DOJ interest in housing discrimination lawsuits underscores bias many black homeowners have faced for decades | News
A black couple’s lawsuit against a home appraisal company is now attracting the attention of the Justice Department.
Last week, the DOJ filed a statement of interest in the couple’s claim that the first appraiser of their Marin County home violated the Fair Housing Act. Tenisha Tate-Austin and her husband, Paul Austin, say they were victims of rating bias. After spending months renovating, a white appraiser appraised their home much lower than expected, the couple told CNN in December. When a white friend showed the couple’s house to be his, its valuation went up by $500,000. The new appraisal of their home was now valued at more than $1.4 million, the couple said.
The couple filed a lawsuit in December, and it underscored decades of discussions about housing discrimination, black ownership and racial bias.
The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division released a statement Monday saying that “addressing housing discrimination, including bias in reviews, is a high priority across the federal government.”
Interest in the Tate-Austins case “responds directly to President Biden’s command to rating agencies to advance fairness for all, especially marginalized groups with a long history of racial discrimination in the labor market.” housing”, underlines the expression of interest.
CNN has reached out to Tate-Austins for further comment on the DOJ’s Expression of Interest.
The Tate-Austins were one of the few cases in which a lawsuit was filed over an FHA violation, which caught the attention of the federal government, DOJ spokeswoman Aryele Bradford said. told CNN on Friday.
“…Although a number of similar situations have been reported by the media, there are few cases filed that include these types of claims under the FHA,” Bradford said in an emailed statement.
In the DOJ’s Statement of Interest, the Civil Rights Division aims to “provide insight into the FHA” to address the two issues in the couple’s lawsuit.
Those issues came directly from the defendant, the Tate-Austin home’s first appraiser, the Expression of Interest says. The white appraiser claimed the FHA does not apply to residential appraisers and the couple failed to show enough evidence of racial discrimination in the appraisal.
The difference between black and white homeownership is measured in thousands of dollars, according to an analysis by Redfin last year. Homes in black neighborhoods are undervalued by about $46,000 per home. Devaluation — the percentage value of the discount between homes in neighborhoods with a 50% black population and those without black residents — is detrimental over time. The more devaluation allows more segregation and fewer opportunities for upward mobility, according to the analysis.
A history of housing discrimination and racial prejudice
The California couple’s lawsuit comes as no surprise to researchers like Carolina Reid, a research adviser for the Terner Center for Housing Innovation based at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Researchers have consistently shown how black people and other homeowners of color experience bias and discrimination in housing and credit markets,” Reid told CNN.
Discrimination in the housing market dates back to the Great Depression following the Federal Housing Administration’s redlining in several parts of the United States. Neighborhoods were considered unsafe if their residents were “inharmonious racial groups,” a label primarily directed at black people, according to a Terner Center report on the homeownership gap.
The Federal Housing Administration, in turn, discouraged banks from lending on properties in the red-lined areas, thereby pushing black and brown neighborhoods into poverty and discouraging non-white families from applying for “green” housing. “. Redlining continues to impact these communities today, according to the Terner report.
In 1968, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) strictly prohibited discrimination against all persons, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religion, in the sale, rental and financing of housing. in the hope of addressing disparities in the housing market.
“What’s more unique is that they (the Austins) have evidence of this disparate treatment,” she said.
The Fair Housing Act provides a “plausible right to a remedy” if plaintiffs can prove that the defendant has engaged in discriminatory housing practices.
The Terner Center report, co-authored by Reid, says the FHA aims to protect black and brown homeowners, but the gap between homeowners continues to widen due to years of systemic oppression.
“The black-white homeownership gap is as wide as it was when the Fair Housing Act was passed,” Reid told CNN. “Tackling pricing bias/discrimination in housing is just one piece of a larger puzzle of needed reforms, but it is an important part of tackling systemic racism in housing. “
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