ABC's "Our America: Lowballed" documentary leads to event addressing home appraisal bias

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Thursday, January 12, 2023
"Lowballed" documentary leads to event addressing home appraisal bias
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The ABC documentary Our America: Lowballed, which focuses on the home appraisal industry, is already leading to change.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPVI) -- Filled with stories that are emotional and impactful, the ABC special "Our America: Lowballed" focuses on bias in the home appraisal industry and is already leading to change.

The documentary, which began streaming in December, features Black families whose homes were under-appraised by hundreds of thousands of dollars until they removed all traces of themselves - like photos, Black art, and Black hair care products - and had someone white stand in as the homeowner.

Since its premiere, the documentary has brought the issue of appraisal bias to the forefront. Today, it was the focus of a discussion and a screening of "Lowballed" in Washington, D.C. The screening and discussion were co-hosted by Brookings Metro and the National Fair Housing Alliance.

"Homes in Black majority neighborhoods in metro areas across the country were on-average priced 23% or $48,000 lower than their mostly-white counterparts," said Andre M. Perry of the research he helped conduct as a senior fellow at Brookings Metro.

Thursday's event featured a panel discussion and speakers addressing racial bias in the home appraisal process. That included California Congresswoman Maxine Waters who, since the show premiered, has introduced legislation to create a federal agency to oversee appraisals.

It's also led to a big announcement from HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge.

"I'm happy to announce that HUD, through the Federal Housing Administration, is creating a process that people seeking FHA financing can use to request a review of their appraisal if they believe the results may have been skewed by racial bias," said Fudge.

In our own report on the issue, our 6abc Data team found that in Philadelphia, homes sold in mostly Black neighborhoods are 1.5 times more likely to be under-appraised.

In Latino and Hispanic neighborhoods, that number jumps to 2.4 times more likely.

They are all statistics that the people behind "Our America: Lowballed" are working to change one home at a time.