The high cost of housing discrimination

6/6/2024, 6 p.m.
Last week’s report by HOME of VA (Housing Opportunities Made Equal) on discriminatory practices in the Richmond housing market is …

Last week’s report by HOME of VA (Housing Opportunities Made Equal) on discriminatory practices in the Richmond housing market is a sobering document. It confirms the thoughts, feelings and vibes that African Americans experience when we attempt to find a place to live – something’s not right.

“The racial demographics of a neighborhood are a better prediction of the home values than home size, their type or their condition,” Thomas Okuda Fitzpatrick, HOME of VA executive director said recently. “That’s something we might have intuitively known, but this report presents it in stark contrast.”

It does. The report reveals a striking disparity in home values. In predominantly white neighborhoods, the average home appraises at around $436,000, while in communities where people of color are the majority, the average appraisal drops to $256,000. The study also found that home appraisers may discount comparable

homes in different racial demographics or allow personal prejudices to skew their assessments of a home’s value. And there’s more information in the report.

Outside of Richmond, recent events show that housing discrimination isn’t limited to African Americans with lower incomes or poor credit.

In Virginia Beach, Raven Baxter says she was told by her broker that the owner didn’t want to sell to her – because she was Black. Baxter, a molecular biologist, had already made a down payment and matched the offered price on the condominium, reportedly owned by an 84-year-old white woman. Since Baxter has shared her experience on social media, it appears that the seller may have changed her mind and the sale is still pending. Whatever the outcome, her rights appear to have been violated and there are ways that can be remedied. Think closing costs – but higher.

You would think that in Harlem, that New York city neighborhood known for its rich history of African American culture, something like this wouldn’t happen. But actor Wendell Pierce says it did. You may known the 60-year-old actor from his roles on “The Wire,” “Jack Ryan,” and “Elsbeth.” Last year, he completed a broadway run in the play “Death of a Salesman.” On Monday, he was denied an application to rent an apartment in Harlem.

“Even with my proof of employment, bank statements and real estate holdings, a white apartment owner DENIED my application to rent the apartment…..in Harlem, of all places. Racism and bigots are real,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Housing is a fundamental human right. When it’s denied or deferred, it perpetuates cycles of poverty and inequality. Tackling this issue requires a commitment to systemic change.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a home, consider working with one of the agencies that is addressing this issue – and don’t give up.