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Maryland gubernatorial candidates vow to tackle appraisal bias, eyeing Prince George’s County voters

A candidate forum gave an opportunity for candidates to share how they would address allegations uncovered in a WUSA9 investigation on homeowner appraisals.

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — With primary elections looming in June, Maryland’s gubernatorial candidates are getting increasingly vocal about unfair home appraisals, stemming from a WUSA9 investigation into allegations of appraisal bias in Prince George’s County. 

“[We want to] bring this conversation to the forefront, [so] homeowners know to be their own advocates and to be aware of this,” said Jacqulyn Priestly, a co-founder of the group Fair and Unbiased Appraisal advocates (FUAA).

The group held a candidate forum Wednesday providing an opportunity for gubernatorial candidates Rushern Baker (D), Laura Neuman (D), John King (D), Joe Werner (R) and Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Monique Anderson-Walker (D) to discuss their plan for addressing alleged appraisal bias. Brookings Institute data from 2018 showed that homes in majority-black neighborhoods were unvalued by an average of $48,000, meaning wealth accumulation is a greater challenge.

“When people lose money, we have to figure out a way to restore it,"  said Dr. Andre Perry, who moderated the discussion. "It's not enough to say we caught you. How can we repair?"

Perry questioned the panelist on their plans to address home appraisal bias. Baker, a former Prince George’s County executive, acknowledged he was aware of the allegations while in office but contended action on home appraisals required assistance from the state and federal government.

“When you think about the value of your home and the appraisal, you think that it’s just personal to you,” Baker said. “But it has an impact on the community. Those valuations determine how much money we spend on our school systems. It determines how much money you can spend on healthcare."

RELATED: Prince George’s Realtors Association responds to WUSA 9 investigation; declines to release results of survey into appraisal bias allegations

All the panelists pointed to the need for greater diversity among the appraisal workforce and an enhanced education as a way to address appraisal bias. It's estimated less than 3% of appraisers are Black. Organizations like the Appraisal Institute have begun implementing programs to increase representation among underrepresented groups.

"We ought to be doing more to diversify the profession," King said. "We need data on demographics, and we need programs, particularly at our historically black colleges and university."

“So, the question becomes, what can we do at the state level?" asked Neuman. "There’s a lot we can do -- create programs, setup mentorship."

The subject of appraisal bias is in the crosshairs of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Secretary Marica Fudge organized a task force called PAVE to investigate. Their report is expected to be publicly released in the next several weeks and, according to PAVE Executive Director Melody Taylor, will provide action items for how the administration will tackle such allegations.

“We're looking forward to bringing back socio-economic leveling opportunities for people such as state-backed mortgages,” Anderson-Walker said. “We view that as the opportunity for wealth building. While we recognize Prince George's County is very affluent. Affluence is what you spend, wealth is what you pass down."

RELATED: WUSA9 investigation into Prince George’s home appraisals leads to calls for state-level review

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