GMA promotes new documentary Our America: Lowballed, which looks at the discrimination in the housing industry

Janai Norman covering “whitewashing,” a strategy used by homeowners in the documentary, Our America: Lowballed. Pic credit: ABC

GMA yesterday reported on the new documentary Our America: Lowballed, which chronicles the prevalent racism in the housing industry.

The film follows one black family whose value of their home rapidly increases after trying a strategy referred to as whitewashing.

Janai Norman explained how this strategy impacts entire neighborhoods. The home appraisal process reportedly discriminates against minorities at an alarming rate.

“There is a huge disparity of wealth between black and Latino families and white families,” she said.

Paul Austin faced this issue with the housing industry head-on

The segment went on to focus on the life of Paul Austin, who was born and raised in Marin City, a historically black neighborhood that is not too far from San Francisco.

GMA revealed that Paul and his wife Tenisha had decided to forgo some renovations on their home so they could get an appraisal. The value ended up being much less than the couple expected, several thousand less to be exact.

Paul spoke about the experience, saying, “We were pretty stunned by what she put in the report.” Tenisha added, “I was angry. And scared too because, you know, there was so much on the line.”

The Austins turned to “whitewashing”

GMA explained that the couple decided to try again with the appraisal, but this time have a white friend of their family pose as the owners of their home.

Paul said “We had a conversation with one of our white friends, and she was like ‘no problem. I’ll be Tanisha.'” GMA states that this strategy is known as “whitewashing.”

The segment further explained “whitewashing” as a technique where in order to get something they need, Black and Latino families remove anything from their homes that will indicate that they are not White.

Paul states that after he, his wife, and his friend participated in the phenomenon known as “whitewashing”, the appraisal of their house was $500,000 more.

The Austins are far from the only family affected by discrimination during appraisals.

GMA revealed that the story of the Austin family was just one of many featured in the documentary, Our America: Lowballed. The film highlights “alleged home appraisal discrimination”

Another family spoke about their issues with this sort of situation, saying, “The property was never the question. It was who was occupying the property at the time of the appraisal.”

GMA reported that neighborhoods that are occupied by mostly Black or Latino families are “five times more likely to be lowballed or under-appraised.”

The documentary also covers the lack of diversity in the appraisal industry. It’s reported that 96 percent of licensed appraisers are white, while only 4 percent are people of color.

Our America: Lowballed is currently streaming on Hulu and online at Lowballed.ABC.

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