WUSA9 investigation prompts appraisal bias legislation, now a leading issue in Maryland’s gubernatorial race

Del. Marvin Holmes wants a task force created to examine appraisal bias complaints and recommend legislation.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Del. Marvin Holmes isn’t a betting man. But he’s taking a gamble on legislation submitted Tuesday that he believes will address claims of home appraisal bias in the state, especially in Prince George’s County.

“Things will change,” Holmes said forcefully.

Last November, WUSA 9 profiled several families who claimed their houses were valued differently because they’re Black homeowners who live in a majority-black neighborhood.

Homeowners told WUSA 9 they lost anywhere from $60,000 to $500,000.

 “How is it that the wood and the walls and the nails that were used are worth less than what they cost us?” asked Jacquelyn Priestly when she spoke to WUSA 9 about the questionable appraisal she and her husband received in 2021 for their home in Bowie.

The proposed legislation submitted to the chief clerk of the House calls for the creation of a task force focused on studying the effectiveness of policies and laws that regulate home appraisals. The task force would also assist in developing a model to have home values reassessed and recommend additional legislation.

“People don’t even know that they have the ability to file a complaint about the appraisal,” said Holmes, who is also a licensed real estate agent. “The problems have come to light and now that the problems have come to light, a lot more people are saying to themselves that they too have had a similar experience.”

The group Fair and Unbiased Appraisal Advocates (FUAA) have been on an education campaign throughout Prince George’s County, holding regular meetings and educating homeowners about how to effectively appeal an appraisal. But months after wusa9’S initial reporting, even more homeowners have come forward with similar accusations.

The issue of unfair and biased home appraisals has turned into an important issue in Maryland’s Gubernatorial race.

Democratic Candidate for Governor and current Comptroller Peter Franchot sent a letter to Attorney General Brian Frosh in November requesting an investigation into the matter. His office declined to comment on the letter or the status of an investigation.

Wes Moore, who is also a Democratic candidate for governor, said the inequities profiled in WUSA 9’s reporting are ones that have affected communities of color for a long time. 

“It shouldn’t have taken your report to understand what your report unveiled,” Moore said. “These inequities have existed for a very long time within our communities.”

Moore worked with Maryland Sen. Antonio Hayes (D- Baltimore City) who is credited with the passage of SB 895. The bill requires the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to submit a report examining how factors like race, income, and location impact appraisal bias. The report is due by June, but gathering the required data is proving to be a challenge. Officials with the Department of Housing and Community Development said in December a lot of the data points needed to complete their work is unavailable.

The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland (LBCM) also supports the legislation.

“Once the task force [has] completed its work, the findings of the task [force] will reverse the current trends of Black homeownership, thereby, adding financial stability to the Black community,” LBCM said in a statement.