderly longtime black residents who bought property in the 1970s as white people fled New York City. Conmen are also deceiving or coercing elderly black homeowners into signing over ownership of their properties for ludicrously low sums.
Broadies Byas’ gorgeous Victorian townhouse is a perfect example. First constructed in 1856, her father purchased the home in 1957 for $7,500. The house is currently worth $1.2 million. However, unbeknownst to Byas, she had given it away for just $120,000.
Scammers will get homeowners to sign documents they believe are for financial assistance. Scammers offer the homeowner assistance to pay back property taxes, sewage charges, or other administrative fines. However, these documents turn out to be property deeds.
Scammers describe themselves as foreclosure specialists and are there to help homeowners with loan modifications. They encourage homeowners to sign documents that are later used as proof they had agreed to sell their homes.
The crime has become increasingly common in Brooklyn, one of the most rapidly gentrifying areas in the country. Majority-black neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights are “hotbeds” for deed theft. Black residents in Prospect Heights, Brownsville, and East New York have also been targeted.
Deed Theft Is Easy To Pull Off And Scammers Are Hard To Catch
Some homeowners may not even know that their deeds have been stolen. Documents proving the sale of a property are recorded by the city’s ACRIS system. However, clerks don’t check the documents to ensure that they are legitimate. Owners might continue paying the mortgage for a property they no longer own.
Deed fraud victims can have a difficult recovering their properties unless there is clear proof of wrongdoing.
It is also challenging to determine whether the person had entered a bad, but not necessarily fraudulent, financial deal.
NYS Attorney General Letitia James told the Times in an email:
Deed theft has become a common tool for career criminals and unscrupulous real estate developers to illegally obtain real estate. Most often with the goal of selling it at a huge profit in high-demand housing markets.
Black Americans have been victims of deed theft throughout the country for generations. Deed theft against Black Americans cost communities hundreds of thousands of acres of land and an untold amount of wealth.
The likely endgame for fraudulent New York City developers isn’t explicitly to create majority white-neighborhoods. It’s more than likely to turn a quick buck. Gentrification could cost Brooklyn its most devoted and undervalued residents and also stymie whatever social and political power they can amass. However, that is little concern to real estate investors seeking a profit.