Professor Nathan Connolly, who teaches the history of redlining in America at Johns Hopkins University, claims that his family was subjected to housing discrimination, reports the New York Times.
Last summer, Connolly and his wife, Dr. Shani Mott, believed their home would increase in value after adding a new $5,000 tankless water heater and $35,000 in other renovations. The home was worth $450,000 when they paid for it in 2017. Since the pandemic, home prices have soared across the country. In Baltimore, per Zillow.com, homes have gone up 42 percent in the past five years.
The couple was stunned when 20/20 Valuations, a Maryland appraisal company, estimated their home’s value at $472,000. Also, loanDepot, a mortgage lender, denied the couple a refinance loan.
Connolly and Mott wrote a letter to Christian Jorgensen, a lending officer at loanDepot to challenge the appraisal. According to the complaint, the loan officer had stopped responding to their calls.
A few months after that first appraisal, the couple applied for another refinance loan, removed family photos, and had a white professor from Johns Hopkins stand in their place. The second appraiser valued the house at $750, 000.
Connolly and Mott have filed lawsuits against loanDepot, 20/20 Valuations, and Shane Lanham, the owner of 20/20 Valuations who conducted the first appraisal.
According to the complaint, “Dr. Connolly, Dr. Mott, and their three children were home during the visit, and their house was also filled with family photos, children’s drawings of figures with dark skin, a poster for the film Black Panther and literature by Black authors.”
“It would have been obvious to anyone visiting that the home belonged to a Black family,” the complaint reads.
“We were clearly aware of appraisal discrimination,” Connolly said. “But to be told in so many words that our presence and the life we’ve built in our home brings the property value down? It’s an absolute gut punch.”
The complaint also states that the other homes were of lower quality when compared to Connolly and Mott’s home in the appraisal. In addition, the appraisal incorrectly stated that their home had not received any updates for 15 years.
According to the complaint, Lanham “cherry-picked low-value homes as comps,” and by doing so, he “ignored legitimately comparable homes with much higher sales prices.”
Historically, housing policy in the United States have been founded on racism as Black Americans are still denied mortgages at alarming rates today. Redlining continues to be a common practice that continues to drive down home values in Black neighborhoods, expanding the wealth gap,