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What would the Biden administration’s new plan do to fight racial bias in home appraisals?

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A for sale sign is seen in a row of Chicago homes.

Though the Fair Housing Act requires appraisers not to discriminate based on race, there are still big discrepancies between the value of homes owned by white versus Black or Latinx households. Scott Olson/Getty Images

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This week, the Biden administration released a plan to combat racial inequity in the appraisal of home values. 

Home appraisers are bound by the 1968 Fair Housing Act not to discriminate based on race. Yet, “race is still playing an enormous role in how much houses are valued,” said Junia Howell, a sociologist at the University of Illinois Chicago. Her research finds that homes in mostly white neighborhoods appraise at three times the value of similar homes in Black and Latinx neighborhoods. 

That doesn’t just prevent individuals from building wealth, said Michael Neal, a principal research associate with the Urban Institute. “It also has implications for the community more generally, limiting the degree of economic vitality and mobility.”

The Biden administration’s plan aims to improve oversight and require anti-bias training for appraisers who work with federal programs, among other things. 

But Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said “there also should be a plan to like, restore the value that’s been extracted by racism.”

Without one, he said inequality will persist. 

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