On March 23rd, the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE), composed of thirteen federal agencies and offices, released its report entitled “Action Plan to Advance Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity: Closing the Racial Wealth Gap by Addressing Mis-valuations for Families and Communities of Color.”
Commentary on PAVE’s conclusion:
PAVE concluded that “Homeownership is often hindered by inequities within current home lending and appraisal processes, which research shows disproportionately impact people in communities of color.”
As noted in the Executive Summary, the report largely rests on three studies for its conclusion: (i) a report by the Brookings Institution, (ii) a note by Freddie Mac, and (iii) a blog post by FHFA. In our work, we have issued lengthy critiques that discredit the first two studies (see our rebuttal to Brookings and to Freddie Mac) and now take the opportunity to respond to the FHFA study. Here is a summary of our findings:
The Brookings and Freddie Mac studies are not based on rigorous data analysis. Most importantly, they conflate race with socio-economic status (SES), i.e. income, buying power, marriage rates, credit scores, etc. Race-based gaps found in the Brookings and Freddie Mac studies either entirely or substantially disappear when adjusting for differences in SES. Furthermore, our analyses show that similar gaps are present in majority White or White-only tracts across different SES levels, raising serious questions regarding a race-based explanation. We also addressed a rebuttal from the Brookings authors to our critique. We found that Perry and Rothwell’s (2021) rebuttal to our critique supported our claim of omitted variable bias, failed to rebuke our methodology, and never addressed our case studies. We also presented solutions based on our findings. The Freddie Mac study took pains to state that its research was both “exploratory” and “preliminary”. Yet PAVE accepted Freddie Mac’s findings at face-value, even though research by Fannie Mae provides a likely, non-race based explanation for the valuation discrepancy found by Freddie Mac. It is worth noting that Fannie Mae’s explanation casts a favorable light on the appraisal industry.
This conflation by both Brookings and Freddie Mac is of critical importance. While there is agreement regarding the symptoms observed by PAVE–racial and ethnic differences in homeownership rates, financial returns of owning a home, and median wealth–ascertaining the causes and workable solutions requires a competition of ideas. PAVE excluded research that was inconvenien
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