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Paul Austin and Tenisha Tate-Austin have settled a federal housing discrimination lawsuit with a White licensed real estate appraiser, who they accused of giving their home a low appraisal because they are Black, Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California announced Monday.
As Marin City, California homeowners, they sued the appraiser, claiming she used unsuitable, racially biased comparable home sales or “comps” in determining their home’s worth.
The agreement included an undisclosed monetary amount. The licensed real estate appraiser, who doesn’t have to admit any liability in the case, is mandated to attend training sessions on segregation and agree to not discriminate in the future, FHANC said in a press statement.
CBS News reports when mortgage rates were low in early 2020, the couple jumped at the chance to refinance their home. They had already refinanced in 2019 to take advantage of the home’s higher value and generated more cash for additional improvements, CBS Mornings reported at the time.
In 2019, the home was appraised at over $1.4 million, but one year later, they said it was appraised at just $995,000. The couple suspected something was wrong.
The couple decided to get another appraisal. This time, they asked a White friend of theirs to pretend to be Tate-Austin, and the couple removed their family photos and any African-themed art, FHANC said.
A different appraiser then assessed the home’s value at nearly $1.5 million dollars.
“Having to erase our identity to get a better appraisal was a wrenching experience,” Tate-Austin said in a statement following the settlement. “We know of other Black families who either couldn’t get a loan because of a discriminatory appraisal and therefore either lost the opportunity to buy or sell a home, or they had to sell their home because they had an unaffordable loan.”
“We hope by bringing attention to our case and this lawsuit settlement, we can help change the way the appraisal industry operates, and we can start to see a different trend,” Tate-Austin added.
“We’re glad that we can put this lawsuit behind us,” Austin said. “Having to experience everything that came with receiving the lowballed appraisal was overwhelming. Being able to tell our story and knowing we had legal recourse helped.”
He continued, “We want others to know that if you experience discrimination, you can go to your local fair housing agency so they can investigate your case and help you if you want to file a complaint.”
The White House addresses housing discrimination as the cases pile up
On January 19, The White House released a statement, reading in part, “Secretary [Marcia L.] Fudge and HUD put forward a proposed rule that takes meaningful steps to overcome patterns of segregation in housing and give every American family a fair shot. It restores and builds upon our work during the Obama-Biden Administration to fully implement the Fair Housing Act.”
The statement continues, “And, it sends a clear message to communities across the country that just saying they won’t discriminate isn’t enough. Communities must take action to aggressively combat and end racial discrimination in our housing system.”
Black people across the US have paid the ‘tax of being African American’
Tate-Austin told CBS Mornings in 2021, “It’s the feeling every day like, the tax of being African-American in this country, like you don’t know, it’s a coin toss. You’re not for sure what’s going to happen.”
In September 2022, a Texas couple filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against a real estate firm and an agent after they were allegedly turned away from buying condos because they were Black, KHOU 11 reports.
KARE 11 NBC reported that The Minneapolis Area Realtors announced an apology for discriminatory practices in real estate at a news conference in 2022 and outlined policy changes to increase homeownership among people of color.
In New York, a lawsuit alleged renters with government-issued vouchers were being discriminated against. Then, they sued more than 100 real estate professionals, accused of denying low-income New Yorkers access to a home, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported.
In 2022, three Black real estate investors filed a discrimination lawsuit in a federal court in the Houston area. According to CNN, the lawsuit claims that in August a real estate agent refused them the option to purchase three condominiums in a newly constructed community.
In January, Realtors of color say they often experience racial profiling so much so that the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors (BNAR) was launched to teach about anti-discrimination via videos.
According to WKBW, agents of color say they hope the videos and conversations are moving the needle toward change. “You can’t stop people from being who they are, but you can educate them and hope that information gives them a better perspective on how they feel or how they treat others,” Kraven Weeks, a Buffalo realtor said.
In lieu of a well-considered reparations effort, realtor orgs offer well-written apologies
In Sept. 2022, St. Louis Realtors released a statement, “The discrimination to which the Black community was subjected to was part of a system designed to cause residential racial segregation, led by the federal government, supported by the banking system and the real estate industry, and driven by practices like redlining and the use of restrictive covenants.”
In Oct. 2022, The California Association of Realtors apologized for its role in pushing policies that drove racial segregation in the state, decades after the group put its money behind a proposition that overturned the state’s first fair housing law.
Due to the overwhelming number of housing discrimination cases piling up, The National Association of Realtors issued an apology in 2020 and realtor groups in cities like Atlanta and Chicago have also made similar efforts.