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Biden Task Force Releases Appraisal Bias Study

The task force’s action plan summarizes changes already announced and general future goals, such as creating new automated valuations that assess value without bias.

WASHINGTON – In June 2021, President Joe Biden created the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE) to “develop a transformative set of actions to root out racial and ethnic bias in home valuations,” according to Vice President Kamala Harris, in announcing this week that the task force completed its mission.

The Task Force is co-chaired by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice.

Rather than announcing a massive change in the way U.S. agencies handle Fair Housing Act appraisal issues, however, the task force report – Action Plan to Advance Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity – is more of a stepping stone. It recaps various changes already announced by some entities – such as underwriting changes under Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – and lists future goals. It also recaps the history of discrimination in housing.

PAVE Action Plan

The Action Plan outlines a set of commitments and actions, most of which can be taken by existing federal authorities. A website, PAVE.HUD.gov, offers a link to the action plan along with a link consumers can click if they think they’re a victim of appraisal bias. It also offers educational information on what appraisal bias is and encourages visitors to share their “stories, ideas and feedback.”

The plan directs federal agencies to:

  • Make the appraisal industry more accountable. A White House release announcing the action plan calls the current U.S. appraisal system “a relatively closed and self-regulated framework and has not been effective at addressing deep-rooted inequities.” It directs federal agencies to “create a legislative proposal to modernize the governance structure of the appraisal industry.” It also calls for better enforcement coordination between federal enforcement agencies.
  • Empower consumers with information and assistance. What can a consumer do if they think they’re a victim of discrimination when an appraisal seems incorrect? The Action Plan directs agencies to create clear, easy-to-find steps consumers can take if they want an appraisals reevaluation if they suspect appraisal bias.
  • Prevent algorithmic bias in home valuation. Many appraisals are now AVMs (Automated Valuation Models). The task force says it will issue new rules for AVMs to create quality controls that don’t “rely upon biased data that could replicate past discrimination.”
  • Cultivate well-trained appraisers that look like the community they serve. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the appraiser/assessor profession is roughly 97% white. The Action Plan lays out a series of steps to change that. In general, it wants to “remove unnecessary educational and experience requirements that make it difficult … to access the profession” and increase the amount of “anti-bias, fair housing and fair lending training.”
  • Create a federal appraisal-bias database. The task force suggests that information about appraisal bias is lacking or stored in multiple government databases. It wants to create a single-source for the information to “better study, understand and address appraisal bias.” It also wants a “working group” of experts to research appraisal bias.

Now that its report has been released, the task force says it will transition into the next phase – seeking to collaborate with lending institutions, philanthropy groups, academia, civil rights groups, advocates and industry associations to “create a coordinated approach in tackling this issue.”

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