Biden Administration Outlines Measures to Tackle the Widening Racial Gap in Home Ownership
The White House has outlined new measures to fight racial and ethnic bias in home evaluations.
Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled the 21-step action plan to help homeowners impacted by racial bias at an event with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice.
"A home is more than just a roof over your head, and a place to live -- those are essential needs. But a home represents, in addition to that, so much that it is about financial security. That is about the potential to build intergenerational wealth," Harris said. "We don't want to have a system that denies people an ability to have that goal simply because there is bias in the system."
Research on racial bias in homeownership
Data from the Brookings Institution in 2018 suggest that bias accounted “for a loss of $48,000 per home in majority-Black neighborhoods, adding up to roughly $156 billion in cumulative lost value nationally.”
Instances of racial bias in-home appraisals
The racial homeownership gap has widened more than 5 decades after the passage of the Fair Housing Act. The Census Bureau data from last year shows that the Black homeownership rate was at 44% while white homeownership reached 74%. Last year a woman of color in Indiana filed a Fair Housing Complaint after receiving a home appraisal that doubled in value after she concealed her race. Another incident of racial bias was highlighted in California when a black couple had their white friend offer their home for sale to an appraiser and the appraisal rose by almost half a million dollars. The couple filed a lawsuit in San Francisco, insisting racial bias played a role in their earlier low home appraisal.
Measures to tackle racial bias in-home appraisals
During the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre last June, President Biden set up the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE) to address the inequality gap in the United States.
The PAVE task force worked with independent appraisers, appraisal management companies, lenders, advocacy groups and nonprofits to develop the plan. The reforms include enhancing oversight and accountability of the appraisal industry, which has been self-regulated and has failed to address inequities. It equally seeks to enlighten homeowners on steps they can take when valuation comes in lower than expected and encourages diversity in the appraiser workforce.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) and National Urban League (NUL) commended the White House action plan to end racial bias in the home appraisal process. “We support the Biden administration’s efforts to put the full weight of government behind rooting out bias at all stages of the appraisal and refinancing process,” LDF Director of Policy Lisa Cylar Barrett said in a statement, “and we encourage all stakeholders in this process to join the president in addressing this as a fair housing issue.”