Mar 23, 2022 - Economy

Biden administration targets racism in home appraisals

Illustration of four different people's hands reaching to grab one suburban house.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Biden administration is taking steps to combat racism in home appraisals — an issue viewed as a significant factor in the wealth gap between white people and Americans of color.

Why it matters: Homeownership is essential to wealth accumulation for many Americans, but disparities in home appraisals often mean that people of color are starting at a disadvantage. Below market home appraisals can hinder access to home loans, limit refinancing options and depress selling prices.

Driving the news: A task force formed by President Biden in June released an action plan Wednesday calling for several measures to thwart racism in the home valuation process, including:

  • Inserting a “nondiscrimination quality control standard” into algorithms generating appraisals.
  • Removing “unnecessary” barriers to becoming an appraiser, a profession that’s currently 97% white.
  • Bolstering oversight.
  • Providing information on how people can obtain a new appraisal.

Context: Homes in majority Black neighborhoods are worth an average of 23% less than homes in neighborhoods with “very few or no Black residents” and similar home quality, according to a 2018 Brookings Institution study.

  • While bias in appraisals is one reason, other factors such as New Deal-era "redlining” and the fact that Black families are disproportionately denied mortgages also contribute to the homeownership gap between Black and white Americans.

The big question: Will the appraisal industry embrace the plan issued by the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE)?

  • The plan is a “new component of this critical, ongoing conversation,” the Appraisal Foundation, which sets valuation standards, said in a statement. “Our boards look forward to reviewing the recommendations more fully in the coming weeks.”

What they're saying: “The Action Plan calls for significant regulatory and oversight changes but does not outline specific plans,” Jody Bishop, president of the Appraisal Institute, a professional association, said in a statement.

  • “Transparency and accountability are important, but these goals should be balanced with maintaining industry independence and promoting entry into the profession.”
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