Unlawful Restrictive Covenants
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There has been considerable discussion about ‘bias’ applying to appraisals on forums, and elsewhere, since the Congressional hearing in 2019 where appraisers were blamed for racial bias by the rep from the Brookings Institute.
That rep vilified appraisers as being the culprits in the lending process, which is mostly bogus. Unfortunately, now that the charge has been made, appraisers and appraisal organizations are now forced to play on the defensive side of the ball, rather than being proactive and disclosing what actually transpired, on offense. I sense appraisal organizations are afraid to tell the real story. And it’s been real hard to disprove the negative. Appraisers are easy targets.
The fact is, appraisers as an independent entity, had almost NO involvement in the restrictions that governments and lenders instituted beginning in the early years of this country. I recently read a tidbit of history disclosing how a former mayor of Las Vegas, NV forced a certain ethnic group to relocate their businesses and homes to a different part of the city, out of downtown. This was not the only place in this country where it happened. Other ethnic groups have been forced to live underground (really) in certain cities because they were not respected ‘topside.’ Yet, it was those ‘below ground’ people who enabled the ‘topside’ folks to prosper greatly.
Lenders early on, and into the 1950’s, were probably the worst of the bunch in the way they established ‘approved’ neighborhoods and ‘disapproved’ other neighborhoods for lending purposes. I don’t need to repeat the common term that was used verbally and on maps during those times.
Race and ethnicity divisions has been a global issue since humans first walked upright and began functioning. This is not a uniquely US problem, or one associated directly with appraisers. Humans have a propensity to segregate themselves as a natural course of existence. There is no magic wand that will cure this despite what some think and are trying to force on society.
Meanwhile, appraisers have had to figure out which properties were the most appropriate when doing an appraisal, and those were most likely from the specific neighborhood(s) where the ethnic or racial borrower was located so that the report would ‘pass muster’ and be usable for the requested loan. When the property was “here” the lenders didn’t want comparables used from “over there”, otherwise the lender probably would not approve the loan.
So it’s not really the appraiser at fault for not ‘helping’ certain people rise economically, as often is the charge. Appraisers have been stifled, discouraged, even threatened from doing so, since appraising became a US profession in the mid-1930’s.
Tonight, when I was doing research for something totally different, I found this info (below and in the attached PDF) on a Washington State county auditor web site, which I’ve never seen before.
I would encourage all appraisers to research their own property deed, and contact the appropriate ‘recording official’ in your state to see if this is being done, or can be done, where you are. More info is in the PDF below.
What are racially restrictive covenants?
In the first half of the twentieth century, restrictive covenants were recorded on some properties in Washington which included racially restrictive provisions. These racially restrictive covenants sometimes singled out specific races that were excluded from owning or occupying the property. Other versions would limit ownership or use to one particular race. Sometimes the restrictive covenants limited ownership or use by members of certain religions.
Are racially restrictive covenants valid and enforceable?
No. In 1948 the United States Supreme Court ruled that racially restrictive covenants could not be enforced. In 1968 the federal Fair Housing Act banned covenants discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.