By Josh Boak

Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday that federal agencies are taking new steps to stop racial discrimination in appraising home values by proposing a rule intended to ensure that the automated formulas used to price housing are fair.

“Everyone should be able to take full advantage of their aspiration and dream of owning a home," Harris told reporters on a telephone call.

Announcement of the proposed rule comes a year after the administration laid out a plan to stop appraisers from systemically undervaluing the homes of Black people and other underrepresented groups. Low appraisals make it harder for these homeowners to build wealth and access home equity lines of credit, worsening racial inequality. Appraisers help to determine the value of a home so buyers can receive a mortgage.

The extent of the discrimination by appraisers can be massive, in some instances more than halving the value of a property. In Indianapolis, one Black homeowner found the appraised value of her home jumped to $259,000 from $125,000, after she declined to disclose her race on her application and removed all family photos and African American art in the home.

Because many financial institutions and mortgage companies use formulas to judge the value of a home, the proposed rule would set out new standards to prevent discrimination. Companies that rely on appraisals would need to adopt policies to improve the accuracy of their appraisals, stop data manipulation and avoid conflicts of interest.

The proposed rule would have a 60-day comment period.

The Biden administration is also having federal agencies make it easier for homebuyers to appeal racial bias in appraisals and is providing the public with more data in order to increase transparency. The administration is also seeking to make it easier for people in underrepresented groups to become appraisers.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden announced the formation of the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity, known as PAVE, to address the challenge of bias in appraisals.

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