Senate Panel Advances Anti-Discrimination Appraisal Bill

A bill that would penalize discriminatory appraisals based on race or national origin advanced in the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today.

Under the legislation, sponsored by Sens. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic) and Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), appraisers could have their licenses, certifications or registrations revoked or suspended, and would be liable to fines if it is determined that they have discriminated against a property buyer or seller on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin.

All committee members voted in favor of advancing the legislation except for Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), who abstained, citing the removal of amendments saying that appraisers subject to penalties must have knowingly discriminated.

“It feels, as an attorney, the remedies are pretty draconian to revoke or suspend. And if somebody is knowingly doing that, I agree with that,” Schepisi said, noting concerns of due process.

Singleton, who chairs the committee, explained that the process remains unchanged.

“I think the only change, at least in my mind, is the sort of inherent understanding of whether or not the person made an affirmative action to do that or whether or not they still did it, and it still occurred, but it still has to go through a process to make a determination whether or not that appraisal was done in a discriminatory fashion,” he said.

According to a report released by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice last month, 38.4 percent of Black New Jersey households own homes compared to 75.9 percent of white households.

The institute’s law and policy director Andrea McChristen testified that homes in Black majority municipalities in New Jersey have “less than half the median value of the state overall,” adding the bill serves as a mechanism to hold appraisers and appraising institutions accountable.

The bill now advances for a second reading in the Senate and an identical bill in the Assembly, introduced in January, awaits movement in the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee.

Original Article