Race gap in home appraisals doubles, and it’s built to get worse

I have been obsessed with this story for two days. The race gap in home appraisals has doubled since 1980. And the way the system is built, it will only continue to get worse. I woke up thinking about it at 5 am this morning. The story at the link is worth reading; it’s not simple but it may stick with you after you ponder it.

This seemingly defines the essence of structural racism. The way housing property is valued carries forward the racist history of redlining in the 1970’s with the result that the disparity between houses in predominantly black neighborhoods and predominantly white neighborhoods has doubled, from $86,00 to $164,000 in the last 35 years. That is, the difference in value between black and white home valuations in 2015 was twice as large as it was in 1980 because of the way neighborhood comparable prices are valued by appraisers. The racism is hidden, and built into the system. It increases racial wealth disparity.

This is a complex rule that tilts toward racial injustice that is hard to get a handle on, and that the national appraisal authorities do not track. Yet it results in the systematic destruction of intergenerational wealth in black neighborhoods. If you are creating a “your neighborhood economic wealth creation” toolbox, as Dave Kresta is, alongside it we – or someone – needs to address some of the ways the scales are tilted against black and brown people in hidden ways that get worse over time in each neighborhood, in each house.

If African Americans try to create wealth through home ownership the system, just in the way it’s structured, makes their wealth not only less than white folks, but progressively lowers its valuation over time. That seems to be a lever to focus on. Valuations are a local phenomenon; it seems this could be addressed within each city, starting with some city that’s ready to look at it. It’s something to explore, for sure.

This issue of deliberate devaluation of black communities is what Andre Perry makes clear in his book Know Your Price. Is this the potential leverage point that it seems? I am going to reach out to both the author of the Bloomberg piece and Perry and see if I can interview them, on zoom of course, hopefully before Faith+Finance’s Neighborhood Economics virtual conference November 17.

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