A Black Indianapolis homeowner who gnawed suspicion that her home had come under pressure in two reviews over the past year went to great lengths to hide her race in a third. She removed photos of herself and her relatives and had a white friend pose as her brother for the appraiser’s home visit.
The result? The rating of Carlette Duffy’s house has more than doubled.
Duffy’s house, which was valued by various companies last year, was valued first at $ 125,000, then at $ 110,000, and finally at $ 259,000 in November, according to the Central Indiana Fair Housing Center. The nonprofit announced this month that it had filed complaints about housing discrimination on behalf of Duffy with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Amy Nelson, executive director of the group Duffy represents, said it was “heartbreaking” that she had to do so much to ensure a fair evaluation.
Image: Carlette Duffy (Michelle Pemberton / USA Today Network)
“In order for the value of her home to be correct, she had to move out of the house completely,” Nelson said on Monday. “At first she was thrilled that she actually received the value she deserved for her home. … But almost immediately afterwards, she was broken by the fact that she had to do to maintain that value.”
Duffy was unavailable for comment on Monday.
Duffy, who tried to refinance her mortgage last year, took extra steps on her third evaluation to get better results, according to Fair Housing Center.
She did not state her race or gender as part of the review application process and limited her interactions with the reviewer to email, Nelson said.
The complaints allege discrimination against Duffy because of her “race” and “skin color”. They argue that the lower ratings constitute violations of “Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Act of 1988”.
Citywide Home Loans, its associate Craig Hodges and Jeffrey Pierce of Pierce Appraisal Inc. cite the first complaint. No one named in the complaint responded to requests for comments on Monday. The complaint states that Pierce visited Duffy’s home on or about March 31, 2020.
The story goes on
The complaint alleges that Duffy’s home is in a historically African American neighborhood and that Pierce “purposely drew comps for the rating that were not fair and racially motivated”.
The second complaint mentions Andre Mammino and Doug Frimmet of Freedom Mortgage. Mammino and Frimmet could not be reached for comment. Freedom Mortgage did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Appraisal Network’s Timothy Boston was also named in the complaint. Boston, reached by phone on Monday, declined to comment. The complaint named a third-party company, SingleSource, that Boston hired to do the assessment. Company representatives did not comment.
The complaint alleges that Boston conducted a home appraisal on or about May 26, 2020. Duffy later learned that her property had been valued at $ 110,000 and a cash out value of $ 96,000.
Duffy had bought the house three years earlier for $ 100,000. At the time of the first two evaluations, according to a statement by the Fair Housing Center, “house values rose dramatically”. Duffy challenged the reviews with market research data and was rejected both times, the nonprofit said in a statement.
Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based nonprofit public order organization, said housing discrimination against the black community is a systemic problem plaguing the country.
Perry co-authored a 2018 study entitled “The Depreciation of Assets in Black Neighborhoods,” which found that houses in mostly black neighborhoods were valued 23 percent lower than similar houses in mostly white neighborhoods in 2017.
The loss of equity cost black neighborhood homeowners $ 156 billion in 2017, said Perry, author of Know Your Price: Assessing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.
He said Duffy’s experience during the first two reviews was not unique.
“When a white person stands up for a black owner, you literally see the intrinsic value of playing white,” said Perry, who said undervaluation of homes in black neighborhoods steals from homeowners.
“In reality, this is someone’s tuition. This is a business that should have been started. These are the resources to protect yourself from the next pandemic,” he said. “You are robbing people of the opportunity.”
Perry said there should be safeguards in place to protect homeowners from having their properties valued at below market value.
“If an owner feels that something is wrong, they should be able to go to another level to dispute the original valuation. We need accountability systems,” he said. “If someone fails by a significant margin, he should lose his license.”
Nelson of the Housing Center in central Indiana said the valuation industry has a diversity problem.
“They are mostly white men,” she said. “It’s never good when there is a lack of diversity.”