Housing Appraisal As Art For Social Change

Back in March I made a post about an artist’s project in Pittsburgh that called attention to the disparity in appraisals between White homeowners and Black homeowners.  In a story of art having some success at bringing about social change, that project apparently lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to investigate whether there might be appraisal discrimination occurring.

One part of artist Harrison K. Smith’s project involved having a house appraised, first with the Black homeowner and then with a White stand-in. The appraisal came in higher for the stand-in.

The Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh (FHP) filed a housing discrimination complaint against the appraisal company, Ditio Inc., which conducted the first appraisal last year, after reading about Smith’s exhibit in the news. (The second appraiser wasn’t identified.) The Fair Housing Partnership found fault not only with the appraisal discrepancy, but also in the manner in which the appraisal was carried out.


Through HUD’s administrative complaint process, the FHP is hoping to change Ditio’s appraisal practices, and potentially open the door for broader policy changes across the industry down the road. FHP says HUD is investigating the complaint and is currently in a fact-finding stage.

You can read the article about the issues FHP has raised about the appraisal process.

Check out my March post about the details of Smith’s project if you weren’t already familiar with it. There are multiple parts and the appraisal stand-in is arguably the least interesting phase given that people in other communities have attempted the same thing.

The fact he talked a museum into taking out a mortgage on one of their properties to support another segment of the project seemed much more bold and far reaching to me.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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