Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge co-established the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE). Task force recommendations were announced on March 23 during a White House briefing. (Brenda C. Siler/The Washington Informer)

In June 2021, President Joseph Biden directed Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge to lead efforts to dismantle America’s legacy of undervaluing property owned by Black people.

Secretary Fudge and White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) Director Susan Rice established the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE). This week, the task force issued steps and a guidebook to ensure fair practices for appraisals of Black-owned homes.

“We looked at how equitable housing practices have for generations kept Black families from gaining wealth,” Rice said. “More than 50 years after the Fair Housing Act, the gap between Black and white homeownership is wider.”

The task force action plan seeks to advance equity in the homeowner process. The action plan addresses the prevention of algorithmic bias in home valuations, empowers consumers with information and assistance, cultivates an appraiser profession that is well-trained and looks like the communities it serves, and leverages federal data and expertise to inform policy, practice, and research on appraisal bias.

At a White House briefing held Monday, March 21, announcing the release of the Administration’s recommendations, Black homeowners shared their personal experiences with discriminatory home appraisals surfaced during the past year. They spoke of “whitewashing” their homes to remove any evidence it was Black-owned, all to compare whether race was a factor in their appraisals. They had a White person pretend to be the owner, and in each case, the White homeowner received a higher appraisal.

“Today is a reminder that housing discrimination is not a thing of the past. Issues such as redlining and discrimination in home buying and refinancing are still persistent in our society,” Fudge said.

“The President created this task force because he knew that if we were ever going to ensure equity in housing, we must take a closer look at issues that had not been examined before,” Fudge added.

Prince George’s County residents Cassius and Jacqulyn Priestly had a different experience. With three children and frequent grandparent visits, the family was outgrowing their home. They looked at houses in neighboring counties, but since they were well-established in Prince George’s County, the family decided to build their dream home there.

Cassius Priestly is a banker and served as an advocate for his home appraisal process. The bank they worked through withdrew its appraiser from the process after giving the Priestly an appraisal of $1.2 million for their home valued at $1.7 million.

The couple drove to nearby Montgomery County to see a home comparable to theirs and built by the same home builder. Although their home had more add-ons, the house in the predominately White area of Montgomery County sold for a million dollars more than their appraised value.

“We couldn’t whitewash our home because it is widely known that Prince Georges County is predominately African American,” said Jacqulyn Priestly. “We expected our home to be undervalued, but the amount was surprising.”

The Priestly’s experience demonstrates how entire communities are undervalued.

The task force observed that the average homeowner does not know how to access or navigate data for an equitable outcome for selling and buying a home. In response, 

Jacqulyn Priestly and other Black homeowners founded the Fair and Unbiased Appraisal Advocates (FUAA), a coalition of community leaders, realtors, elected officials, and others. The group hopes to “dismantle racial bias in Black homeownership” and address the widening racial wealth gap among Black families. They also developed BlackHomesMatter.org.

The future of the PAVE Interagency Task Force, created to last 18 months, is unclear. Fudge feels there is more work to be done.

“The task force needs to go for at least another year just to see where we are,” Fudge advised. “We know that it is one thing to say it; it is another thing to evaluate and process it over time to see if we need more, to see if it works, what does work and what doesn’t work,” Fudge said.

“All of the agencies are committed to going at least another year,” Fudge added. This is just the first phase of this. We are going to continue to look into other situations, as well.”

To access the video PAVE Task Force announcement and recommendations, go to https://youtu.be/P3Tq8JZ-SXY

The action plan and guidebook are available at PAVE.hud.gov.

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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